October 5, 2010

Rabid Reads: "Blockade Billy" by Stephen King

Blockade Billy (with the bonus novelette, "Morality")
by Stephen King
Scribner (2010)
originally published by Cemetery Dance (2010)
132 pages
ISBN 978-1-4516-0821-2
I am not a baseball fan. At all. I played a little softball back in high school during gym class, but even then I was just into it for the sake of getting out of the building. And watching baseball on television is just interminable to me. It's about as exciting as golf ... or synchronized swimming. Why America hasn't made football their official national sport yet, I'll never know. But, the sport seems to capture the imagination of many, including Stephen King--so maybe I shouldn't judge.
The novella seems to be written for baseball fans, as there is a ton of baseball jargon throughout. The story, presented as a narrated tale by a elderly major league coach to Stephen King, is saturated in the lingo. With that in mind, I don't doubt anyone who reads this without at least a vicarious familiarity with the sport will be lost. There were a couple of terms that had me scratch my head for a minute and stop reading until I pieced together what was being said, that's for sure.
Other than a thick baseball drawl, the story is very accessible and a quick, engrossing read. It's about a forgotten catcher named William Blakely (aka Blockade Billy) and how he became notorious for a brief time on the field before being wiped from baseball's history books. The narrator, George "Granny" Grantham is a great character too to tell the tale. Reading the story, it kind of reminded me of when my paternal grandfather used to sit down and tell me stories--though grampy's tales had that sour cynicism to them the longer they went.
On top of Blockade Billy, the book included the bonus story "Morality", which dealt with a kind of indecent proposal that is not openly stated until about halfway through. You get the idea that Nora has to do something quite awful in order to make a hefty bit of coin from her employer, but it's the aftermath that really sets the stage for this story. It appeared in Esquire magazine previously, but I don't read many mags--never have--so it was nice to have a chance to read this story too.
All in all, the book makes for a fast read that you could enjoy on a sunny afternoon. Maybe even out to the park while your kids are playing ball. I'm sure the story of Blockade Billy would certainly make you look at a couple of those little boys in a different light. But if you're clueless about baseball, I'm not sure how well you'll like it.


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