Richard Bachman

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Stephen King

Richard Bachman is a pen name used by horror fiction author Stephen King.

Origin[change | change source]

At the beginning of Stephen King's career, the general view among publishers was that an author was limited to one book per year. They thought publishing more would not be seen as good to the public. King wanted to write under another name so he could write more than one book per year. His publisher, Signet Books, agreed to print more books under a pseudonym.[1]

In the start of The Bachman Books, King said using the nom de plume Bachman was to see if his success was due to talent or luck. King said he put out the Bachman books with very little marketing. He did his best to "load the dice against" Bachman. King never found the answer to the "talent versus luck" question. He said he let everyone know that he was Bachman too soon. The Bachman book Thinner (1984) sold 28,000 copies during its first printing. When it was told that King wrote the book, the sales went up by ten times.

The pseudonym King first picked (Gus Pillsbury) is the name of King's mother's grandfather. At the last moment King changed the name to Richard Bachman. Richard is the same as crime author Donald E. Westlake's pseudonym Richard Stark. (The last name Stark was later used in King's book The Dark Half. Bachman was picked from Bachman–Turner Overdrive, a rock and roll band King was listening to at the time his publisher asked him to choose a pseudonym on the spot.[1]

Identification[change | change source]

King dedicated Bachman's early books — Rage (1977), The Long Walk (1979), Roadwork (1981), and The Running Man (1982) — to people close to him. The link between King and his shadow writer was found out after a Washington, D.C. bookstore clerk, Steve Brown, noted things that seemed the same between the writing styles of King and Bachman. Brown located publisher's records at the Library of Congress which included a document naming King as the author of one of Bachman's novels. Brown wrote to King's publishers with a copy of the papers he found. He asked them what to do. Two weeks later, King telephoned Brown himself. King told Brown that he should write an article about how he found the truth. King let Brown interview him. [2] At the time of the announcement in 1985, King was working on Misery, which he was going to put out as a Bachman book.[3]

Post-outing[change | change source]

In 1987, the Bachman novel The Running Man gave the idea for the Paul Glaser movie of the same name. King did not want his name to be on the credits. The screen credit for the movie went to Richard Bachman.

King used the "relationship" between himself and Bachman as a theme in his 1989 book The Dark Half. In the book a writer's darker pseudonym takes on a life of its own. King dedicated The Dark Half to "the late Richard Bachman." There were plans to make the book a collaboration between the two, but this was later thrown out.[4]

In 1996, Bachman's The Regulators came out, with the publishers saying the book's manuscript was found among Bachman's leftover papers by his widow. It was released as a companion novel with King's Desperation; the two novels took place in different universes but featured many of the same characters. The two book covers were designed to be placed together to form a single picture. In the foreword by King included with Desperation he said that there may be another Bachman novel left to be "found."

The next Bachman book to be 'discovered' was Blaze. Blaze was an unpublished novel that King wrote before Carrie or the creation of Richard Bachman. For its publication King rewrote, edited, and updated the entire book. It was published in 2007 under the Bachman pseudonym, with a foreword by King under his own name.

King has taken full ownership of the Bachman name on numerous occasions, as with the republication of the first four Bachman titles as The Bachman Books: Four Early Novels by Stephen King in 1985. The introduction, titled "Why I Was Bachman," details the whole Bachman/King story. (In 1996, the collection was reissued with a new King essay, "The Importance of Being Bachman.")

Richard Bachman was also referred to in Stephen King's The Dark Tower series of books. In the fifth book, Wolves of the Calla, the scary children's book Charlie the Choo Choo is said to be written by "Claudia y Inez Bachman." The spelling discrepancy of the added 'y' was later explained as a deus ex machina on the part of "The White" (a force of good throughout King's Tower series) to bring the total number of letters in her name to nineteen, a number prominent in King's series. In the next novel of the series, Song of Susannah, Stephen King briefly discusses his Richard Bachman pseudonym.

After the Heath High School shooting, King announced that he would allow Rage to go out of print. He feared that it might inspire similar tragedies. Rage for a time continued to be available in the United Kingdom in The Bachman Books collection. Now the collection no longer has Rage. In a footnote to the preface of Blaze, dated 30 January 2007, King wrote of Rage: "Now out of print, and a good thing." King's other Bachman novels are available in the US in separate volumes.

In 2010, King appeared on the FX television show Sons of Anarchy in a cameo role. His character, named Bachman, did contract work quietly getting rid of dead bodies.

In issue 29 of the comic adaptation of The Stand, Richard Bachman appears as one of the top lieutenants of Randall Flagg. He replaced the character of Whitney Horgan from the original book. He is drawn to look like King.

In the 2013 Grimm episode "Nameless", Richard Bachman, being a pseudonym of Stephen King, was a plot point. King's novel, Rage, had its title page used as a prop for the killer to write a note to the police.

Bibliography[change | change source]

Other pseudonyms[change | change source]

King wrote a short story, "The Fifth Quarter", under the pseudonym John Swithen (the name of a character in the book Carrie), that was published in Cavalier magazine April 1972. The story was later reprinted in King's collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes in 1993 under his own name. In the introduction to the Bachman novel Blaze, King claims, with tongue-in-cheek, that "Bachman" was the person using the Swithen pseudonym .

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 King, Stephen. "Stephen King FAQ: "Why did you write books as Richard Bachman?"". StephenKing.com. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  2. Brown, Steve. "Richard Bachman Exposed". Lilja's Library: The World of Stephen King. Retrieved October 19, 2014.
  3. Delmendo, Sharon (1992). Slusser, George Edgar; Rabkin, Eric S. (eds.). Styles of Creation: Aesthetic Thechnique and the Creation of Fictional Worlds. University of Georgia Press. p. 177. ISBN 9780820314914.
  4. Room, Adrian (2010). Dictionary of Pseudonyms: 13,000 Assumed Names and Their Origins (5th ed.). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company. p. 42. ISBN 0-7864-4373-1.