Tag Archives: Richard Bachman

Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall by Bev Vincent

Different Seasons is a collection that contains only four tales and, with the exception of “The Breathing Method,” there is nothing remotely supernatural in them. None of the stories had been previously published. That may not seem unusual now, but at the time it was something of a departure for King.

Different SeasonsThe publishing landscape was different in 1982. In his lengthy afterword to Different Seasons, King bemoans the sad state of the novella, that peculiar form of fiction that falls between longer short stories and shorter novels, tales in the 25-30,000 word range. This is a territory King called “an anarchy-ridden literary banana republic.” Nowadays, there are more opportunities to publish novellas, especially in the small press. Even “The Mist,” a later novella, was published as a standalone book from one of the big houses as a movie tie-in.

He calls the stories in this collection his bedtime stories. The ideas came to him while he writing other novels. He couldn’t stop those books to tackle these ideas, so he got into the habit of telling the stories to himself while he was going to sleep at night instead of counting sheep. He says that he often has six or seven of these ideas going on at the same time and many of them never pan out. Either that or he ended up telling the entire story to himself, so there was no point in writing it down. In a later interview, King says he originally submitted only three novellas to his then-editor John Williams but, since he called them “seasons,” Williams felt there should be a fourth, so he wrote “The Breathing Method.” » Read more

Revisiting The Running Man by Richard Chizmar

THAT WAS THEN…

The Running ManI first read The Running Man in the fall of 1985, when the Plume omnibus edition of The Bachman Books was published. I was nineteen years old and laid up with torn ligaments in my ankle, an unfortunate lacrosse injury. I read a lot of books that autumn.

I remember The Running Man because I tore through it in a single day sitting outside in my parents’ screened-in back porch, a November breeze sighing in the trees that bordered our yard, falling leaves dancing just out of my reach.

Feeling sorry for myself was something I rarely did, but I remember my mindset that day, and if I wasn’t slipping into a dark hole of self-pity, I was pretty damn close. I was just coming off my sophomore year in college, a year that saw me earn All American status as a lacrosse midfielder and a scholarship to a Top 20 Division One university.

I had worked hard my first two college seasons to overcome a nagging knee injury, and now my ankle was a mess and I was hobbling around on crutches. It felt like I couldn’t catch a break.

Of course, I knew better, and it didn’t take long for common sense to make an appearance and kick me in the ass. A lot of things contributed to the quick rebound: my own stubborn nature, the support and encouragement of family and friends and teammates, and books like The Running Man.

As a lifelong fan of “man hunting man” stories such as “The Most Dangerous Game,” I knew that The Running Man was my kind of book just by glancing at the overly brief jacket copy:

Welcome to America in 2025 when the best men don’t run for President. They run for their lives…

Cheesy as hell, but that’s all I needed.  » Read more

Can You See Me Running? by Bev Vincent

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 ManThe 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[1], 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

Revisiting Roadwork by Richard Chizmar

THAT WAS THEN…

This one is easy, folks.

Because, for ROADWORK, there simply wasn’t a “That Was Then…”

roadwork--smallThat’s right. ROADWORK is one of two Stephen King novels I had never read before. (And, nope, I’m not going to tell you the other one, but you are all welcome to guess, of course.)

So…why didn’t I read ROADWORK when news first hit many moons ago that Richard Bachman was actually Stephen King? After all, I gobbled up the other Bachman books — THE LONG WALK, RAGE, THE RUNNING MAN, THINNER — and enjoyed them all to varying degrees.

So, what was the deal with ROADWORK?

I promised myself I would remain honest at all times while taking this journey, so my answer here is a simple one: I tried to read ROADWORK. Several times. But it just didn’t take.

There was something about the book’s voice that failed to reach me. Something about the character of George Bart Dawes himself that failed to reach me. And I wasn’t crazy about the storyline of the book either — “A Novel of the First Energy Crisis”? No, thanks.

Was I simply too young or naive to connect with and enjoy the book? Perhaps. But then again King was only 25 years old himself when he wrote the darn thing.

Whatever the reasons, ROADWORK eventually slipped through the cracks for me and was largely forgotten. » Read more

The First Energy Crisis by Bev Vincent

We have to go back in time again to discuss the genesis of King’s tenth published novel, his third under the Richard Bachman pen name. In 1973, he finished the first draft of ‘Salem’s Lot (known as Second Coming at the time). Carrie was slated for publication the following spring. However, his mother, Ruth, died in December of that year after a long and painful illness. She knew her son would be published, but never got to see it happen.

