Richard Bachman is one of the most famous pseudonyms used by an author in contemporary literature. It was used by Stephen King, the ‘King of Horror,’ to publish six books:

Rage – 1977
The Long Walk – 1979
Roadwork – 1981
The Running Man – 1982
Thinner – 1984
The Regulators - 1996

Richard Bachman was created because King’s publishers felt that the market couldn’t support more than one book a year from King. King compares them to the “frigid wifey who only wants to put out once or twice a year, encouraging her endlessly horny hubby to find a call girl. Bachman was where I went when I had to have relief.” In King’s case that call girl was named Richard (or Dicky as King refers to him).

Using Bachman's name, King could explore other avenues of writing, he wasn't bound to the horror genre. Having a pseudonym also inspired him to write The Dark Half, a story about a schizophrenic writer who comes face to face with his own pseudonym.

The name itself has little meaning. On his website King tells the story of how he picked 'Richard Bachman':

“The name Richard Bachman actually came from when they called me and said we're ready to go to press with this novel, what name shall we put on it? And I hadn't really thought about that. Well, I had, but the original name – Gus Pillsbury - had gotten out on the grapevine and I really didn't like it that much anyway, so they said they needed it right away and there was a novel by Richard Stark on my desk so I used the name Richard and that's kind of funny because Richard Stark is in itself a pen name for Donald Westlake and what was playing on the record player was "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" by Bachman Turner Overdrive, so I put the two of them together and came up with Richard Bachman."

Always the storyteller, King developed a background for his alter-ego. It goes something like this: Richard Bachman was born in New York and served in the Coast Guard, followed by a decade in the merchant marine. He moved to rural New Hampshire were he ran a medium-sized dairy farm. An insomniac, he did his writing at night, ‘after the cows came home’ (quoted, I swear). Bachman and his wife, Claudia Inez Bachman had a son who drowned in freak accident at an early age. In 1982, Bachman was diagnosed and treated for a brain tumor. Unfortunately his cancer relapsed and he died suddenly in 1985. The official cause of death was ‘cancer of the pseudonym.’

'Cancer of the pseudonym' was caused by a suspicious store clerk and writer named Steve Brown. He did some research at the Library of Congress and found King’s name on one of Bachman’s copyright forms. With that discovery a writer in New Hampshire keeled over and died before his time. King had intended to write more books under this name, his bestseller Misery was originally to be a Bachman book. However, Bachman's career wasn't over yet, in the mid 1990s a new Bachman book surfaced, The Regulators. The back story was that his widow had discovered a carton filled with manuscripts in the cellar and sent this one to Bachman’s former editor. There was no mention of King and it was published without King’s name appearing anywhere on it. The author’s picture had been changed from the grizzled old man’s picture that graced the first novels to a slightly doctored picture of King in college. It was a joke for the ‘Constant Reader' that King always refers to in his introductions. Bachman lives to write again! (However no new books have been published by him since 1996).

Why did King create Bachman? The main argument is that King wanted to appease his publishers by not flooding the market with his books. There is another argument that is just as plausible. I think King had a desire to prove to himself that he could "make it" again. Ego, if you will. King says he was disappointed that his alter ego was found out so early. In the forward to The Bachman Books he describes how much he wanted to see this man succeed. He goes on to say that he wanted to see if his success was due to his work or if it all "is just a lottery." King didn’t need money, praise, or an outlet for his creative energy; he wanted proof that he was successful because he was talented. This seems to have had little to do with “needing to publish” and more with justifying that he wasn’t the benefactor of a lucky roll of the die. In the Dark Tower Series he mentions ka, an idea similar to destiny. Was it talent or ka at work here? The Bachman experiment ended too soon to be sure.

The Bachman Books, Four Early Novels by Stephen King; Stephen King

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