A trunk novel, in my own words, is a novel written by an author that they were not particularly happy with so they put it in a trunk and move onto their next project. When that author eventually becomes famous they pull the novel out and publish it. Blaze, a novel by Richard Bachman (a Stephen King pen name), is one such novel. A character driven tale about a man who shares his name with the title. Blaze was a simple story with a simple plot (compared to other King/Bachman novels). What made this a compelling and entertaining read was the characters, specifically the title character Blaze.
The novel’s plot revolves around a single action: a kidnapping. The novel opens on con artists and thieves Blaze (real name Clayton Blaisdell Jr.) and George Thomas Rackley stealing a car. It becomes quickly apparent that George is the brains of the group and Blaze is the gopher and muscle. As Blaze works to steal a car we learn that the two have been planning their one big crime, the crime that will allow them to stop doing petty crimes and live off the spoils forever. The two have spent time researching a rich family, a rich family that has recently had a child. The theory is if they kidnap a baby and ransom it the baby won’t be able to remember their faces so they won’t have to kill anybody. The plan seems foolproof until we realize that George is no longer alive, the George we think is talking to Blaze is in Blaze’s mind.
Mentally, Blaze is a somewhat unstable character. A giant, Blaze is always described as having a dent in his head. Blaze is a terrifyingly large and strong man but has a mind more like a child’s as opposed to a grown man’s. With abusive parents most of Blaze’s childhood was spent in and out of foster homes. Blaze does not have the mental capacity to create a real life for himself. Now Blaze is attempting to kidnap a young child, take care of it and himself, ransom it to the family and not get caught while doing so. As the novel unfolds and these events take place it becomes clear that it is about more than just the kidnapping. The novel is about Blaze as a character and Blaze’s life.
Stephen King/ Richard Bachman is an incredible writer, good enough that even his trunk novels are compelling, great reads. Sure this was not the most polished novel I had ever read and there were some small plot holes but ultimately this was a great read. You can’t help but become a fan of Blaze. Big and dumb, the man ends up becoming quite lovable. His interactions with the child are heartwarming, showing how soft the seemingly hard Blaze can be. You watch as he comes out of his shell and actually starts to trust himself. The story of Blaze’s fractured mind and past is told through a series of flashbacks, jumping from present day to different points in Blaze’s past. It is amazing how quickly the story focuses on Blaze’s life, letting us watch the character grow and develop.
What starts as a novel about a kidnapping turns into a character piece about a very unique, likable and unexpected character. This is a C novel for me. It certainly is a trunk novel and has some issues but there are also many outstanding aspects to it. If you’re like me and keep a pile of books to read next to your bed I would not necessarily put Blaze on top but if your pile is getting shallow toss this one in there.