TK421's Reviews > Blockade Billy

Blockade Billy by Stephen King
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Apr 27, 2016

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bookshelves: literary
Read in May, 2011

I have many pleasures in life, but two that really make me smile are Stephen King and baseball. Now I’m not going to write this review in hopes of changing your mind about Stephen King—he is what he is. You may like him. You may not. For my own two cents, I think he is a wonderful storyteller. Sure, one could peruse his body of work and find numerous examples where he stunk up the place; but, and I am saying this not only as a King fan but also as a fan of literature, one could also find numerous examples of where his storytelling shined. BLOCKADE BILLY and the short story “Morality” provide a welcome place that illuminates both of these instances.

In the title story, King takes the ever American topic of baseball and adds his own dark elements. Essentially, King uses this story to take a few jabs at how baseball has become corrupted today without writing a full-blown essay about steroids or outlandish salaries or how the game really may not be America’s pastime anymore. Billy is a rookie catcher who is called up after the Titans lose both of their catchers in a span of 48 hours. He is never intended to be a fixture in the organization. But Billy surprises the team with his work ethic, Midwest-golly-jeez-charm, and his bat. Before long, Billy is helping the Titans climb from the cellar, begin to compete. This part of the story was fun for me; I love a good baseball story, and if the story is about worst-to-first, all the better. But somewhere in the narrative, I began to think that this story was going to end badly. I had read approximately two-thirds of it, yet, that looming sense of darkness had yet to reveal itself. Dammit, King! I knew this was going to be this type of story! I kept reading. And, much to my unsurprised Reader inside me, the true nature of Blockade Billy came out. (I apologize for being vague, but you must read the story to really understand my disappointment.) The ending was terrible. A let down of epic proportions. And then my mind switched gears. Why didn’t King flesh this bad-boy out? I really enjoy it when he puts three or four novellas together as a book. And this story could have been really good had he done just that. As is, all I can really say is: King does a great job of describing the nostalgia of baseball, but, alas, never fully executes a satisfying ending to the story.

Then I read “Morality.” Again, King does a great job setting the scene. This time we have a young couple under the thumb of personal financial woes. They scrap a living by working as a nurse, and as a substitute teacher in what I guess is New York City. When the wife is let go from her nursing job, she becomes a personal nurse for a retired pastor. Throughout all this, I had no idea where the story was going. When the time came for the story to take shape: The retired pastor wants to experience sin so he asks the woman to commit an act of sin for $200,000 clams; the first thought that came to my mind was RIP OFF!! Hadn’t we already seen this with The Box? I know King is a Richard Matheson fan so the connection between the two wasn’t very surprising. But what was surprising was what the woman had to do to get the $200,000 dollars. After she does what was needed, King takes a bit of time (7 or so pages) and describes what happens to the couple. There aren’t many surprises, but the story was amazing. Of course there were some bizarre situations that I felt were needless (the violence of the latter sex scenes being some), I liked that King didn’t go overboard and bombard the reader with a “moral” lesson.

In the end, at 144 pages, BLOCKADE BILLY and “Morality” are quick, fun reads for all fans of Stephen King. I just hope that his new one, 11/22/63: A Novel, slated for release this November, is vintage King.

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Reading Progress

05/07/2011 page 83
58.0% "Done with Billy, moving on to "Morality""
05/09/2011 page 144
100.0% "Morality - Disturbing and thought provoking. Reminds me of Richard Matheson."

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Brandon I have high hopes for 11/22/63 as well. I'm pretty darn excited.

message 2: by Jack (new)

Jack We share the affinity for King and baseball. "The Girl who Loved Tom Gordon" comes to mind. My favorite baseball author-guy is W.P. Kinsella. His book "Shoeless Joe" was the basis for the film "Field of Dreams." He has two other baseball novels and several volumes of Native American and also baseball related short stories. Try the novel "Iowa Baseball Confederacy" or the baseball short story collection "The Thrill of the Grass" if you are unfamiliar with Kinsella.

I too thought "Billy" was ho-hum.

June Sanderson saxton 11/22/63 is fantastic!!!

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