Blockade Billy – Stephen King

Blockade Billy – Stephen King

Let me start this review with two clarifications. The first is that Blockade Billy by Stephen King isn’t technically a novel. It is a novella, but seeing as how it is new Stephen King, and a limited edition press run, I feel that it is more than adequate to be reviewed on the site. If anyone wants to tell me that Stephen King doesn’t belong here, then they are welcome to try. Secondly, the novella isn’t exactly “horror” in the most commonly understood sense. It is a baseball story, written by a fan, for fans. But again, seeing as how it is King, it is not just another sports story, and it does have some darker, creepier elements to it.
Blockade Billy was excellent. King may catch a lot of crap from the literary snobs for his longer horror works, but when it comes to shorter fiction, King is, well, king. Anyone who has read The Body, The Running Man, or Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption knows what I mean. King may be an expert at giving us goose bumps and night terrors, but he is just as capable of weaving a compelling story that doesn’t rely on scares and thrills. Billy tells the story of a talented replacement catcher with a terrible secret, and how he goes from being nobody to being a hero over the course of a single season.
Now, I am not a sports fan by any means, but I still respect the game. I played some baseball in my younger days, and while I never went anywhere with it, I can relate to the feeling of nostalgia that permeates this tale when I think back. Blockade Billy is a perfect sports story, and it rings true when you read it. It is written in the first person, supposedly told to King by George Grantham (the equipment manager) and it doesn’t sound like fiction, or even a tall tale. It sounds just like an old man reliving his glory days, and it demonstrates King’s ability with words.
You can practically hear the crowds cheering, and smell the grass on the field as you read, and despite my opinion that baseball is incredibly boring for a spectator sport, I was drawn in to the story, and I read the whole novella in a half hour. King manages to polish the best aspects of the game, gloss over the dull, and he presents it as if it was something entirely new and different. This story actually made me care about the game.
As some of you may know, King is a huge baseball fan, and he has even written a non-fiction book about the game, and his passion comes through in every word. However, King is not known for simple straight-line narratives, so of course he would take a baseball story and twist it up a bit. Most sports stories are underdog tales, and while Blockade Billy is not an obvious exception to this rule, the ending makes it all worthwhile.
No, I will not give the ending away, if you want to find out Billy’s secret you’ll have to track down a copy for yourself. From what I hear there may be a mass market printing eventually, but I suggest heading on over to Cemetery Dance’s website and seeing if they have any copies left. It’s a cool little book for any collection, especially for die-hard King fans like myself.

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