This past May, Stephen King re-released a pair of novellas in his book Blockade Billy. The first bears the same name as the book, and tells the interesting fictional story of a catcher in the earlier years of baseball. The second novella, “Morality,” asks a young couple with financial woes, “What would you do for $200,000?”
Novellas pose a quandary for authors and publishers. At about 10,000 words, they are too long for a magazine, and not long enough for a book. They don’t fit in anywhere. Traditionally, they have been difficult to publish unless you are already a famous author such as Stephen King or John Grisham. However with the blossoming eBook business and more flexible pricing, readers may have the opportunity to enjoy more of these.
King used an interesting technique to the set the date of “Blockade Billy,” the novella. He picked a time point familiar to all baseball fans: “Blockade Billy played for the Titans only ten years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier.” This technique shows the reader when the story takes place, rather than telling the reader when the story takes place. Aspiring writers would do well to make note of this example.
He has picked a time point coexisting with the beginning of televised baseball games, and instantaneous communication wasn’t even a dream. News traveled slowly. Teams were local, and players were not bigger than the team with humongous salaries.
I like to think of these two stories as King’s “Aesop’s Fables.” “Blockade Billy,” the novella, has a number of underlying moral issues. Is the player more important than the team? How important is winning? How badly do you want success? In the case of Blockade Billy, he coveted his brother’s success.
In “Morality,” the name of the story alone forewarns you this is a story with a moral point. Chad and Nora are struggling with economic problems. Chad wants to be a writer, and works part time as a substitute teacher. If he just had more time, he could write a bestseller. Nora had been cut from the hospital, and picked up part time work as a home-nurse.
She nursed Winnie, a retired minister. After a life of holiness, Winnie was curious about sin. He begged the question, what would Chad and Nora be willing to do for $200,000…
These stories offer a quick easy read with a moral punch. “Blockade Billy,” also provides baseball fans the opportunity to reminisce about the really old days. The stories are enjoyable, but not Stephen King supernatural scary.