Stephen King puts the questioners – including those who might be wondering why the name Stephen King is larger than Richard Bachman on the front cover – to rest in his introduction explaining his use of the pseudonym during the 1970’s. He also goes on to explain how when he originally discovered the manuscript for Blaze, he wasn’t that impressed with it, and left it to “mature” with time, perhaps. Recently, King decided it worthy for publication with a few minor modifications; Simon & Schuster is now calling Blaze “Fargo meets Of Mice and Men.”
Clayton “Blaze” Blaisdell is not a very clever fellow, in fact you might go as far as saying he is mildly retarded, due to his father throwing him down the stairs when he was a kid, cracking his head, gaining an ugly dent in his forehead, and spending weeks in a coma. Upon finally recovering, Blaze was considered a “special” person. He is currently very much down on his luck, flat broke, and looking to make some money fast, whatever it takes.
Blaze is essentially two stories about one man’s life. One story is of Blaze’s history, his childhood, his life-changing experiences, his time spent in foster care, the good times, and mostly the bad. The other story told concurrently with his biography in separate chapters, is Blaze’s plan to kidnap a baby from a rich family, hold the child for ransom, and then make bank on it. The problem is that Blaze is a con artist; he’s never been a very good con artist, because he used to have a partner – George Rackley – who was his best friend and always looked out for him. George got killed in one of their cons and Blaze is all alone now. Sort of. Because in his mind, he hears the voice of George, telling him what to do, how to carry out the kidnapping, how to cover his tracks, and how to make the ransom. Only, as I said, Blaze is a few sandwiches short of a picnic, actually make that a few cups of coffee short of the thermos too; so he keeps making mistakes. He also starts to really like looking after the baby and even becomes pretty good at it. And now the police are on his tail and he’s not sure what he’s going to do. The made-up voice in his head – which he knows isn’t really George – isn’t helping. He’s going to have to make a decision for himself, which he hasn’t really done before.
After the unpleasant disinterest I had with Cell, and the unimpressive Lisey’s Story, Blaze is a welcome return to classic Stephen King with a gritty reality that we’ve all come to look for in his work. The characters are interesting and well created; the plot while somewhat predictable, still riveting. Blaze will probably go on to become a favorite novel for many King fans, and will no doubt start attracting movie producers for option rights in the near future.
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Originally written on June 14th 2007 ©Alex C. Telander.