I suspect that most readers remember well their surprise when the news first broke that Richard Bachman, author of Thinner, was none other than the famous Stephen King. It wasn't long before more of "Bachman's" work was released to the world, some of it even being filmed. As it turns out, King put away one last Bachman book that he wrote in 1973, what he calls a "trunk novel," that he thought did not deserve publication.
King has now reworked the novel and had it published with his entire share of the proceeds being directed to The Haven Foundation, a charity that was created to help "freelance artists" who need temporary financial support. But all of that aside, I can't help but feel that Blaze is one trunk novel that probably should have remained locked in the trunk.
Clayton Blaisdell, the "Blaze" of the book's title, stands 6'7" tall, weighs in at almost 300 pounds, and is truly a gentle giant who has suffered at the hands of the world for most of his life. He lost his mother at an early age and, after being three times tossed down a set of stairs by his father and suffering brain damage, he found himself in an orphanage that saw nothing wrong with farming out the boys to homes that wanted them only for the free back-breaking labor they provided. Blaze was a hopeless student and when he finally left the orphanage he drifted into the life of petty crime that kept him alive.
Blaze's life in crime took a turn for the better when he met George Rackley, a man with more than enough brain power and criminal instinct for the two of them. Their con games worked quite well until George's sudden death left Blaze on his own again before the two were able to pull off the big score that they hoped would allow them to retire from the game forever. Blaze, following the detailed instructions of George, whom he still hears clearly speaking to him in his head, decides to go for the big payday on his own by kidnapping the baby heir that the two had planned to kidnap and ransom together. Not a good idea.
Despite its kidnapping plot and its sympathetic main character, Blaze never really succeeds in building much drama or suspense and its outcome is the predictable one. The way that King has structured the book with alternating chapters of flashbacks to the childhood that formed Blaze into the common criminal that he is today exposes the weakness of his main plot because the back story is better written and is much more interesting than the ultimate climax of the main plot line. This one is probably best left to King collectors who need it to maintain the completeness of their collections.
Note: The book includes Memory, the short story "seed" for King's next novel, Duma Key, which is to be published by Scribner in early 2008.
Rated at: 2.0