Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Blockade Billy (2010)

     Impressed with Steven King's ability to inject an interesting character study into his zombie story "Home Delivery", I decided to give him another chance.  However, Blockade Billy (2010) was probably the wrong choice if I wanted to be impressed.  It is unbelievably short – a short story claiming novella status by virtue of font size and spacing – and the version I checked out from the library did not have the bonus story "Morality". 
     King relates the improbable story of a baseball player removed from the game and record books after one month in the 1957 season.  The player, the titular Blockade Billy Blakely, is called up to play for the fictional Newark Titans (there are Newark Titans at the Ohio State University and the New Jersey Titans are a Women's Spring Football team).  He is an odd duck but one hell of a baseball player.  The entirety of the tale is told as though it is being related to King by the retired Third Base Coach from that team.
     There isn't much in the story.  It is breezy, maybe a little too much so.  King doesn't quite know what kind of story he wants to tell and is quick to go back to peppering in plenty of curse words to fill out the dialogue (something I first noticed when reading his short stories over 20 years ago).  It appears as though King had an idea for a story – and didn't want it to be any kind of horror – but couldn't quite find the human angle.  The reflective observations about what may have been the motivation for Blockade Billy to do what he did felt forced, as though King wanted to have a moral to the story.  I don't think it needed one, not if he had committed to developing it in a manner that would have engaged the reader in the strange month long odyssey of the team.
     I am glad I didn't invest 1,000 pages in a King book to get something like this, but as it was an insanely quick read I am not complaining.  I do think that this story could have been left to sit and be revisited when King had a better idea of what he wanted to do with it; he certainly doesn't need to put out books to put food on the table these days.  There are a couple of King stories I do want to read, and I hope they are betting than Blockade Billy, but I have read worse from established authors.  And much worse from people like myself who can only aspire to be authors.

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