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Richard Bachman's author photo taken by Claudia Inez Bachman. Subject of photo is Richard Manuel, the insurance agent of Kirby McCauley, who was King's literary agent.

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

Contents

Origin

At the beginning of Stephen King's career, the general view among publishers was such that an author was limited to a book every year; publishing more would not be acceptable to the public. King therefore wanted to write under another name, in order to increase his publication without oversaturating the market for the King "brand". He convinced his publisher, Signet Books, to print these novels under a pseudonym.

In his introduction to The Bachman Books, King does state that Bachman was also an attempt to make sense out of his career and try to answer the question of whether his success was due to talent or luck. He says he deliberately released the Bachman novels with as little marketing presence as possible and did his best to "load the dice against" Bachman. King concludes that he has yet to find an answer to the "talent versus luck" question. The Bachman book Thinner sold 28,000 copies during its initial run—and then ten times as many when it was revealed that Bachman was, in fact, King.

The originally selected pseudonym was Gus Pillsbury (King's maternal grandfather); but at the last moment King changed it to "Richard Bachman", in tribute to crime author Donald E. Westlake's long-running pseudonym Richard Stark. The name Stark was used in King's novel The Dark Half, a novel about an author with a pseudonym. The surname was in honor of Bachman-Turner Overdrive, a rock and roll band King was listening to at the time.[1]

Identification

King dedicated Bachman's early books — Rage (1977), The Long Walk (1979), Roadwork (1981), and The Running Man (1982) — to people close to him, and worked in obscure references to his own identity. These clues, not to mention the similarity between the two authors' literary styles, aroused the suspicions of horror fans and retailers.

King steadfastly denied any connection to Bachman and, to throw fans off the trail, dedicated Bachman's 1984 novel Thinner to "Claudia Inez Bachman", supposedly Bachman's wife. There was also a phony author photo of Bachman on the dustjacket, credited to Claudia. He also has one of the characters describe how the strange happenings are like a "Stephen King" novel in the book.

The link between King and his shadow writer became undeniable when a persistent Washington D.C. bookstore clerk, Steve Brown, couldn't believe that Bachman and King were not one and the same, and eventually located publisher's records at the Library of Congress naming King as the author of one of Bachman's novels.[2] This led to a press release heralding Bachman's "death" — supposedly from "cancer of the pseudonym".[3] At the time of the announcement in 1985, King was working on Misery, which he had planned to release as a Bachman book.

Post-outing

The original editions of the first four Bachman books are now among the world's most sought after original paperback novels, with resale prices in the hundreds of dollars.

In 1987, the Bachman novel The Running Man inspired the Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name. King insisted that his name not be on the credits, and the screen credit for the film went to Richard Bachman.

King used the "relationship" between him and Bachman as a concept in his 1989 book The Dark Half. In the novel a writer's darker pseudonym takes on a life of its own. King dedicated The Dark Half to "the late Richard Bachman". Originally there were plans to make the book a collaboration between the two, although this was later scrapped.

In 1996, Bachman's The Regulators came out, with the publishers claiming the book's manuscript was found among Bachman's leftover papers by his widow. Still, it was obvious from the book's packaging and marketing campaign that it was really written by King. There was a picture of a young King on the inside back cover, and the "also by this author" page listed not only works Bachman was credited with writing, but also works he wrote "as Stephen King". The Regulators was released the same day as the King novel Desperation, and the two novels 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 in fact an unpublished novel of King's written before Carrie or the creation of Richard Bachman. For its publication King rewrote, edited, and updated the entire novel. In February 2007 it was confirmed that Scribner would be publishing the book in June 2007.

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 referenced in Stephen King's The Dark Tower. In the fifth book, Wolves of the Calla, the sinister children's book Charlie the Choo Choo is revealed 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 shortly discusses his Richard Bachman pseudonym.

After the Heath High School shooting, King announced that he would allow Rage to go out of print, fearing that it might inspire similar tragedies. Rage for a time continued to be available in the United Kingdom in The Bachman Books collection, although the collection now no longer contains Rage [1]. 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.

Bibliography

Other pseudonyms

King wrote a 1973 short story, "The Fifth Quarter", under the pseudonym John Swithen. This story was reprinted in King's collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes in 1993 under his own name.

In the introduction to the novel "Blaze", King (writing about Bachman) claims with tongue in cheek that Bachman used the pseudonym John Swithen for "The Fifth Quarter".

References

  1. ^ King, Stephen. "Stephen King FAQ: "Why did you write books as Richard Bachman?"". StephenKing.com. http://www.stephenking.com/faq.html#1.6. Retrieved December 13, 2006.  
  2. ^ Brown, Steve. 'Richard Bachman Exposed'. Lilja's Library: The World of Stephen King. Retrieved December 27, 2008.
  3. ^ 'Blaze - Book Summary'. Simon & Schuster. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
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