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Literature / Blaze

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Blaze is an early novel written by Stephen King that predates even Carrie. Finding it to be overtly sentimental, King shelved it. He later rediscovered it in the attic and, with much revision, published it in 2007 under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman.

Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., also known as "Blaze", is a mentally challenged con artist. Under the guidance of the 'ghost' of his dead partner George Rackley, kidnaps the infant son of a wealthy millionaire for ransom. The plan begins to crumble as Blaze begins to bond with the baby.

This work contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: When he was a child, Blaze's father threw him down the stairs three times for interrupting his television, giving him permanent brain damage in the process.
  • Accidental Murder: Blaze is caught in the act while kidnapping Joe by the baby's great-aunt, and knocks her out cold. She succumbs to her injuries the following day.
  • Affably Evil: Blaze, to the extent that he can be called evil. He's a docile, gentle, and even kindly man when left to his own devices and he tries to avoid killing when he can avoid it, but he is still a violent criminal.
  • A Match Made in Stockholm: A strange case. At the end, after Joe is returned to his parents, he begins to cry because it's the "wrong face".
  • Badass and Baby: Blaze and Joe.
  • Beardness Protection Program: Barely a day after the kidnapping, a police sketch of Blaze is put in the newspaper. While the sketch isn't that accurate, Blaze still decides to shave himself bald in order to avoid recognition.
  • Benevolent Boss: During his teen years, Blaze worked for a man named Harry Bluenote, who hired troubled teens, paid them fair wages, and treated them well, even fighting public opinion to give them a good chance at life. He even offered to keep Blaze on, but died the next day.
    • George was one too. While he made no bones about seeing Blaze as a tool, he treated him well regardless.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Sterling ascribes to this, viewing people as either good or bad with no in-between.
  • Brains and Brawn: George and Blaze, though the narration notes at one point that while George was smarter than Blaze, that ultimately doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Hetton House was a state orphanage and school that Blaze attended as a child. He and the rest of the children were abused by the cruel headmaster Martin Coslaw and the rest of the staff, and.
  • Butt-Monkey: Harry Badell, a night clerk who is repeatedly robbed and terrorized by Blaze.
  • Child Hater: Martin "The Law" Coslaw, the head of Helton House, is a cruel man who uses his authority to abuse the children under his care for the slightest infractions. Blaze correctly pinpoints that Coslaw does so because he's a sadist who's too cowardly to pick on anybody who isn't helpless to defy him.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Absolutely nothing goes right for Blaze, and his entire life is just a parade of endless misery.
  • Cut-and-Paste Note: Chapter 13 sees Blaze putting one of these together, starting over a few times.
  • Dead Person Conversation/Spirit Advisor: Blaze is guided by his dead partner in crime, George.
  • Dead Sidekick: Sterling's partner Granger is murdered by Blaze towards the end of the book, which partially motivates Sterling to shoot Blaze down during the climax.
  • Dean Bitterman: Coslaw is a cruel sadist who subjects the children under his care to horrific abuse and punishes them for the slightest infraction with severe beatings.
  • The Dog Bites Back: For years, Blaze put up with the abuse of Martin Coslaw, the head of Hetton House (the state orphanage where Blaze spend most of his youth). But after his friend John Cheltzman dies because he was sent to work in the field despite having a weak heart, Blaze finally snaps and gave Coslaw a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
  • Downer Ending: You weren't expecting a happy ending with a Bachman novel, were you? Blaze never collects the ransom and he kills several innocent people before being gunned down himself. The only bright spot is that Joe survives unharmed and returned to his parents.
  • Dumb Muscle: Blaze functions as this to George, before and after the latter's death.
  • Gentle Giant: Blaze is generally docile when left to his own devices and is pretty much a teddy bear whenever he's around Joe. Unfortunately, he has a violent temper, and he's strong enough that he's able to beat people to a pulp with ease.
  • Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: True, George was already a con artist before he got caught, but during a 20-month stay in Walpole prison, he picked up an assortment of new cons, including his most successful one. It was also here that a fellow inmate gave him the idea to kidnap a baby for ransom.
  • Hero Antagonist: Albert Sterling and Bruce Granger, the FBI agents tracking down Blaze. In any other story, they'd probably be the heroes, but the story focuses primarily on Blaze and they're thus the main threat against him.
  • Hidden Depths: George is a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, who constantly denounces the Republican Party for harming the poor.
  • Homage: To Of Mice and Men, according to the author.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: King actually wanted to avoid this and wanted to publish it under just Bachman's name. In the end, the hardcover has both names under equal size and the paperback has "Stephen King writing as..."
