One of the interesting things about researching these historical context essays is that they demonstrate how unreliable memory can be. Contradictions abound. For example, depending on which account you believe, The Running Man was written either before Stephen King started Carrie or immediately after he completed that book’s first draft, which would make it either his fourth or his fifth finished novel manuscript.
The Running Man was written in the “winter of 1971,” which some sources assign to the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day. King remembers writing it during February vacation, which would place it in February 1972.
Sources generally say that King wrote the novel in a weekend or, more specifically, over a period of 72 hours. In a 2013 interview in The Guardian, King says he wrote it in a week. “I was white hot, I was burning. That was quite a week, because Tabby was trying to get back and forth to Dunkin’ Donuts and I had the kids. I wrote when they napped or I would stick them in front of the TV. Joe was in a playpen. It seemed like it snowed the whole week, and I wrote the book.” As with the other novels from that time, King says it was written “by a young man who was angry, energetic, and infatuated with the art and the craft of writing” in a “Bachman state of mind: low rage and simmering despair.” » Read more
I’ll preface by saying that I’ve got about a decade’s worth of college teaching experience, and recently spent nine rewarding years working at a private Baltimore high school, where I was also Chair of the English Department. I’ve also been a teacher and administrator with a well-respected academic summer program.
So I could say, in the words of Rage‘s school principal, Thomas Denver, that “I’ve been in the kid business” for more than 20 years.
That, and been a kid, too, as most of us can fairly say about ourselves.
And I write horror.
During those years when I taught at the high school level, I worried that the subject matter of some of my stories might cause trouble with school administrators, might raise concerns for a few cautious parents. After all, one of my stories implies at the end that a child is smothered by her father; in another, a homeschooled boy gives birth through his abdomen to Lovecraftian monsters.
In a recent collaboration with Brian James Freeman I wrote about creepy Halloween Children. And with Michael McBride I wrote The Narrator, about an eighth grade classroom that spirals into crisis due to bewitching stories they hear from a classmate.
Despite the usual gruesome subject matter, with protagonists who sometimes matched the age of students in my charge, I never received any criticism from the school community. In fact, my high school actually sponsored an event to celebrate the publication of my first book, and it was one of the most rewarding moments of both my teaching and my writing careers.
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THAT WAS THEN…
My road to reading RAGE has been a long and twisting one.
Stephen King started writing RAGE (originally titled GETTING IT ON) in 1966, when he was a senior in high school. At some point, he stuffed the unfinished novel in a box, and it wasn’t until 1971 that he took the manuscript out and finished it. It was eventually published six years later, in 1977, under the now-famous pseudonym of Richard Bachman.
But by 1985, the entire world — including a college sophomore by the name of Rich Chizmar — knew that Richard Bachman was actually Stephen King (writing in a bad mood).
But, even armed with this new knowledge, I didn’t read RAGE until four or five years ago for the first time. If anyone is counting, that’s a full 25 years after I first discovered that RAGE was a King book.
So, why the long delay? I had read everything else King had written (with the exception of two novels, which hundreds of you have now guessed at; all incorrectly! Yes, this tickles me), but I had never bothered with RAGE.
To be honest, I had picked it up a couple times and started reading it; but it just didn’t click for me, and both times, I ended up putting the book down with intentions to revisit it later.
And then later somehow turned into 25 years. » Read more
Stephen King wrote the first forty pages of the novel that would later be published as Rage in 1966, when he was a senior in high school. One source claims the original title Getting It On was inspired by the T. Rex song “Bang a Gong (Get It On).” The timing is right: In 1970, King found the incomplete manuscript of Getting It On “moldering away” in a box in the cellar of the house where he grew up, and he finished the novel in 1971, when that song was a hit.
In his essay “My High School Horrors,” King discusses his constant fear of being alone and not being able to connect with people or make friends while in high school, and of being afraid but not being able to tell people he was afraid. Rage arose from the same sense of being an outsider as did Carrie.
