In 1996 we were blessed by not just one but two mainstream serialised novels. Whilst Stephen King’s six- part work The Green Mile went on to be made into an Oscar nominated flick, John Saul’s The Blackstone Chronicles was overshadowed by King’s opus.
It’s a shame, because The Blackstone Chronicles is a decent book, and available to buy since in a single book for any who want to catch up on what they might’ve missed. Though I’ve mislaid them since and replaced them in my collection with the single bound volume, I recall the foil-styled covers were quite eye catching, and whereas I found King’s The Green Mile to be something of a letdown personally (though I know it’s hugely popular in most circles), The Blackstone Chronicles was more genuinely anticipated, and veered more toward the traditional horror novel that I sought when picking it up.
The tale is set, not unsurprisingly given the title, in the town of Blackstone. The town’s asylum has stood empty for many decades, and is now set to be destroyed in order to make way for a shopping mall. Building trades being what they are, no sooner than the demolition set to begin than funding for the project is pulled.
Coinciding with this, several residents of the town begin to receive gifts of an ominous nature, often with calamitous result. It’s up to Oliver Metcalf, editor of the Blackstone Chronicle, to discover the key to this mystery; his past as a child growing up on the grounds of the asylum and his father having been director laying a foundation he hope will uncover the answers to his questions.
I’ve read several of Saul’s novels over the years and always find them entertaining via his injection of suitably creepy ideas and apt prose. The serialised nature of the books was interesting, and I recall holidaying in Norway for a few weeks mid-run and recall being able to pick up a copy at a local bookshop out there without a problem, thus ensuing my reading fix of the serial was unbroken.
Also of interest to fans of the book who’re also into their computer games, an adventure game was released for the PC that tied in with the novel, and dealt with the novel’s protagonist tracking down his lost son in the town’s asylum. It was very popular with adventure game fans at the time and is worth checking out if you can pick a copy up off of eBay.
All in all, The Blackstone Chronicles tells an interesting story, well implemented if slightly formulaic given the tie-in with each episode, but is let down by what I found to be a slightly meagre conclusion. It’s like a whole lot of effort went into the build-up, and the crescendo was quite flat indeed. Maybe it was the anticipation.
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