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.
For the second novel that has ever been reviewed on this blog, I have decided to go with an odd book from an odd author. It doesn’t really need to be said that Steve Martin is a very talented man but a lot of people don’t know how talented. A brilliant actor, Martin has also written a number of screenplays. He is a mind-blowing banjo player and, hence this blog post, he is also an accomplished author. The novel I read is Martin’s most recent novel, Object of Beauty. Though it wasn’t written in my favorite style, the novel was well written, focused mainly on an eccentric non-artist trying to make her way in the art world.
The novel is written from the point of view of a young man who writes articles for art magazene’s named Daniel. Though he is the narrator, the book barely focuses on Daniel. A few of the 68 chapters are about Robert but most of them focus on the novel’s main character, Lacey Yeager. A beautiful young woman who can use her charm to get the best of any situation, the novel looks at Lacey’s rise through the art world. She starts in a back room at an art gallery, working her way up to owning her own gallery and leaving a trail of broken hearts in her wake. The novel chronicals not only the events of Lacey’s rise to success but also the way she gained knowledge about art. Investing, collecting, taking risks and even breaking the law, Lacey plays her way through the New York Art world, taking everything she can from it before it is done with her.
There are a number of characters in the novel but none get nearly as much attention as Lacey. Other gallery owners and art collectors make appearances, most starting as Lacey’s superieors and ending up as her friends or partners. The most noteable is Barton Fink, a man who seems to have unwavering faith in Lacy. Other characters include Lacey’s lovers which could be artists, buyers, sellers, police officers and even the novel’s narrator. One of Lacey’s lovers becomes prominent enough in the novel to be considered a main character. Patrice Claire is a character that lives in Europe and falls madly in love with Lacey almost immediately. A wealthy man, Patrice travels from Europe often simply to see Lacy though it is sometimes under the guise of other business. Desperately trying to foster a close, meaningful relationship with Lacey, she does not get as entangled in the relationship as Patrice hopes. Oddly enough for a book about art there are not many artist characters. The only real artist character that makes much of an impact on the story is a man named Pilot Mouse, though that isn’t how we are first introduced to him.
This novel is written in a very interesting manner, not following the classic structure of building to a final climax. The novel seemed to follow more of a wave pattern, introducing elements that caused confilcit but resolving those elements long before the novel’s end. One would expect the novel to be humerous considering it comes from the mind of Steve Martin but that isn’t exactly the case. There are some amusing moments in the novel but they were subtle and not exactly laugh out loud. The writing style contained a sense of wit but a wit that boasted Martin’s intelligence as opposed to his humor. Martin either has a great knowledge of the art world or did a lot of research before writing this novel. Tha pages are filled with art theories, information on artists and analyses of different paintings. Often when a painting was mentioned, it appeared in the novel, a picture of it taking up half or three quarters of the following page. This novel offered a unique look at the art world, an aspect of it that isn’t always portrayed in films or novels.
My favorite aspect of this novel was the fact that I feel like I learned something from it. The book features a number of intellectual passages about not only art but also about the buying and selling of art. Overall, I thought the book was very well written, it just wasn’t written in a format that I enoy. I appreciate the skill that went into writing the novel, I just found it to be a little dry and lacking overall conflict. The story was character driven, I just wanted a little more. I give Object of Beauty a 5.5 out of 10. It’s an interesting novel that anybody with any interst in the art world should enjoy.