Maine’s Stephen King Wrote Under a Pseudonym to See if People Would Still Like His Work
Perhaps no modern author has been more open about writer’s block and self-doubt than Maine’s own Stephen King.
Often regarded as one of the greatest novelists of all time, and undoubtedly one of the most prolific, King has been candid about the struggle writers face to put words on the page. In 2000, he published the memoir On Writing, which detailed his personal struggles both en route to and during his reign as the godfather of horror literature.
There’s also an unmistakable subtext to his legendary novel The Shining, which famously details a writer descending into madness simply by trying to write.
But for King, it seems, the doubt lingered even after he had found success. An amazingly overlooked aspect of King’s career is a period in the late '70s and early '80s when he published novels not as Stephen King, but as Richard Bachman.
That’s right, Stephen King used a pseudonym to see if people would still enjoy his books without his name on the cover.
In a move not unlike Charlie Chaplin entering a Chaplin lookalike contest, King found his sudden fame and success so remarkable, he put his abilities over his brand and published five – again, five – complete novels as a completely different person.
From 1977, King – I’m sorry, Bachman – authored Rage (an eerily prophetic story about a school shooting), The Long Walk (about a dystopian world in which people are forced to compete in a walking contest – shoutout to all the Orange Line riders), Roadwork (about a man driven to the brink by the planned construction of a highway), The Running Man (which not only faired well, but would be adapted for a film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger), and Thinner (about a man who is cursed following his role in a fatal auto accident).
But as is the case with any Stephen King story, there came a twist ending.
A book salesman in Washington D.C. apparently read enough “Bachman” to recognize distinct similarities between his works and those of King, and eventually discovered through publisher’s records at the Library of Congress that King and Bachman were one and the same.
The kicker? How King came up with the name.
A noted rock fan, Stephen King apparently borrowed his new surname from Randy Bachman of the band Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
What can I tell you? I guess sometimes, leaving your old self in the rearview is the key to takin’ care of business.