Stephen King, renowned for his captivating and often chilling novels, has a vast library of best sellers that grace the shelves of bookstores worldwide. Titles like “Carrie,” “Misery,” “The Shining,” and “Salem’s Lot” are likely to be familiar to any avid reader. However, there’s one book by King that you won’t find readily available – a work that, even if you stumbled upon it, might not immediately be recognized as his creation. This book is “Rage,” a novel King wrote under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.
“Rage” was initially penned in 1965 during King’s high school years but didn’t see the light of day until 1977 when it was published under the alias Richard Bachman. Later, in 1985, the story resurfaced as part of a collection titled “The Bachman Books.” The narrative of “Rage” revolves around a troubled high school student who brings a gun to school, committing heinous acts that include murdering teachers and holding a class hostage.
In a 2013 essay titled ‘On Guns,’ King reflected on “Rage.” He acknowledged that if the book had been written in the contemporary era, it might have raised red flags among educators and counselors due to its sensitive subject matter. However, he highlighted the contrasting environment of 1965, a time when airport security wasn’t as stringent, and metal detectors weren’t a common sight at high school entrances.
Despite its origin and initial publication, “Rage” has been conspicuously absent from bookstore shelves. The reason behind this absence lies in King’s decision to request publishers to remove the book from circulation. The catalyst for this removal was the unsettling connection between “Rage” and four real-life school shootings.
In April 1988, a California student, after holding his humanities class hostage, cited inspiration from King’s book when surrendering to the police. A year later, a Kentucky student replicated the act, holding his classmates hostage for nine hours as a tribute to “Rage.” Another incident unfolded in Washington in 1996 when a 14-year-old shot and killed his teacher and two classmates, claiming influence from the novel. Finally, in 1997, a 14-year-old in Kentucky killed three people in his school’s prayer group, and it was suspected that he possessed a copy of “Rage” in his locker.
The unsettling connections between the book and these tragic events prompted King to distance himself from “Rage.” Concerned about its potential impact, he made the decision to halt its circulation, ensuring it would no longer be a part of bookstore offerings. The controversial and troubling ties to real-life incidents understandably led King to remove “Rage” from the literary landscape, emphasizing the responsibility that authors bear for the potential influence of their work on susceptible minds.