Blockade Billy is a slim little volume by horror master Stephen King. By now, everyone will have heard of the ruckus that the book caused when Cemetery Dance published the first edition amounting to only 10, 000 copies.
It was a surprise in the literary world; no one had heard a thing about Blockade Billy until it was announced, in early March, that it was going to be released. A baseball by Stephen King? Seriously?
Not as odd as you may think. Baseball had been one of the subjects of one of King’s most popular works: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordan. In that book, a little girl imagines her favourite baseball player is with her while she fights to stay alive while alone in a forest. In Blockade Billy, baseball would finally be taking centre stage.
But would it be any good?
King, who is most known for writing horror, is usually at his best when writing non-horror stories; he is able to give us characters that we love, storylines that drive the plot home. His non-horror stories are incredible stories about people, about love, about redemption. I had no doubts that Blockade Billy would succeed on every level.
However, after reading it for the first time on my Sony eReader, I didn’t think the story succeeded at all. In fact, I felt that it fell flat on its face with little pizzazz and little fanfare.
Blockade Billy is the story of the New Jersey Titans and their new catcher, William “Blockade Billy” Blakely.
When a run of bad luck finds the New Jersey Titans without a catcher before the season is about to start, hope arrives in the form of Billy Blakely. “Granny”, the Titan’s second base coach, thinks there’s something off about Billy, but pushes it aside.
Sure, the boy talks to himself in the third person, but the boy can sure play ball.
When a player gets bloodied after colliding with Billy, it only begins to hint at the darkness that is hiding within William “Blockade Billy” Blakely. Though Blockade Billy can sure play ball, he hides within himself a dark secret.
A secret so dark that it could change the face of baseball forever…
Now, when I first read Blockade Billy, I wasn’t impressed. I thought there would be more menace to this book, more darkness, more grit as hinted at in the books blurb. In the end, this is really a baseball story with a good twist ending.
And it really is a baseball story. As someone who doesn’t watch baseball, or sports at all for that matter, a lot of what I read didn’t really make sense. I was reading about how The New Jersey Titans were playing the game but I kept waiting for the darkness I wanted, needed in a Stephen King book.
After finishing the story I was actually quite disappointed. I really felt the whole thing was one huge let down.
Thankfully, I read the story again.
I was still waiting for my copy of the Cemetery Dance limited edition to arrive in the mail. However, since I’m something of a Stephen King fanatic, I picked up the mass market hardcover version of Blockade Billy put out by Scribner. I had no intention of reading it.
However, after finishing a fluffy romance, I was looking for something to cleanse my literary palate. I picked up the mass market version of Blockade Billy and began to read; and was transported.
The second time around, the story within the pages of Blockade Billy grabbed and held me. I realized that the story wasn’t about grit and blood and horror. It was about baseball and about the darkness of the human spirit.
The second time I read Blockade Billy, all the baseball jargon didn’t bother me. In fact, it pulled me into the story and transported me; I felt like I was watching the games they were playing, felt as if I was right there with the players.
Blockade Billy is a baseball story. So if you don’t follow baseball, you might be a little lost. But you know what? It doesn’t matter; the enthusiasm in Granny’s voice is infectious, the story thrilling in its own right, right up until it’s shattering conclusion.
So did I like Blockade Billy?
Not the first time around. But am I ever glad I gave it a second chance as I came away loving this little literary gem.
It may not be Stephen King’s best work, but its one heck of a story.