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.
Comparing Frank Gallagher, the drunken neglectful father from Shameless, Jerry Lundegaard, the timid pathetic car salesman from Fargo, and Senator Ortolan Finistirre, the rough anti tobacco senator from Thank You For Smoking, would seem like an impossible task if all three characters weren’t played by the same actor. Range is something that William H. Macy seems to effortlessly wield as an acting tool as he jumps from unique role to unique role. Starring in award winning films, Fargo and Thank You For Smoking, and guild pleasures alike, Wild Hogs and Mystery Men, William H. Macy has proven to the world what a talented actor he is.
After seeing an actor in a number of different role, most actors (even some of the best ones) falling into their own specific wheelhouse. I am not saying that most actors are pigeon holed but after a while, all of their roles have a sense of fluidity to them. I always feel like there is something that links the actors’ characters and their styles together. Somehow, Macy seems to be able to wipe those links away. It took me a very long time to see how talented an actor Macy is. It really wasn’t until I saw him in Shameless that I took a step back and realized why I had never before noticed Macy like I was noticing him now. The first time I saw Macy on the big screen was in the movie Mystery Men (which will ALWAYS be a personal guilty pleasure) but the first time I really saw him shine was when he teamed up with the Coen Brothers in the film Fargo. Playing a desperate man driven to stage a kidnapping of his own wife, Macy is joined by Frances McDormand and Steve Buscemi in this dark comedy. The next time I remember seeing him show his true talents was in Jason Reitman’s Thank You For Smoking where his brilliant performance was matched by ones from Aaron Eckhart and J.K. Simmons. The reason I never fully noticed Macy’s true brilliance in these roles was because he was matched by equally brilliant performances. In each amazing performance I had seen him in, William H. Macy had been surround by other amazing performances, cast with a number of actors with the ability to steal the screen.
Oddly enough, it was Macy’s switch move to television that really sparked my interest in him. I had seen Macy in many great roles before he stared on the American version of Shameless but never before had I found him to be so unrecognizable. It wasn’t that he didn’t look like himself; it was the fact that he had ceased being William H. Macy and had become Frank Gallagher. Quite often, the move from film to television marks the downfall of a stars career. The move to television had no effect of Macy in fact, as he went on to play what is my favorite role he has ever stared in. Bringing the talent he has displayed throughout his career, Macy steals ever single scene Frank appears in, making the show one of my current favorite shows on television.
I hope this is clear by now but my appreciation for William H. Macy has snuck up on me over the last couple years. He is a great actor that has left behind a string of amazing performances. If you like William H. Macy and aren’t watching Shameless, you are missing out on one of his most amusing and impressive performances. I do not believe that Frank Gallagher is going to be Macy’s last performance which only begs one question: What could the future give us from William H. Macy.