Blaze by Richard Bachman

Rene Rodriguez
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

Calamity follows lonely, brain-damaged Clayton Blaisdell Jr. in Blaze, written 30 years ago.


Publisher: Scribner
ISBN: 141655484X
Contributors: Stephen King
Author: Richard Bachman
Price: $25.00
Length: 304
Formats: Hardcover
US publication date: 2007-06

The not-quite-new novel by Richard Bachman (a.k.a. Stephen King), opens with a foreword in which the author explains his decision to finally publish a book he wrote more than 30 years ago. He had kept the book in a box reserved for finished manuscripts that just weren't good enough.

"This is an old novel, but I believe I was wrong in my initial assessment that it was a bad novel," King writes, and if the chatty, personal, unusually honest introduction is better than the book it precedes, the writer has absolutely nothing to apologize for this time. (The same cannot be said for his last two novels, Cell and Lisey's Story).

Blaze was written in 1973, at the end of a furiously productive period that begat the Bachman books Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork and The Running Man. The protagonist is Clayton Blaisdell Jr., a lonely, brain-damaged outcast blessed (or perhaps cursed) with unusual physical strength. His life has been a series of heartbreaking calamities.

Standing 6 foot 7 and weighing almost 300 pounds, Clayton is a man-child left "soft in the head" after being twice thrown down a flight of stairs as a child by his abusive father. Bounced around foster homes and institutions for much of his childhood, Clayton eventually finds himself running with George, a know-it-all criminal who becomes his constant companion and adviser, who continues to counsel Clayton from beyond the grave.

Alternating between Clayton's past and the present, in which Clayton has kidnapped the infant son of wealthy parents and is holding him for ransom, Blaze is a suspenseful crime yarn as well as a moving, sympathetic portrait of a man yearning to find a place in a world that seems to have callously rejected him.

Leaner and much more focused than King's recent novels and far more sentimental than the typical ice-cold Bachman style, Blaze amounts to little more than a heartfelt homage to John Steinbeck, which may explain the author's semi-apologetic tone in deciding to publish it. (He is also donating his royalties from the book to The Haven Foundation, a charity for down-on-their-luck artists).

But Blaze is also an engaging showcase for one of King's greatest gifts: His seemingly effortless ability to craft characters who leave an indelible mark, regardless of the somewhat contrived plots in which they happen to be stranded. Like The Dead Zone's Johnny Smith or the eponymous heroine of Carrie, it's a safe bet you'll find yourself thinking back on the hulking Clayton Blaisdell Jr. with bittersweet sympathy.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.