Blaze
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Blaze

3.5 59
by Richard Bachman, Ron McLarty
     
 

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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

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

Bill Sheehan
Perhaps because it was written relatively late in his apprenticeship (and perhaps because it's had the benefit of a recent stylistic makeover), Blaze emerges as the best of the Bachman books, a minor but solidly entertaining addition to King's prodigious body of work … Ultimately, Blaze stands on its own and deserves to be judged for what it is: a small, honestly crafted story filled with genuine narrative pleasures, and with the promise of better things to come.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly

Clayton "Blaze" Blazedell Jr.'s chance for a normal life ended when his father repeatedly threw him down a flight of stairs. After finishing his adolescence in an orphanage, the large man with a striking dent in his forehead plays sidekick to George, a social deviant with a knack for cons. However, when George is killed, Blaze must come up with a con of his own. With George's ghost to guide him, Blaze just might pull it off. Stephen King's last novel under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman has all the classic markings of the auteur, but is marred even before it starts by King's introduction, where he almost apologizes for publishing the book. Having narrated several King books already, McLarty already knows the author's syntax. His raspy but gentle narration provides a familiar and comforting voice for King fans. His rasp lightens up when delivering the slow-witted Blaze, but then deepens for George's scratchy voice. His old-timer Maine accents also produce a smile, when not evoking mental images of grizzled old semitoothed men. Simultaneous release with the Scribner hardcover (Reviews, May 21). (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743569781
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date:
06/12/2007
Edition description:
Unabridged, 7 CDs, 7 hrs. 30 min.
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 5.10(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Blaze

A Novel
By Richard Bachman

Scribner

Copyright © 2007 Richard Bachman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781416554844

Blaze by Richard Bachman

Foreword by Stephen King

Full Disclosure

Dear Constant Reader,

This is a trunk novel, okay? I want you to know that while you've still got your sales slip and before you drip something like gravy or ice cream on it, and thus make it difficult or impossible to return. It's a revised and updated trunk novel, but that doesn't change the basic fact. The Bachman name is on it because it's the last novel from 1966-1973, which was that gentleman's period of greatest productivity.

During those years I was actually two men. It was Stephen King who wrote (and sold) horror stories to raunchy skin-mags like Cavalier and Adam, but it was Bachman who wrote a series of novels that didn't sell to anybody. These included Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork, and The Running Man. All four were published as paperback originals.

Blaze was the last of those early novels...the fifth quarter, if you like. Or just another well-known writer's trunk novel, if you insist. It was written in late 1972 and early 1973. I thought it was great while I was writing it, and crap when I read it over. My recollection is that I never showed it to a single publisher -- not even Doubleday, where I had made a friend named William G.Thompson. Bill was the guy who would later discover John Grisham, and it was Bill who contracted for the book following Blaze, a twisted but fairly entertaining tale of prom-night in central Maine.

I forgot about Blaze for a few years. Then, after the other early Bachmans had been published, I took it out and looked it over. After reading the first twenty pages or so, I decided my first judgment had been correct, and returned it to purdah. 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 Little Match Girl" without weeping copious tears of laughter. So Blaze was forgotten, but never really lost. It was only stuffed in some corner of the Fogler Library at the University of Maine with the rest of their Stephen King/Richard Bachman stuff.

Blaze ended up spending the next thirty years in the dark. And then I published a slim paperback original called The Colorado Kid with an imprint called Hard Case Crime. This line of books, the brainchild of a very smart and very cool fellow named Charles Ardai, was dedicated to reviving old "noir" and hardboiled paperback crime novels, and publishing new ones. The Kid was decidedly softboiled, but Charles decided to publish it anyway, with one of those great old paperback covers. The whole project was a blast...except for the slow royalty payments.

