Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner, a division of Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: May, 2010
Paper over Board, 144 pages
From the publisher's website:
From New York Times bestselling author Stephen King comes the haunting story of Blockade Billy, the greatest Major League baseball player to be erased from the game.
Even the most die-hard baseball fans don't know the true story of William "Blockade Billy" Blakely. He may have been the greatest player the game has ever seen, but today no one remembers his name. He was the first--and only--player to have his existence completely removed from the record books. Even his team is long forgotten, barely a footnote in the game's history.
Every effort was made to erase any evidence that William Blakely played professional baseball, and with good reason. Blockade Billy had a secret darker than any pill or injection that might cause a scandal in sports today. His secret was much, much worse... and only Stephen King, the most gifted storyteller of our age, can reveal the truth to the world, once and for all.
Originally published through Cemetery Dance Publications on April 20, 2010 as a $25.00 limited-edition hardcover, Stephen King and Cemetery Dance have made an arrangement with Scribner to make available a less expensive hardcover edition of Blockade Billy, with an on-sale date of May 25th, the same date the audiobook goes on sale. The Scribner edition will be available in all U.S. and Canadian retail outlets. Both the Scribner book and the Simon & Schuster audiobook will feature a bonus short story ("Morality").
My take: I am probably the biggest Stephen King fan ever. I have every single book of his ever written (that I know of) under every pseudonym and of every type, including Danse Macabre and other obscure King titles.
Some haven't been that great .. others, including the Watchtower series, have been riveting. Many, like Blockade Billy, have just a wonderful storytelling twist that is so utterly King that when you come across the twist, you say to yourself, "Ah! Knew it had to be in here (it IS King, after all), but sure didn't see THAT one coming!"
Although really only a novella (it's a bit long to be considered a short story), "Blockade Billy" is definitely worth the read.
Told from the point of view of one of the players on Billy's team (third base coach and equipment manager George Grantham "Granny") and removed by time, even a non-baseball fan like me is quickly drawn in to the characters and personalities.
The Titans are a footnote in history by now, and New Jersey will likely never see another Major League team, but they were a big deal when they were around. This was before the days of games being televised all over the country, a short ten years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.
Billy Blakely is a last-minute catcher, a replacement from a rural league brought in due to injury, and only mean to be a stopgap until the Titans can find a "real" catcher.
A young man of few words, he still manages to become fast friends with Danny Dusen (the Doo), the loudest-mouthed pitcher in baseball.
Billy's talents as a catcher become obvious so quickly that he becomes known as "Blockade Billy" - no one can get past him to the plate. "Road Closed" signs show up in the stands, and Billy is a hit, all in spite of the fact that there's something definitely "off" about him. He speaks of himself in the third person, and often simply repeats what has just been said to him.
The finishing touches to the story are classically King; the ideas that come from his head never cease to amaze me. Pick up the book; you'll love this one.
Story Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
There is a bonus story included, "Morality", that I didn't love so much.
Nora and Chad are a young married couple, struggling financially. Chad is a substitute teacher, and Nora is a caregiver for a wealthy, rather eccentric man named Winnie.
One day Winnie proposes something to Nora, something that would allow Nora and Chad to start fresh, in a new state, Their dream come true ... live in a small town in Vermont, allow Chad the time and money to work on a new novel, and Nora the chance to get a new private gig or work in a local hospital. Time to enjoy each other without worrying over every single expense...
But .. the proposal is a morality test. Can Nora do the unthinkable, something that doesn't really hurt anyone for any length of time, tape it, show the tape to Winnie, get the money and still live with herself? Can she and Chad look at each other afterward?
I wasn't drawn into this one at all. I didn't feel the conflict that was meant to be portrayed here, although the premise was rather original. Since I never felt a connection with the characters, this short story just felt like a surface story to me.
Story Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
From Blockade Billy
There was something strange about him, something off, something that made folks nervous . . . but that something made people take to him, too. Kinda sweet. Something that made you want to like him in spite of feeling he wasn't exactly right in the top story.
The point is that he knew how to play baseball - instinctively, I'd say - but otherwise he was a blackboard with nothing written on it.
"Sin for its own sake. Deliberately planned and executed. Do you find the idea exciting?"
Had she thought he had a sheep's face? How stupid of her. How unseeing. Nor was it a wolf's face, not really. It was somewhere in between. A dog's face maybe. The kind of dog that would bite and then run.
Buy the book. Even though I didn't care much for "Morality", "Blockade Billy" made it well worth buying.
Buy it on Amazon, through the publisher's website, or at on and off-line booksellers.
Disclaimer: This book is part of my personal collection. I received no compensation for my review, and opinions expressed are purely my own.