Friday Fill-Ins ~ The Cheeky Dark Hand of the Spanish Galleon

This week, Friday Fill-ins took the first sentence in 6 of Janet’s favorite books…you fill them in…with the right words or even better, ones of your own.

And…here we go!

1. “In a hole in the ground there lived one of the wickedest and cowardly men (if you could even call him that) that ever lived.”

2. “I think the swirling mist in the cemetary might mean there are ghosts  but that ain’t no matter.”

3. “After dark the rain began to fall again, just like the Universal Weather Program Department programmed it to do.”

4. “Look!  I found a pinata from the hold of the Spanish galleon.”

5. “There was a hand in the darkness, and I slapped it for being cheeky.”

6. “Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, but the men in white coats ambush those always suspecting.”

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to hopefully finally kicking this stomach flu so I can read some, tomorrow my plans include going to the grocery store and doing some housework and Sunday, I want to watch a movie together with all my girls!

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Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Title:  Heart-Shaped Box

Author:  Joe Hill

Paperback:  375 pages

Publisher:  HarperCollins Publishers

Publish Date:  2007

ISBN:  9780061147937

Miscellaneous:  Joe Hill is the son Stephen King.

He searched the ground floor and found only shadow and stillness, which should’ve reassured him but didn’t.  It was the wrong kind of stillness, the shocked stillness that follows the bang of a cherry bomb.  His eardrums throbbed from the pressure of all that quiet, a dreadful silence.

“What… are you doing?” he said.  By then he was so ill at ease the sound of his own voice unnerved him, sent a cool, prickling rush up his forearms.  He had never been one to talk to himself.

He climbed the stairs and started back down the hall to the bedroom.  His gaze drifted to an old man, sitting in an antique Shaker chair against the wall.  As soon as Jude saw him, pulse lunged in alarm, and he looked away, fixed his gaze on his bedroom door, so he could only see the old man from the edge of his vision.  In the moments that followed, Jude felt it was a matter of life and death not to make eye contact with the old man, to give no sign that he saw him.  He did not see him, Jude told himself.  There was no one there.

The old man’s head was bowed.  His hat was off, resting on his knee.  His hair was a close bristle, with the brilliance of new frost.  The buttons down the front of his coat flashed in the gloom, chromed by moonlight.  Jude recognized the suit in a glance.  He had last seen it folded in the black, heart-shaped box that had gone into the rear of his closet.  The old man’s eyes were closed.

Jude’s heart pounded, and it was a struggle to breath, and he continued on toward the bedroom door, which was at the very end of the hallway.  As he went past the Shaker chair, against the wall to his left, his leg brushed the old man’s knee, and the ghost lifted his head.  But by then Jude was beyond him, almost to the door.  He was careful not to run.  It didnt’ matter to him if the old man stared at his back, as long as they didnt’ make eye contact with each other, and besides, there was no old man.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill, pages 29-30

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill is a fast-paced, heart-dropping, nerve-chilling story of the ghost of Craddock, a spiritualist, hypnotist and dowser (for water anddead bodies) who was a former psy-op during the Vietnam War and with an penchant for young girls, and Judas Coyne, an aging heavy-metal star who has spent most of his life escaping his childhood.  The ghost pursues Coyne with a vengeance, trying to manipulate him into killing himself and his girlfriend.

While I didn’t go into this book with the question “How will Joe Hill compare to his father, Stephen King?” you can’t help have that in the back of your mind.  And I must say, honestly, Hill does not compare to King.  Hill has his own style, voice, and process.  Yes, like any other writer who reads, there is King’s influence in the prose.  And Hill has definitely inherited the family talents, both from his father and mother.