About a year later, I thought maybe I'd like to go the Hard Case route again, possibly with something that had a harder edge. My thoughts turned to Blaze for the first time in years, but trailing along behind came that damned Oscar Wilde quote about "The Little Match Girl." The Blaze I remembered wasn't hardboiled noir, but a three-handkerchief weepie. Still, I decided it wouldn't hurt to look. If, that was, the book could even be found. I remembered the carton, and I remembered the squarish type-face (my wife Tabitha's old college typewriter, an impossible-to-kill Olivetti portable), but I had no idea what had become of the manuscript that was supposedly inside the carton. For all I knew, it was gone, baby, gone.

It wasn't. Marsha, one of my two valuable assistants, found it in the Fogler Library. She would not trust me with the original manuscript (I, uh, lose things), but she made a Xerox. I must have been using a next-door-to-dead typewriter ribbon when I composed Blaze, because the copy was barely legible, and the notes in the margins were little more than blurs. Still, I sat down with it and began to read, ready to suffer the pangs of embarrassment only one's younger, smart-assier self can provide.

But I thought it was pretty good -- certainly better than Roadwork, which I had, at the time, considered mainstream American fiction. It just wasn't a noir novel. It was, rather, a stab at the sort of naturalism-with-crime that James M. Cain and Horace McCoy practiced in the thirties. I thought the flashbacks were actually better than the front-story. They reminded me of James T. Farrell's Young Lonigan trilogy and the forgotten (but tasty) Gas-House McGinty. Sure, it was the three Ps in places, but it had been written by a young man (I was twenty-five) who was convinced he was WRITING FOR THE AGES.

I thought Blaze could be re-written and published without too much embarrassment, but it was probably wrong for Hard Case Crime. It was, in a sense, not a crime novel at all. I thought it could be a minor tragedy of the underclass, if the re-writing was ruthless. To that end, I adopted the flat, dry tones which the best noir fiction seems to have, even using a type-font called American Typewriter to remind myself of what I was up to. I worked fast, never looking ahead or back, wanting also to capture the headlong drive of those books (I'm thinking more of Jim Thompson and Richard Stark here than I am of Cain, McCoy, or Farrell). I thought I would do my revisions at the end, with a pencil, rather than editing in the computer, as is now fashionable. If the book was going to be a throwback, I wanted to play into that rather than shying away from it. I also determined to strip all the sentiment I could from the writing itself, wanted the finished book to be as stark as an empty house without even a rug on the floor. My mother would have said "I wanted its bare face hanging out." Only the reader will be able to judge if I succeeded.

If it matters to you (it shouldn't -- hopefully you came for a good story, and hopefully you will get one), any royalties or subsidiary income generated by Blaze will go to The Haven Foundation, which was created to help freelance artists who are down on their luck.

One other thing, I guess, while I've got you by the lapel. I tried to keep the Blaze time-frame as vague as possible, so it wouldn't seem too dated. It was impossible to take out all the dated material, however; keeping some of it was important to the plot. If you think of this story's time-frame as "America, Not All That Long Ago," I think you'll be okay.

May I close by circling back to where I started? This is an old novel, but I believe I was wrong in my initial assessment that it was a bad novel. You may disagree...but "The Little Match Girl" it ain't. As always, Constant Reader, I wish you well, I thank you for reading this story, and I hope you enjoy it. I won't say I hope you mist up a little, but --

Yeah. Yeah, I will say that. Just as long as they're not tears of laughter.

Stephen King (for Richard Bachman)

Sarasota, Florida

January 30th, 2007



Continues...


Excerpted from Blaze by Richard Bachman Copyright © 2007 by Richard Bachman. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

During the years 1966-1973, Stephen King was actually two men. Stephen King wrote (and sold) horror stories to magazines such as Cavalier and Adam, 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.

