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September 13, 2010 | by  | in Books |
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Blockade Billy

Blockade Billy
Stephen King

This is the novella for the student who doesn’t have the time to read, but still wants to. It begins with Stephen King in a rest home, interviewing ‘Granny’ Grantham, an old-timer ex-baseball coach with a crisp voice and a long memory. Granny recounts the story of William ‘Blockade’ Blakely—from his mysterious appearance, to his blazing baseball career, until his removal from the history of professional sports.

Billy is an odd soul. The young buck possess a childlike mind and Olympian reflexes, but saps the luck out of everyone around him, while still managing to bag his team—the New Jersey Titans—win after win throughout their final 1957 season. His farm-kid hick persona conceals a darker—but altogether human—side, and when he starts mumbling to himself in the third person, shit gets creepy. Star pitchers go on losing streaks. Players get slashed ankles. Bones break all over the show. It’s weird. But not quite weird enough, considering the author is the ‘king’ of the supernatural thriller. He wrote The Shining, for goodness’ sake. As a fan, I couldn’t help but give this book the benefit of the doubt. I wasn’t completely disappointed—King’s talent for genuine, old fashioned story-telling shines as usual—but as a page-turner, this one doesn’t quite make the cut. It’s his Old Man and the Sea, except without the narrative saltiness or the Nobel Prize.

However, at a trim 80 pages you can get in a couple of hours of escape, and, to sweeten the deal, King’s included a quietly menacing short story at the end, entitled ‘Morality’, which, dare I say, may actually be more satisfyingly sinister than Blockade Billy. The final verdict? I’m holding out for Salem’s Lot: The Sequel.

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