I could not put the book down!  It was suspenseful and driving, and many elements in the story are the kind that will haunt me for months to come.  It mixes mysticism and the paranormal with religion and voodoo, and then adds twists of perversion, attachment and a little insanity to make a very potent cocktail.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill ranks at the top of the list for best horror stories and is a guaranteed hair-frosting experience!  I give it 5 out of 5 stars 😀

Blaze by Richard Bachman

Title: Blaze

Author: Richard Bachman (pen name used by Stephen King)

Hardcover: pages 286

Publisher: Scribner (A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc)

Publish Date: June 2007

ISBN: 9781416554844

One hungover Saturday morning when not much was doing, Clayton Senior staggered out of the bedroom in the second-floor apartment he and his son shared while Clay was sitting crosslegged on the living room floor, watching cartoons and eating Apple Jacks. “How many times have I told you not to eat that shit in here?” Senior inquired of Junior, then picked him up and threw him downstairs. Clay landed on his head.

His father went down, got him, toted him back upstairs, and threw him down again. The first time, Clay remained conscious. The second time, the lights went out. His father went down, got him, toted him upstairs, and looked him over. “Fakin sonofabitch,” he said, and threw him down again.

“There,” he told the limp huddle at the foot of the stairs that was his now comatose son. “Maybe you’ll think twice before you tote that fucking shit into the living room again.”

Unfortunately, Clay never thought twice about much of anything. He lay unconscious in Portland General Hospital for three weeks. The doctor in charge of his case voiced the opinion that he would remain so until he died, a human carrot. But the boy woke up. He was, unfortunately, soft in the head.

So began the life of Clayton “Blaze” Blaisdell, Jr. the main character of this noir homage to Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Stephen King, Richard Bachman’s real name, writes in the foreword that Blaze is a “trunk novel,” which is to say a manuscript written long ago which the author decided was unworthy of publication at the time, but now that he’s a famous author he’s pulled it out, dusted it off and shipped it to print. Well… not exactly. Actually, Blaze went through some rewriting and editing and updating. Where as Blaze had grown up in post WWII America, the new-and-improved, modernized Blaze grew up in “America, Not All That Long Ago,” as King calls it. It’s an interesting mix of old and new: George says “Shag, baby,” others say “far out” and the money goes a LOT farther in the book with dime payphones and $200 buying a complete baby outfitting, from the ground up (crib, changing table, clothes, formula, the works!).

Blaze is, as I said, a noir homage to Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Just imagine what that classic novel would have been like if Stephen King had written it: George is a small time con-artist looking for that big score he can retire on, Blaze… well, he’s still a huge hulking man with the mentality of a 10 year old who doesn’t know his own strength and who relies on George to know what to do. George is still a gruff, insulting, small man for whom (Lenny) Blaze would do anything for, including jump off a building or in Blaze’s case, take 2 years in prison and not rat out his friend. And oh yeah, in King’s version of OMaM, George is a ghost and Blaze has a sixth sense about things.

Blaze is a character you can feel sympathy for. A rough childhood in Hetton House, lovingly dubbed “Hell House” by John, Blaze’s only friend, the state-run orphanage. He’s huge, standing 6’7″ and 270 lbs, with the power of life and death literally in his strong hands. As a kid and teen he stands up for his friends and protects them, even pursues vengence for them from their bullies. He’s lonely and alone, with George as his only friend. Blaze could have turned out to be a good, law abiding person had he had the right influence, as it was he fell in with criminals and therefore became one himself, though never really grasping the morality of the right and wrong of their activities.

When Blaze decides to carry out “the big score” that George had planned out before his untimely death, which was the kidnapping of a wealthy couple’s six-month-old baby, he inevitably fails to cover all his tracks, thus dooming the caper before it’s even begun.

Blaze has no desire to hurt the baby, but George tells him he has to because the baby will just slow him down. He grows very attached to little Joe and decides to collect the ransom and run away with the money and the baby, like he’s a puppy to carry off (and remember what Lenny did to his puppy 😉 ).

As I loved Of Mice and Men, and Stephen King is one of my favorite authors, you will no doubt guess that I also loved Blaze. Though it’s more like a crime thriller than say, a psychic psychotic murderous prom princess, it’s still noticeably King. And though it’s not my favorite SK book, it’s definitely an excellent read that never gave away it’s ending. The book also includes a short story called “Memory,” which later became Duma Key, the book that I believe is King’s masterpiece. Well written and constructed, Blaze gets 4 out of 5 stars.