Synopses & Reviews
The last of the Richard Bachman novels, recently recovered and published for the first time. Stephen King's "dark half" may have saved the best for last.
A fellow named Richard Bachman wrote Blaze in 1973 on an Olivetti typewriter, then turned the machine over to Stephen King, who used it to write Carrie. Bachman died in 1985 ("cancer of the pseudonym"), but in late 2006 King found the original typescript of Blaze among his papers at the University of Maine's Fogler Library ("How did this get here?!"), and decided that with a little revision it ought to be published.
Blaze is the story of Clayton Blaisdell, Jr. of the crimes committed against him and the crimes he commits, including his last, the kidnapping of a baby heir worth millions. Blaze has been a slow thinker since childhood, when his father threw him down the stairs and then threw him down again. After escaping an abusive institution for boys when he was a teenager, Blaze hooks up with George, a seasoned criminal who thinks he has all the answers. But then George is killed, and Blaze, though haunted by his partner, is on his own.
He becomes one of the most sympathetic criminals in all of literature. This is a crime story of surprising strength and sadness, with a suspenseful current sustained by the classic workings of fate and character as taut and riveting as Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.
"Written circa 1973, this 'trunk novel,' as Bachman's double (aka Stephen King) refers to it in his self-deprecating foreword, lacks the drama and intensity of Carrie and the horror opuses that followed it. Still, this fifth Bachman book (after 1996's The Regulators) shows King fine-tuning his skill at making memorable characters out of simple salt-of-the-earth types. Clayton 'Blaze' Blaisdell has fallen into a life of delinquency ever since his father's brutal abuse rendered him feebleminded. King alternates chapters recounting Blaze's past mistreatment at a series of Maine orphanages and foster homes with Blaze's current plans to follow through on a kidnapping scheme plotted by his recently murdered partner in crime, George Rackley. Blaze talks to George as though he's still there, and the conversations give the tale tension, with Blaze coming across as a pitiable and surprisingly sympathetic contrast to prickly George. Despite its predictability, this diverting soft-boiled crime novel reflects influences ranging from John Steinbeck to James M. Cain. Also included is a previously uncollected story, 'Memory,' the seed of King's forthcoming novel Duma Key. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A]n exquisitely written tale of suspense....In this unexpectedly heartfelt novel, the words swirl up off the pages, forming cinematic images that engage the mind and tug at the heart. It's classic American noir. Here's hoping there's another Bachman novel moldering in a trunk somewhere." USA Today
"Although King's flourishes have turned out an entertaining book, it's a pity that he is more serious about being taken seriously as an author. He should have committed himself to writing a truly comic caper." Los Angeles Times
"What makes this novel interesting...is that it's a book from which King has tried to cut the sentiment to leave something harder and more lasting....What we get is King's former alter ego channelling John Steinbeck, in a novel that reads like Of Mice and Men written as a crime caper." The Telegraph (U.K.)
"Blaze can best be described as a fair example of lightweight literary noir. It's not as fine as Cain, nor as down-and-dirty as the hardboiled works of Richard Stark or Jim Thompson (two other writers King cites as inspirations in his intro), but it's still a worthwhile read." Chicago Sun-Times
"[A]n exquisitely written tale of suspense....It's classic American noir. Here's hoping there's another Bachman novel moldering in a trunk somewhere." USA Today
"No matter to whom it is credited, Blaze contains some of King's finest work." BookReporter.com
"Blaze is a solid piece of crime fiction, but certainly not something worth raising the roof over in terms of praise King himself notes that in his introduction and certainly doesn't rank with his best work." Denver Post
"Although King's flourishes have turned out an entertaining book, it's a pity that he is more serious about being taken seriously as an author. He should have committed himself to writing a truly comic caper." Edward Champion, The Los Angeles Times
About the Author
During the years 19661973, Stephen King was actually two men. Stephen King wrote (and sold) horror stories to magazines such as Cavalier
, while Richard Bachman wrote a series of novels that would not be published until the early 1980s and were then collected as The Bachman Books
. Bachman died of pseudonym cancer in 1985, shortly after another of his novels, Thinner
, was attributed to Stephen King; but a sixth Bachman novel, The Regulators
, surfaced in 1995 and was published simultaneously with Stephen King's Desperation
, to which it bore a weird resemblance. Blaze
both brutal and sensitive was the last novel written during Bachman's early period. It is his legacy.
King's proceeds from Blaze will be donated to The Haven Foundation, which supports freelance artists.