Author: Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King)
Publication Date: June 12, 2007
Source: personal purchase
Summary from Goodreads:
Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., was always a small-time delinquent. None too bright either, thanks to the beatings he got as a kid. Then Blaze met George Rackley, a seasoned pro with a hundred cons and one big idea. The kidnapping should go off without a hitch, with George as the brains behind their dangerous scheme. But there's only one problem: by the time the deal goes down, Blaze's partner in crime is dead. Or is he?
For those unfamiliar with the connection between Richard Bachman and Stephen King, Bachman was the pen name that King occasionally wrote under in the 70's and 80's. Bachman "died of pseudonym cancer" (as the book jacket explains) in 1985, when King was basically outed. However, he continued to occasionally release books under that name, including this one, which was actually written before King made it big with Carrie but was not published until 2007.
This is my second "Bachman book" (I read The Long Walk the year before I started blogging), and I have to say that this one definitely has a different feel to it than your average King novel...I suppose that could be because it was written in his very early days, even before Carrie. The Long Walk is extremely King-esque in nature (macabre, gory, with an all-around dreadful premise), but Blaze is distinctly...not. It has some elements that are recognizable from his other work (namely, a LOT of suspense, and a child playing a fairly central role), but otherwise I'd say this one could have flown under the pseudonym radar pretty cleanly.
Blaze is not a terribly long novel, but even so, it took me a bit to get into it. It opens with a slow build as you learn more about Blaze's background, his now-dead crime partner George, and the kidnapping plot that he plans to execute alone. I was finding the whole thing a bit blah, honestly, for the first 25% or so. However, after that point, two things happen. One, the story starts to flash back for longer periods into Blaze's past--and you learn a lot of things about his history that are rather disturbing. And two, the actual kidnapping gets underway, which is pretty nail-biting.
(Side note: reading about a 6-month-old baby getting kidnapped (albeit fictionally) while you are feeding your 2-month-old baby is a good way to induce a blood pressure problem.)
The ending isn't particularly earth-shattering...in fact, it winds up pretty much the way you would expect, once you get to know Blaze. But that's where the hook of this novel lies--with the characters. As with so many other King works, he creates an amazingly complex protagonist, and given the short-ish length of this book, it's rather impressive that he was able to do that with Blaze. If this book was really about the kidnapping, it would be called...The Kidnapping. Or something. (WHATEVER, nobody ever said I would be good at choosing book titles, you get my point.) But it's not, and by the end you'll know why.
So, despite the slow start, Blaze hooked me well before the mid-point and kept me along for the ride all the way to the last word. A bit of a cleaner ending than I'm used to with Stephen King, but if you want to see a different side of his repertoire, definitely give this one a try.
Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell!
Oooooh a 30 Before 35 book! EXCITING!! Gonna take me a while to finish that chunkster though...