  • In Medias Res: Throughout the novel there are flashbacks from Blaze's childhood all the way to his current situation.
  • Karma Houdini: While Coslaw gets a severe beating from Blaze, he still manages to get Blaze sent to prison for it and he presumably continues to abuse the children in Hetton House until it's shut down.
  • Lighter and Softer: By King's standards, especially when compared to the rest of the Bachman canon. It's a heartbreaking novel, but it's not as nihilistic as Rage (1977) or The Long Walk.
  • Lima Syndrome: Blaze eventually falls in love with the baby and doesn't want to let it go.
  • Lower-Class Lout: Deconstructed. George's crude and often cruel behavior and his criminality stem from his bitterness about how being a member of the poor working class has restricted his opportunities.
  • Manchild: Blaze.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Is George really assisting Blaze from beyond the grave as a ghost, or is he just a figment of Blaze's imagination, speaking what Blaze's subconscious already knows? The novel isn't really clear on this. On one hand, Blaze already began to imagine George assisting him when he was serving a prison sentence, while George himself was still alive. On the other hand, "George" knows things that Blaze can't possibly know, not even subconsciously, such as the plan George picked up in prison to have the ransom dropped from a plane.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Chapter 14 is entirely about a nightmare of Blaze, in which he and Joe are at a carnival where they run into Joe's mother, who recognizes Blaze. She and all other visitors chase after him, and during the chase Joe's mother transforms into The Bride of Yorga (from a horror movie Blaze saw years ago). Blaze and Joe flee into a Hall of Mirrors, where George awaits them. After giving Blaze the advice to demand that the ransom for Joe is dropped from a plane, George too turns into a monster and insists Blaze gives Joe to him, which Blaze refuses. That is where the dream ends.
  • One Last Job: What Blaze is on; if the kidnapping goes well, he'll be settled for life thanks to the ransom money. If it fails, he will either be killed or get sentenced to life in prison.
  • Orgy of Evidence: In just a day after the kidnapping, the police already identify Blaze as the culprit. He left tons of tracks behind, a lot of which aren't hard to trace back to him (like fibers from his trousers, which are of a brand only sold in a handful of stores, and marks from the ladder, which again is of a brand only sold in a limited amount of stores), and people easily recognize/remember him due to his large physique and the dent in his skull.
  • Papa Wolf: Blaze grows very protective over Joe, to the point he strangles Granger to death for shooting at him while Blaze was holding the baby.
  • Posthumous Character: George. He was murdered a year prior to the events of the story, but his influence on Blaze and his ghost play a major role in the story.
  • Rasputinian Death: In the climax, Blaze takes a bullet to the calf, a bullet to the leg that blows his kneecap, and a bullet in the buttock that shatters his hip and tears open his large intestine, but he keeps running and doesn't even feel it. It takes a bullet in the lower back that severs his spinal cord to finally make him stop.
  • Sadist: Blaze accuses Coslaw of being this, pointing out how he only abuses the children because he's a bully looking to pick on those weaker than him for the fun of it. Coslaw's reaction implies Blaze was right.
  • Saying Too Much: When on his way to post the ransom note, Blaze is offered a ride by a pulp truck driver. During the ride, the driver brings up the kidnapping (which is prominently featured in the news), and Blaze casually wonders if Joe's parents will really pay the 1 million dollars in ransom before realizing he shouldn't know about that since he hasn't even sent the letter yet, let alone that the media reported about the ransom. Fortunately for Blaze, while the driver is surprised Blaze knows about the amount of money the kidnappers are asking, he doesn't put one and one together enough to deduce Blaze might be the kidnapper.
  • Stocking Mask: Blaze robs a grocery store but forgets to put the stocking on. Fortunately, he scares the sales clerk so much that he can't remember anything to identify him. Blaze later comes back to the same store, this time wearing the stocking, and even points it out to the clerk.
  • Tinkle in the Eye: Blaze finds himself on the receiving end of this the first time he has to change Joe's diaper.
  • Tragic Villain: Blaze. He's a kind, gentle man forced into criminality both because he was stuck in poverty and due to George's manipulations, and he suffers from hallucinations caused by the head trauma that left him mentally disabled that make it so that he cannot escape George's influence even long after his death. And that's not even getting into Blaze's Dark and Troubled Past
  • Villain Protagonist: Blaze, if only nominally. He did kidnap a child, after all.
  • Vorpal Pillow: When George warns Blaze that the police is on to him, he urges Blaze to kill Joe in this manner since the kid would only slow him down. Blaze comes close to doing it, but ultimately can't bring himself to kill the baby.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Blaze. Pretty much everything in his life went wrong and he was constantly screwed over no matter what he did. Even when he resorted to becoming a criminal, he's not malevolent and all of his killings are mere accidents.