Getting It On was almost his first published novel. Rather than submit it to the slush pile at Doubleday, he found a current novel that was similar in tone and sent it to “the editor of The Parallax View,” hoping that would get him a step farther up the submission ladder. As it happened, that editor wasn’t available so the manuscript was passed on to Bill Thompson, who remembers the book as “a masterful study in character and suspense, but it was quiet, deliberately claustrophobic and it proved a tough sell within the house.” Thompson requested three rounds of revision, but ultimately Doubleday passed on it. In his formal rejection letter, Thompson offered to send it around to other publishers.
After he had a few books out and had developed some name recognition, King asked Doubleday if they would release some of his earlier books. However, Doubleday didn’t want to saturate the market by issuing more than one new book a year. There was a belief in publishing at the time that there was a limit to how many books by an author readers were willing to buy in any given year. New books cannibalized the sales of recent ones, and everything suffered. That was the theory, anyway, and Doubleday wasn’t willing to test it.
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Yessss, I’m finished reading RAGE. As a matter of fact, I’m almost finished with NIGHT SHIFT, too. I’m just a bit behind in posting my thoughts because: a) the holidays; b) I’ve been busy writing the title novella for my next collection, A LONG DECEMBER; and c) I love the holidays and everything that comes with them, so I have been lazy.
It won’t happen again, I promise.
Okay, I lied. It will probably happen again.
Maybe even sooner than later.
Apologies in advance.
And because Brian Freeman suggested it, and because Brian Freeman is the technical brains behind this project and I have to listen to him, I am offering up my Top Ten Stephen King novels listed below (novels only, no collections, and in no particular order):
2) ‘SALEM’S LOT
3) THE STAND
4) THE DEAD ZONE
5) THE SHINING
7) PET SEMATARY
8) BAG OF BONES
9) HEARTS IN ATLANTIS
10) FROM A BUICK 8
11) LISEY’S STORY
13) THE GREEN MILE
(See? I lied already. That’s 13 picks, not 10. And you can’t stop me!)
I’d love to hear your own Top Ten SK novels, so please post them when you get a free minute or two. I will be posting my thoughts on RAGE and NIGHT SHIFT in the next week or so. In the meantime, remember to follow me on Twitter if you do the Twitter thing.
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Almost finished reading RAGE (for only the second time). Look for my essay sometime this weekend or early next week.
A couple weeks ago, I admitted to a reader via Twitter that there are TWO Stephen King books I have never read…and ever since, folks have been busy trying to guess those two titles. No one has gotten the correct answers as of yet. If you all would like to make your own guesses in the COMMENTS section below, please feel free.
I will even hand out some prizes if anyone correctly guesses both titles (but not until I post my essay for the first of the two books; I want it to remain a surprise until that time).
Thanks and please follow me on Twitter if you’re inclined: @RichardChizmar
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Just a quick update to let you know that Richard is reading Rage right now.
Remember, you can follow Richard on Facebook and Twitter for his personal updates and other posts of interest to readers and collectors and Stephen King fans.
The complete list of the books we’ll be reading can be found on the Stephen King Books In Chronological Order For Stephen King Revisited Reading Lists page.
We also have great guest essays for ‘Salem’s Lot and The Shining to post soon.
Stay tuned for more news and updates on Stephen King Revisited!
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By 1973, Stephen King had been writing for twenty years and had been publishing short stories for over a decade. He had already embarked on his long road to the Dark Tower. However, he had yet to crack into print with a novel, even though he had written over half a dozen.
King had established contact with an editor at Doubleday named Bill Thompson who saw promise in his writing. Getting It On (aka Rage) and The Long Walk had piqued Thompson’s interest, but even after extensive rewrites the editor couldn’t justify acquiring either, and he showed little interest in The Running Man.
King was living with his wife, Tabitha, and two kids in a doublewide trailer in Hermon, Maine, just outside Bangor. He had recently given up his $1.60 an hour job at a commercial laundry (immortalized in “The Mangler”) for a $6400 a year position teaching high school at the Hampden Academy, a job that left him with little spare time or energy. Tabitha was working at Dunkin’ Donuts and he moonlighted at the New Franklin Laundry during summer vacation. If not for his wife’s support and encouragement, he might have given up on writing. » Read more