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Blaze: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – January 22, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 353 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Blaze—Clayton Blaisdell Jr.—is a big dummy, very big: six-seven, 270. But not exactly very dumb. He was a smart little boy until his drunken father threw him downstairs three times in a row. He relearned to read a bit, mostly comic books, but was thereafter an otherwise learning-challenged ward of the state with a horrendous dent in his forehead. Now a mid-twenties adult, he has just lost his bosom buddy and partner in petty cons, George, who still speaks to him somehow, especially about the big score, the one to retire on. Blaze realizes that George isn't really haunting him; in fact, Blaze possesses an excellent, though highly selective, memory. In honor of George, he decides to do the big one, the kidnapping of a wealthy couple's baby. He succeeds, albeit imperfectly enough that the state cops and FBI know whodunit within a day, and he surprises himself by bonding with the infant, which for readers makes the hunt for Blaze an Alfred Hitchcock–like exercise in moral ambivalence. It's impossible not to root for Blaze, especially since Bachman flashes back copiously and with maximal sympathy to the damaged man's past. Stephen King, who "buried" Bachman in 1985, here revamps a 1973 manuscript by his alter ego that he says is something of an homage to James T. Farrell, Jim Thompson, and Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Powerful and moving, it's a worthy tribute, especially to Steinbeck. Olson, Ray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books; Reprint edition (January 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416555048
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416555049
  • Product Dimensions: 4.1 x 1 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (353 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #427,418 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Those of us who have been Constant Readers of Stephen King for years and years (since I was 13 years old) we knew about the dead novel called Blaze. It was a trunk novel that King wrote before the likes of Carrie and decided not to try and publish because he thought it was crap. For a long time out of mind Blaze sat in a carton at the Fogler Library at the University Of Maine at Orono in there Stephen King archive. Well...we love King, right? But most of us weren't afforded the chance to hop a plane across America to head to Orono to read that little hidden gem. Most of us. So it became the legendary unpublished novel by the world's most popular author. Mysterious. Wow! All these years later, King remembers Blaze and decides to give it a second chance. A little sprucing up and here it is for all the world to finally see. Written in 1973, this is nothing new. This is old Stephen King, starving, unpopular, unnoticed King. This is King when he was still struggling to keep his family eating. Great!

The basic story is centered round the 6'7" Clayton Blaisdell Jr., an all around dumb-as-a-ditch-post petty criminal with a heart of gold. When his partner is killed in a craps game, Blaze remembers the idea of the big score. He decides it's time to go through with the plan of kidnapping the infant heir of a rich family. Everything goes down with a few complications and Blaze is on the run for his life and the life of his little passenger.

King calls the striking resemblances to Steinbeck's Of Mice And Men an homage, and maybe it was, way back when, or perhaps it was a still-shaky author trying to flesh out his own novel with the structure of an old favorite. Either way, it works pretty well.
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Format: Hardcover
Back in 1988, when I was researching my book, THE STEPHEN KING COMPANION, I spent time at the Special Collections at the Fogler Library at Orono, Maine, where the original, typed manuscript of BLAZE had been deposited, along with a number of other unpublished novels. This was what King calls a "trunk" novel, meaning it's a book that he never published; he wrote it and put it in the trunk, thinking it was unpublishable.

Well, when I read it, page by page, from first until last, I felt differently: Unlike, say, SWORD IN THE DARKNESS (a novel about a race riot), which is another trunk novel by King, BLAZE shone with a gritty kind of storytelling that marked King's early fiction. Clearly a homage to John Steinbeck's novella "Of Mice and Men," the story centers on Clayton Blaze Blaisdell, who is party to the kidnapping, along with his party George Rackley; Clayton, whose checkered past -- in and out of orphanages and foster homes -- strikes a sympathetic tone with the reader, as he finds love (albeit one-sided) where he least expects it: the infant he has helped abduct. (You may recall the famous Lindbergh kidnapping in all this, as I did.)

The most difficult thing in fiction is to make the bad guy seem sympathetic, but King pulls it off. In spades. Just as we feel for Lenny in Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men," so, too, do we feel for Clayton, who is a criminal on the run; he has stolen the infant but, in the process, has stolen our hearts, as well. That is the art of fiction, the art of storytelling, and King's always had that gotta-read-the-next-page-to-see-what's-happened quality.

In King's fiction, the character comes first; the story then comes out of the character.
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Format: Hardcover
Imagine a man who's spent almost his entire life finding trouble. He's mildly retarded, is a con man and a thief, has been in and out of jail, and has a big dent in his forehead that makes him ugly to boot. Top all of this off with the bone-chilling fact that he decides to kidnap for ransom the child of a rich family--a completely innocent and helpless baby!

Now imagine this: you find yourself unequivocally liking the guy! It doesn't matter that he's a con man and a thief. All of the horribleness he engages in seems justified due to the many difficulties he's faced in life. Heck, you cheer when he beats up the headmaster at his school (actually Hetton House, a county home), and you're even rooting for him to kidnap the baby without getting caught!

So is the mastery of Stephen King, writing as his pseudonym Richard Bachman. Blaze is a book that will have you scratching your head in bewilderment over the fact that you have found yourself in like with a person like Blaze (aka as Clayton Blaisdell, Jr.). Additionally, you'll feel sadness and sympathy, anger and pain. The story of Blaze's unfortunate life will leave you filled with the utmost desire to lift up your head and unabashedly roar at the fates.
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Format: Hardcover
Thirty-some-odd years ago, Stephen King was a young writer with a unique and emerging style and a frighteningly vivid - and just plain frightening - imagination. He was not as polished as a best-seller ought to be - though he was never nearly as pedestrian as his own self-effacing interviews of the time would have readers believe. He might not yet have been the author he would become, but his ability to share a vision and tell a story were unparalleled, and the world responded. Stephen King became one of the most prolific and successful writers ever published.

Thirty-some-odd years later, he is a polished and mesmerizing author. Recent works, such as "Lisey's Story", are so compellingly written that the subject matter and story line become almost secondary to the work itself; it is a pleasure simply to be reading Mr. King. But, as Joni Mitchell observed, something's lost when something's gained, and the polish and precision with which Mr. King tells his tales has tended in recent years to eclipse the raw imagination that once drove his work.

What would happen if you could somehow capture the fiery imagination of his earlier days with the literary tendencies of a true master novelist?

"Blaze", that's what.

This remarkable work is undermined by adjectives; it is something that can be enjoyed by almost anyone who reads it, but is sure to be appreciated most by Mr. King's core of Constant Readers, those of us who have traveled his long and winding road with him since the mid 1970's. It is a stunning fusion of the raw and hungry storyteller working the Night Shift in the back of his trailer and the staggeringly successful novelist whose name is uniquely iconic within his trade.

"Blaze" has a comparatively low profile at the moment.
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