My Rating: 3/5
Genre: Crime Thriller/Horror
Pages: 203 (Paperback)
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton (Hachette)
Date of Publication: 12 June 2007
Writing As: Richard Bachman
Clayton Blaisdell Jr. aka Blaze hails from Maine. His brogue is a testament to his deplorable childhood. And when he decides to go it alone and pull the con of his lifetime, by kidnapping a rich heir, he doesn’t listen to his partner in crime George and falls right into a routine with the six-month-old baby. But with the authorities hot on his heels, does he manage to pull it off? What is it that makes him tick? And what is it that made him who he is?
“If you think of this story’s time-frame as ‘America, Not All That Long Ago’, I think you’ll be okay.” And that is what the author says before you start reading this book.
In a beer joint’s parking lot, when the temperature is three above zero, George and his protégé Blaze are trying to steal a car. Blaze is a class one dummy or thinks himself as one, just like George says. George’s voice is always in Blaze’s head, even when he isn’t there. Blaze is a simple man otherwise. He and George had decided on kidnapping a rich baby to make a few million. And what Blaze thinks is that even if he fails, the worst that could happen would be that he will be in jail. At least it won’t be cold there.
I don’t know why but George and Blaze’s pairing reminded me of 101 Dalmatian’s Jasper and Horace. The amusing pair of conmen – one clever and the other dimwit. But that is where the comparison ends, because even without reading King’s other books, what I can surmise is that his horror is more of the psychological kind rather than physical. That feeling of creepiness creeping upon you…
… the trouble with lies was one always led to another. Soon it was like you were traveling on roads you didn’t know. You got lost.
This story will leave you in two minds. It will pull you apart. Don’t expect flowers and sunshine as this is not a happy story. It keeps going back and forth between the protagonist’s loathsome growing up days and the kidnapping he carries out at present. Though of course, it is not without its simple joys and small victories.
People turned to look, most of them smiling at the big galoot and his skinny pal.
It isn’t a ghost story, but it’s definitely spooky. The ghost of Blaze’s past, and his future. It showcases the glaring inequality between the various classes of people. A crime thriller, this story is about the underdog and how he makes it as far as he does. For the first few chapters, even after reading about the abuse that Blaze endures and the sympathy it creates, it isn’t clear what the story’s actually about. It has a really slow build up. But the storytelling suits the character. Because Blaze is slow, due to the head injury he suffered at the hands of his own father. That a ‘retard’ had the audacity to carry out a babynapping all by himself is what takes the story forward, though I kept feeling scared for the baby too. As I said, I was of two minds.
It was a dirty world, and the longer you lived, the dirtier you got. […] It was a painful world, too. Not just dirty but painful. Teething was only the first and least of it.
The best part of the novel was the Bluenote family who engaged young adults from various reformatories as seasonal labour to work in his blueberry farms. Where these criminal kids got a sense of freedom and a vision of how good life can be. But that occasional kindness seems too little in the face of the monument that life is for such individuals. This book will shock you, as it was meant to I guess. You won’t be able to help yourself feeling sympathy for the kidnapper as much as for the kidnapee.
Blaze had achieved an even more special place. Anyone who has ever seen toddlers flocking around a St Bernard will know what it was.
If not the novel, the author’s Full Disclosure at the beginning gave me tears of laughter, and The Shawshank State Prison’s mention throughout the story made me want to read Different Seasons next.
I thought the writing was okay, but the story reminded me of something Oscar Wilde once said. He claimed it was impossible to read ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ without weeping copious tears of laughter. I have had the same reaction to Everyman by Philip Roth, Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, and The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards – at some point while reading these books, I just start to laugh, wave my hands, and shout: ‘Bring on the cancer! Bring on the blindness! We haven’t had those yet!’
P.S. This is my first read by Stephen King. I picked it up for the #BnBReadathon Sep-Oct Session for Prompt 2: A Spooky Read. Though after reading ‘Praise for Blaze’, I was a bit unsure about the choice as per the prompt. Writing under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman, these books are said to be productions of his ‘dark half’. USA Today has called it a classic American noir, and I must say I heartily agree with it.
The last thirty pages contain a short story called Memory about a retired general contractor who got into a horrible accident and thinks about taking his own life. This story is said to be the starting point of his novel Duma Key.
I picked up a Hodder Books paperback at the first-ever Book Chor Meet I attended in Delhi. It was a book swap event. This yellow cover attracted me and then, of course, the author’s name on the cover.
He’s got a plan.
But he hasn’t a clue…
Clayton Blaisdell’s capers are strictly small time until he meets George Rackley. With Blaze’s brawn and George’s brains, they pull off a hundred successful cons. Then George plans the one big score every small timer dreams of: kidnapping the infant heir to a family fortune.
The trouble is that by the time the deal goes down, the brains of the operation has died. Or has he?
Now Blaze is running into the white hell of the Maine woods with a baby as hostage. The crime of the century just turned into a race against time…
The name on the cover was Richard Bachman, but the imagination could only belong to one man: Stephen King. BLAZE is a recently discovered thriller from King’s ‘dark half’.
Q. Which Stephen King story is your favourite? And if you haven’t read any, then which your favourite horror read?