Blaze, by Richard Bachman

Technically, it’s Stephen King, but he wrote in back in 1973, when Bachman was still alive, I guess.

It’s not horror. Bachman never wrote horror, unless you count Thinner. (Which I have never read, so I don’t have an opinion on it.) I did read the other Bachman-books, and like Rage and The Long Walk best. Ah, the stuff we read when we’re young and nostalgic and not possessed of discerning taste.

Blaze is about a man this side of functioning retard. Literally, he hit his head once too many, thanks to his alcoholic father throwing him down the stairs four or five times. He’s drifting through life, mainly playing the muscle in minor stick-ups. Being 6’8″ or so, and able to knock people flat with one blow does help in robbing a convenience-store. He settles in Boston, more or less, and there meets George. George enlists him in his various short cons, until he gets himself knifed in a back-alley craps-game.

Blaze tends to forget this, and talks to George, who answers, for months afterwards. He decides to get on with the big one George was planning: the kidnapping of Joseph Gerards IV, the heir to a big capital. But without George around, Blaze can’t pull this off properly, and he ends up with the baby in the woods, mid-winter. In the end he gets shot by the Feds. The baby survives.

Bachman writes very linearly about the kidnapping, switching POV from Blaze to the Federal Agent only after the Feds have been called in. When talking from Blaze’s point of view, the language used is very sparse, maybe a bit terse, and free from deep introspection, reflecting the way Blaze thinks. he does take a few liberties, pulling back and playing omniscient narrator. Interspersed with the story about the botched kidnapping, we get Blaze’s history.

I liked Blaze. Sure, he was the bad guy, but I liked him regardless. Due to his intelligence, you couldn’t call him evil. Misguided, maybe. And he really cared about Joe, the baby. Of course, the plans he had for their life together were not realistic. A man with his mug would not be able to get out of the country, even if he had succeeded in collecting the ransom. I felt sad when he died.

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