With baseball season coming up, I’ve had a taste for some baseball-themed reading. On the bargain shelves at Barnes and Noble, I came across Blockade Billy by Stephen King (Simon and Schuster). Published in 2010, this small hardcover book went mostly unnoticed, being outside the usual genres King writes in. Still, I love Stephen King’s writing, I love baseball and the book was marked down from $14.99 to less than $5. Sold.
The story is placed in the 1950’s. After the fictional New Jersey Titans unexpectedly lose their two catchers just before opening day, Billy Blakely is called up from their farm team to fill in until a seasoned pro can take over the catching position. But Billy puts in a great month, making epic outs during home plate collisions and earning the nickname Blockade Billy. The team’s ace pitcher thinks Billy is his good luck charm and a bond forms between them.
Billy seems to be a simpleton who has a knack for playing ball. He talks to himself in the third person, repeats what is said to him out loud and players get unexplained injuries when charging home plate against him. Eventually, these characteristics culminate and the situation boils over with a trademark Stephen King twist at the end that I found very satisfying.
The baseball jargon might throw some readers a bit, but fans will revel in it. I think most will be able to figure out the terminology without too much trouble.
The second short story in the book is Morality. A young married couple is given the moral challenge of going through with a minor wicked deed for $200k by an elderly Priest. It was reminiscent of the 1993 movie, Indecent Proposal. You remember the scenes of Demi Moore rolling around in the bed with all the money? That one. It’s a good story in and of itself, mostly in the way King expertly unfolds the plot and shows how a terrible secret can tear apart a marriage.
Blockade Billy is 80 pages long, and the “bonus story,” Morality is 50 pages. Really, this is just two short stories and I read both in less than two hours. King is such an expert storyteller, I enjoy his short stories because it’s easier to analyze his prose and process – how he builds suspense and fulfills his commitments to the reader. Still, I would have loved there to have been more. Well worth the $5.
© 2012, Mitch Lavender