Stephen King unveils secret project: a baseball novella
That Stephen King is one crafty fellow. While stumping for his last novel, the gargantuan Under the Dome, and preparing his next major story collection for this fall, he was secretly contracting with an indie Baltimore publisher for Blockade Billy, a baseball-themed limited edition novella.
People who weren’t raised right and therefore prefer football to baseball may be clapping hands to cheeks and screaming, “The horror! The horror!” The rest of us are rubbing our palms in anticipation.
And King’s announcement arrives –not so coincidentally — just in time for Opening Day. King, a lifelong citizen of Red Sox Nation (he lives part-time on Florida’s west coast so he can catch spring training games), is one of America’s most famous baseball fans. But this is his first baseball fiction since The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon — and Gordon left the Red Sox in 1999.
“I love old-school baseball,” King says, “and I also love the way people who’ve spent a lifetime in the game talk about the game. I tried to combine those things in a story of suspense. People have asked me for years when I was going to write a baseball story. Ask no more: This is it.”
Even now, King and Cemetery Books, the small Baltimore publisher of special edition horror and dark fantasy, are tight-lipped about Blockade Billy. Here’s the publisher’s deliciously plummy come-on:
“Even the most diehard baseball fans don’t know the true story of William ‘Blockade Billy’ Blakely. He may have been the greatest player the game has ever seen, but today no one remembers his name. He was the first — and only — player to have his existence completely removed from the record books. Even his team is long forgotten, barely a footnote in the game’s history.”
Featuring cover art by Glen Orbik and inside illustrations by Alex McVey, the book sells for $25. Fans are advised to order directly from the Cemetery Dance online store. Early buyers include a Blockade Billy baseball card (to see the dust jacket, with the Orbik cover and a front-and-back image of the baseball card, go here).
Those who don’t order from Cemetery Dance may be skunked. The publisher’s website says: “We’ll be filling direct orders first and then distributors, online stores, and the chains if there are copies left available after we’ve taken care of our regular customers.”
My guess: This will be a darned good book. Sure, King has written some crap, but he’s also written some of the best pop fiction of the past 40 years. I know of no popular writer, with the possible exception of Elmore Leonard, who is as admired by literary writers –and they should know, right?
I recall one year at the Key West Literary Seminar when a panel of highly refined literary authors — I seem to remember Tom McGuane among them, but I’m not sure — got sidetracked talking about how good a writer Stephen King is.
Plus, King gets extra credit for working with a small, independent publisher. This is a man who not only writes books, but loves books and knows the business.
What do you think? Will King hit one out of the park? Or will he strike out? Play ball!