Roadwork by Richard BachmanHer death left King grieving and shaken by the apparent senselessness of how cancer had tormented her. In an effort to work through his thoughts and feelings about this loss, he started writing Roadwork. The book has a number of autobiographical aspects. The protagonist, Barton George Dawes, has recently lost a family member to cancer. Like King, who memorialized the experience in his short story “The Mangler,” Dawes worked at an industrial laundry. In fact, the company has the same name in both stories: The Blue Ribbon Laundry, and the ironing machine in Roadwork is nicknamed “the mangler.” Anyone who suspected that Bachman was really King would have their smoking gun from these details alone[1].

Roadwork was also an effort to write a straight novel, i.e. one that would not be classified as horror or science fiction. In the essay “Why I was Bachman,” King says he was young enough at the time to worry about the “casual cocktail-party question” about when he was going to write something “serious.” » Read more

Revisiting The Long Walk by Richard Chizmar

THAT WAS THEN…

The Long WalkWhen I was a teenager, I spent several summer vacations working a government job at nearby Aberdeen Proving Grounds and Edgewood Arsenal. My duties ranged from laying asphalt to landscaping to pulling up old railroad tracks to shredding government documents.

The summer of paper shredding (as it would come to be known) was a memorable one for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I was assigned to work under a great guy. His name was Lonnie. If I ever knew his last name, it’s long forgotten now.

Lonnie was a hard worker and a good boss. At first, he was quiet and kept mostly to himself. But the more we got to know each other, the more we discovered we had a lot in common, despite our age difference.

Lonnie was a Vietnam veteran and I was (at the time) obsessed with military history, especially the Vietnam conflict. I had read dozens of books on the subject and watched every documentary I could lay my hands on. As Lonnie learned to trust me and respect my curiosity, he shared dozens of stories about his time in Vietnam that I still remember today.

Lonnie also loved fishing, as did I, and in the years following that summer, I would often share my catches with Lonnie and his family.

Finally, Lonnie was a reader. We would often read paperbacks during our lunch breaks. He tended to like science fiction and non-fiction, while my tastes ran more to the dark stuff. » Read more

Returning to The Long Walk by Ed Gorman

The Long Walk by Richard BachmanI couldn’t wait to read the Bachman books. By that time I was rereading the early Stephen King bestsellers simply because I needed a fix. I am of the age when realistic fiction was the standard form of the masters. In my top ten of novels is In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck. And the first trilogy I ever read was Studs Lonigan by James T. Farrell. Proletarian fiction if you will.

I’ve always maintained that Stephen King is the last of the working class novelists. I realize that the socio-economic background of his characters range up and down the scale. But I think his soul is with the folks he grew up with. He can break your heart with his take on the lives of average people.

And it is average people, teenage boys, King gives us in this spot on science fiction short novel about a militaristic government and a thrill-hungry populace drugged on spectacles of agony and violence.

So what we have here is a hundred teenage boys enduring a brutally competitive walk that ends only when all but the last one is eliminated. And by “eliminated” I generally mean has died from either sheer exhaustion or for violating the rules. An example of said rules: if you don’t keep moving at four miles per hour or better—and you are warned about this three times—you get shot by the soldiers tracking you on the sidelines. » Read more

Only Death Can Keep You From the Finish Line by Bev Vincent

thelongwalk-bookcoverIn an endnote in the chapter about The Stand in The Art of Darkness, Douglas E. Winter mentions a dystopian novel called The Long Walk “which owes much to Stephen King.” Was this an inside joke between King and Winter, who had interviewed King extensively for the book, or an astute observation on Winter’s part? Winter does talk about The Long Walk briefly in The Art of Darkness as one of King’s early novels, but without identifying the book by name.

King wrote The Long Walk in the fall of 1966 and the spring of 1967 when he was a freshman at the University of Maine. The story was inspired by a series of 50-mile hikes throughout the country that were sponsored by radio and TV stations. King didn’t have a car at the time and the idea for the story occurred to him while he was hitchhiking back home one night. “I was hitchhiking everywhere,” he says on his website. “I didn’t finish my 50-mile hike, though. I fell out after 20 miles.” » Read more

A Teacher’s Perspective on Rage by Norman Prentiss

Rage by Richard BachmanI’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.
» Read more

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