August 13, 2007

Written and read by Richard Bachman/Stephen King

Published by: Hodder & Stoughton

Price: £29.99 Unabridged

Stephen King candidly (and brilliantly) reads his ‘long lost’ Bachman book, stipulating at the beginning that it was a work that nearly didn’t get published at all. It was originally written in 1973, immediately before Carrie, and as King explains in his introduction, was put into a trunk and forgotten about.

Rather than being a crime/thriller book solely about the kidnapping of a baby, robbery and murder; it focuses on one character, Clayton Blaisdell Jnr, (aka Blaze). Blaze is intellectually disabled , having undergone severe violent treatment from his father as a young boy. His dad threw him down the stairs three times (just to be sure) an act which left with a dent in his forehead the size of a tennis ball.

Throughout the book, Blaze talks to and takes direction from his dead mentor George, who persuades him to move on from short cons in department stores to kidnapping the Gerard’s, (a super rich family) baby heir for a ransom. However – and here is the twist, George is dead. Stephen King delves in to the psyche of this simple soul, who at well over 6 foot is an unforgettable character. The investigation into the kidnapping soon flags up his profile to police – although they are suspicious that Blaze is not working alone.

I’ll admit that I found the back story far more interesting than the actual kidnapping and resulting chase. I’ll also admit that I need to re-listen to the parts where Blaze meets George as I’m left with a nagging ‘Sixth Sense’ versus ‘Fight Club’ suspicion that George never existed in the first place, although George’s death scene is pretty harrowing!

I couldn’t help but like Blaze – which I’m sure is King’s intention. Blaze is a clumsy, pathetic oaf who haphazardly falls into crime. As a child he uses his size and strength to protect victims of bullies, which is how he met his best friend Johnny at HH, the children’s home.

Blaze’s demise is stereotypical, if not uninventive – it reinforces the whole good over evil diatribe. That said, I did want to listen to the end, and I was slightly sorry for the misunderstood Blaze…

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