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes the forthcoming Drunken Fireworks, Finders Keepers, Revival, Mr. Mercedes (winner of the 2015 Edgar Award), Doctor Sleep, and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Bangor, Maine
Date of Birth:
September 21, 1947
Place of Birth:
Portland, Maine
Education:
B.S., University of Maine at Orono, 1970
Website:
http://www.stephenking.com

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Blaze 4 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 159 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Clayton Blaisdell is "...soft in the head..." due to being thrown down the stairs three times by his father, and although they were partners in crime, Blaze has had George to look after him in many ways....just as the George in 'Of Mice And Men' looked out for Lennie. Therefore anyone who has read 'Of Mice...' can't fail to be reminded of it when reading this book.
BUT, the George in this story is dead and only lives in Blaze's head which Blaze realises to some extent and which worries him at times. George is the 'bad voice' on Blaze's shoulder...telling him things which might save his skin but that Blaze doesn't always want to do...and Blaze is ultimately a criminal who endears himself to you. You can't help but feel sympathy for a boy who's had the life he has. He's been abused and misunderstood and every time there's a glimmer of something better, had his hopes dashed.
The chapters move back and forth from the present day where Blaze is planning to kidnap a baby for a ransom, to his growing up in care and his friendship with John Cheltzman.
I found the way Blaze cared for Joe quite touching and very believable for this gentle giant who after all is just yearning for something of his own to love and love him back. Whilst I knew it couldn't happen (could it?) I really was rooting for him all the way. Great read, you will not be disappointed.
Not a horror story in Kings normal style...instead he gives us sociological observations on society, encased in a good story. Unlike some reviewers I liked the ending...it was moving to know that when Joe cried "It was the wrong face..." that bent over and tried to comfort him.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The direction one's life takes is often out of his/her control. A simple twist of fate here and there and it is a completely different outcome, a whole different story. Some lives are just tragic. The story had me feeling for all of the victims.
interpreter1974 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. He made the characters compelling and it became a quick and thrilling read. I found myself being pulled into the story much like "Rose Madder", another favorite of mine. This was a fun and quick book to get through . . . great for a first time King reader or someone who might want to "come back" to King.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Stephen King may be the "master of horror," but with BLAZE he proves that he's also just a plain ole good writer. This story is a mixture of a thriller, a mystery, a police procedural, and a personal struggle to figure out who you are.

Blaze, aka Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., is a dummy, and he knows it. Ever since his father threw him down a flight of stairs (and then hauled him back up and did it a couple of more times), Blaze hasn't had the brains for learning. The dent in his forehead might make him look scary, but we soon learn that Blaze isn't much of a threat -- except when he's really angry. He might look like a giant at 6'7" and nearly 300 pounds, but this man's heart is as soft as his mind.

Blaze has pretty much drifted through life by skirting the law and mostly (with exceptions) avoiding trouble. When he meets George Rackley, Blaze learns the art of the con. The two of them (or, rather, George) have been planning one big job for awhile now. That big job would be kidnapping the baby of a rich couple, collecting the ransom, and living the high-life somewhere with white sandy beaches and lots of sun.

But we soon learn that things aren't going quite the way either man had expected. For one, George is dead, even though he's still helping with the kidnapping plot. For another, Blaze, as we've already learned, isn't the smartest guy around.

What follows is a mixture of present day mystery/thriller as Blaze carries out the kidnapping of little Joey, mixed with the flashbacks of his life that show how Blaze ends up where he's at.

King (aka Bachman..does it really matter the name?) shows great control in the pacing of BLAZE, and expertly weaves the present with the past. You'll also be surprised (and entertained) by the joy that is Blaze, who is a wonderful, fully-developed character.
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igonzafn More than 1 year ago
Blaze is actually a decent story that isn't plauged by King's dull writing style and story telling. Our chatacter, Blaze, is an interesting criminal who had a partner in crime now deceased. Blaze can hear his friend's voice in his head day in and day out. He influences and instigates Blaze's actions and eventually gets him involved in a kidnapping plot whose victim's family are millionaires. He plans to ask for a ransom but eventually gets attached to the infant. The story keeps you interested by getting you emotionally attached and feeling pity for the villian using Blaze's innocent and adventurous upbringing in flashbacks. The book is definitely readable so people not so sure about this 'King' book don't be afraid it's short and entertaining!
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