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The Forgotten Bachman Book: Stephen King’s Roadwork

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.) Read the rest of this entry

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Literary Film Review: The Running Man

This week’s classic film review analyses The Running Man, the 1980s dystopian action movie based, and yet also not based, on a Stephen King novel

In J. W. Eagan’s sage words, ‘Never judge a book by its movie.’ The following is part of this new monthly ‘literary film review’ segment on this blog, and as such it’s a review of the film of The Running Man (dir. Paul Michael Glaser – yes, Starsky from Starsky and Hutch – 1987), but it’s important to go back to the – very different – source material for The Running Man: that is, the novel called The Running Man, by Richard Bachman, aka Stephen King.

The 1982 novel The Running Man – which was published under King’s pseudonymous creation Richard Bachman partly to appease his publishers, who were worried about glutting the market with too many new Stephen King titles at once – is a tense, gripping thriller set in a futuristic dystopian city, known as Co-Op City, in the year 2025. Read the rest of this entry

Stephen King’s Real First Novel: The Long Walk

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle reviews The Long Walk, the first novel Stephen King wrote

It’s well-known that Carrie was Stephen King’s first novel. Published in 1974, it tapped into an international appetite for tales of demonic possession: it was just one year since The Exorcist, William Friedkin’s terrifying adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel, had been a smash hit in cinemas. King sold the paperback rights for Carrie for $400,000 and, more or less overnight, went from writer on the breadline to hot property. And according to King himself, it was all down to his wife, Tabitha, who retrieved the early drafts for the novel from the bin and urged King to continue with the novel.

But Carrie, although it was King’s first published novel, wasn’t the first one he wrote. Stephen King actually completed his first novel back in the mid-1960s, when he was still a teenager. Read the rest of this entry