I picked up this small book for a dollar at my library’s big book sale last month. Awesome find, right? I’ve been going to the library sales for years, and it seems that I come home from each one with at least one new Stephen King book to add to my collection.
Blockade Billy is a slim hardcover containing two novellas, the title story plus another called Morality. The whole thing was a quick read, so from that perspective you could call it light reading, although the subject matter is definitely lacking in rainbows and kitties.
The first story, Blockade Billy, is (obviously, based on the cover) a baseball story. Not being much of a baseball fan, I didn’t expect to like it — but I did. The story is told in the first person by an old man who once coached a not-very-good major league baseball team. As the man tells the story to his listener, Mr. King (!), we enter the world of 1950s-era baseball. A young catcher joins the team to fill in for an injured player, and surprises everyone by being a fantastic player, even though he seems a little off in the head. After a glorious start to the season, Billy’s achievements and the team’s winning streak were struck from the record books. Why? Read the story to find out!
In Morality, we meet Chad and Nora, a couple in their 30s with mounting bills and little chance of paying them. When the elderly stroke patient in Nora’s care makes her an offer to earn a big pile of cash, the couple faces a moral dilemma. Shades of Indecent Proposal? Kind of. It’s disturbing to find out what the old man wants, and to see how and why Chad and Nora agree to his plan, as well as how they deal with the aftermath.
I ended up enjoying both stories, probably Morality more than Blockade Billy. Is enjoying even the appropriate word? Probably not, as both stories are disturbing. What’s great (again, not really the appropriate word) about both is that they’re not horror stories. The bad things that happen are driven by human nature, desires, and impulses. It’s people doing evil, not evil beings inflicting pain on ordinary people. There’s something sad and fascinating about watching the drama unfold in both of these stories — and of course, Stephen King is the master of keeping the reader guessing as a story builds. We may not have all the details until the end, but we’re hooked from start to finish.
If you’re a King fan and you haven’t read Blockade Billy, pick up a copy when you’re looking for a bite-sized book to pass the time with.
Note: As I finished writing this post, I found out that both of these stories are included in Stephen King’s new book of short stories, The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, published in November 2015. And while I’m not usually a short story reader, I’m thinking I might need to make an exception for this collection.
Title: Blockade Billy
Author: Stephen King
Publication date: May 25, 2010
Length: 132 pages
Genre: Adult fiction