In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reads Richard Bachman’s lesser-known novel, Roadwork
Stephen King isn’t your run-of-the-mill horror writer. Indeed, he resists the generic label – ‘generic’ both because it identifies him with one genre but also because it is blandly general and nondescript – and might be better seen as a ‘writer’ full-stop. Or rather, as a storyteller, for at his best he uses good old-fashioned character-driven storytelling to explore dark themes and ideas. And nowhere do we see this more clearly, perhaps, than in Stephen King’s ‘non-Stephen-King’ novels – that is, his Bachman books.
King published four early novels under the name Richard Bachman, before his fifth outing under the pseudonym, Thinner, led to his cover being blown when a journalist noted the stylistic similarities between ‘Stephen King’ and ‘Richard Bachman’. (One reviewer of Thinner, unaware that Bachman was really Stephen King, remarked that it was ‘what Stephen King would write if Stephen King could write’. Which may be my favourite example of literary irony.)