On the fourth day in my new home, unpacking was going smoothly: I was busy placing my books in bookshelves--"their" new home--when I came across Blaze: A Novel
, a novel written by Stephen King under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman. This is the last book from Bachman's "early period"; King says Bachman died in 1985 from "pseudonym cancer." While Bachman was writing slow-selling novels, King was building his reputation writing and selling short horror stories. (As you probably know, after retiring Bachman, King's very first book under his real name was Carrie
...and the rest is history.)
Although King/Bachman wrote Blaze in 1973--King calls Bachman his "younger/smart-assier self"--it wasn't published until 2006 after one of King's assistants found the original typescript among his papers at the University of Maine's Fogler Library. This review is written from a 2007 hardcover edition with a foreword by King; this book and the one I'm posting it under are hard to find, except on the secondary market.
Although nothing Bachman wrote seemed to please King's more mature self, he started reading Blaze and thought it was better than most of Bachman's published novels. He decided to revise and publish it, donating proceeds to the Haven Foundation which supports freelance artists.
And am I glad King published this book! As he hoped readers would, I "came for a good story" and got much more than that. This is a gripping story; a sad tale that grabbed me by the lapels from the first page and never let go. In fact, in between unpacking and a multitude of "moving woes," I finished this exciting book in two days
I'm mesmerized by the main character, Clayton Blaisdell, Jr.--Blaze for short. He's a complex, sympathetic character for whom I rooted from the "get-go." After his mother dies when he's only three years old, poor little Blaze's father does something so horrendous to him that he ends up being a "slow thinker" and is made a ward of the state.
Blaze grows into a "Big Mother" whose appearance is intimidating, but he has a gentle soul, only harming those who mistreat small, defenseless people and his friends. He is loved by all who really know him, but once again suffers abuse by authorities in the boys' institution.
What happens to him in the institution that accelerates his rage, honing his hard edges? What happens to his best friend John? What does Blaze do to avenge John? How does he meet his new friend George who takes him under his wing and indoctrinates him into a life of petty crime? After George is killed, how does he help Blaze pull off the "big, final" crime they had always dreamed of? Why does he end up kidnapping a small, defenseless baby, son of a wealthy family? How could "the bull-simple dummy" do it alone? What happens when little Joe steals his heart? And why, with the cops closing in, is Blaze clutching the baby to his chest as he plunges deeper into the white hell of a powerful snowstorm in the Maine woods?
In Blaze, Bachman/King answers those questions in a series of clever twists and turns, skillfully maneuvering from present to past by masterful use of exciting flashbacks.
In response to King's foreword: Yes, Stephen, I "misted up"...more than a little; there's nothing in this novel to make people laugh at you. You painted such an accurate portrait of Blaze's character and background that, although I could not condone what he did, I understand the reasoning behind his actions. My heart broke each time Blaze's did. This is a real tear-jerker, a psychological thriller that could be a blockbuster movie.
Knowing full well that you and Richard Bachman are the same person, dare I say I enjoyed this book as much as any you've written under your true name...and better than some?
It seems that, like a rose, "a King by any other name is still a King." Stephen, you had "IT" then and failed to recognize it.
There are life lessons to be learned from this book...a book that will linger in your mind long after the last page has been read. Highly recommended with great enthusiasm.
Reviewed by: Betty Dravis, 2008
Author of 1106 Grand Boulevard
,The Toonies Invade Silicon Valley
,Millennium Babe: The Prophecy