Richard Bachman

At the height of his popularity in the late ’70s and early ’80s, horror writer Stephen King found himself locked within the cage of the genre. While more than capable of writing in other areas of literature, he found that publishers weren’t all that interested in novels that didn’t include some supernatural element. Thus was born the pseudonymous Richard Bachman, whose name died a few years later at the hand of a nosy journalist. Blaze is supposedly the last of the “trunk novels” written in that era under that name, a terse hard-crime novel with an oddly sympathetic main character who evokes Of Mice and Men’s Leonard Smalls. A small-time dim-bulb criminal, the eponymous Blaze is guided through the course of the kidnapping of the young child of wealthy parents by the specter of his dead mentor George. In the style of Mickey Spillane and James M. Cain, Blaze is a quick, down ’n’ dirty but affecting summer read. Proceeds from the novel go to the Haven Foundation, a nonprofit set up to aid freelance artists under the pall of catastrophe.