Saturday, March 08, 2008

Two from the King

blaze I freely admit that I avoided Blaze when it came out in hardcover. I knew it was a revised and updated "trunk" novel from pre-publicity, and I think King has talked about it before in one of his earlier works (On Writing or something). So I just wasn't enthused about something he wrote 30 + years ago that he didn't think was publishable then. I thought I'd catch it at the library, or wait for the paperback. Or both.

Well, my boss, knowing me to be a pretty big King fan, gave the paperback to me after he finished it. And I was wrong, OK? Blaze isn't a bad book, and it's well worth reading. I wouldn't put it near the top of any list of King's work, but it mostly held my attention and was interesting.

Clayton Blaidsell is our main character, and he's a big boy who's a few cards short of a full deck. He finds it easiest to make money by being 'muscle' for the bad guys. Then his partner is killed and he's left on his own, deciding to pull of the last big job; a kidnapping.

Blaze is mostly the story of the kidnapping, the aftermath, and the chase. We learn about Blaze in a series of flashbacks that are frankly often more interesting than the 'main' story.

This is typical of early King works, where we know early on what is going to happen and the suspense comes in the waiting until it does. Only here the suspense never really comes, we're just along for the ride. It's a good ride, but not a great one.

So it was with much trepidation that I picked up "Duma Key" in dumahardback. I knew it was a different King story. Not set in Maine, not about an author, not a Dark Tower book. Something new. I had read the short story "Memory" that was at the end of Blaze and was intrigued to see how it would play out.

I don't really have words to describe how profoundly this book affected me. Duma is not merely a great King story, it is a great novel period. It's the kind of thing that makes me glad I stuck with him through the "Tommyknockers" phase. It's just an excellent, excellent read.

It's the story of Edgar Freemantle, a self-made man in the construction industry. He loses his arm and nearly his life in an accident, then proceeds to lose his wife and perhaps his mind. As therapy he picks up and moves to Duma Key, a small isolated island off the coast of Florida. And he paints, meets some local residents, and paints some more.

And that's all I'm willing to say. The plot is amazing and surprising. We don't know where this story is going and it's delightful. There are things that happen that I had no idea would happen, delightful things that are both wondrous and scary. The Florida setting is evocative and well realized.

Plainly put this is just great, great book and you are doing yourself a disservice if you miss it. If you've never read King this is a great place to start.

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