Who is Richard Bachman?

Stephen King Store, Richard Bachman, The Bachman Books
Richard Bachman
This was actually a photograph
of an insurance agent.
The question, who is Richard Bachman, as any Stephen King fan will know, was answered when a bookstore clerk named Steve Brown noticed the similarities in writing style between Richard Bachman and Stephen King and so decided to a little more digging. Brown eventually discovered some documents at the Library of Congress, one of which, named Stephen King as the author of a Richard Bachman novel. Brown wrote to Stephen King’s publisher explaining his discovery and asked their advice on what to do. Within two weeks, Stephen King himself telephoned Brown and told him to write an article about who Richard Bachman really was and, so, the truth was out. The truth about who is Richard Bachman was finally put to bed in an article published in the Washington Post announcing the death of Richard Bachman who died from ‘cancer of the pseudonym’.

Stephen King denied any connection to Richard Bachman for quite some time and he wrote seven books under his pen name; Rage (1977), The Long Walk (1979), Roadwork (1981), The Running Man (1982), Thinner (1984), The Regulators (1996) and Blaze (2007). The Stephen King novel, Misery, was also intended to be a Richard Bachman book, but it was published under the name of Stephen King after the secret of Richard Bachman had been revealed.

The truth, then, of whom is Richard Bachman, has been public knowledge for some time now, but why did Stephen King invent him and why did he go to such lengths to keep the true identity of Richard Bachman a secret for so long?
Stephen King Store, Richard Bachman, The Bachman Books
Will the real Richad Bachman
please stand up!

Stephen King became Richard Bachman, not long after he had successfully published his first few novels. But, in those days, it was accepted practice that writers only published one novel every year to avoid the market being saturated with books by the one author. Stephen King, though, was itching to write more and so he convinced his publisher to allow him to publish under the name Richard Bachman.

Originally, Stephen King has wanted to use the name Gus Pillsbury, as a tribute to his grandfather, on his mother’s side, but he eventually settled on the name Richard Bachman. He took the first name from crime writer Donald E. Westlake, who wrote under the pen name of Richard Stark and the last name he took from the name of the band that Stephen King was said to have been listening to, while he was trying to come up with a pseudonym, Bachman Turner Overdrive. And so, Richard Bachman was born.

As well as being able to publish more than one book per year, Stephen King also wanted to see if his books were successful because they were Stephen King Books or whether he could be successful without the use of that well-known brand name.

Whereas typical Stephen King books of that time were written with the mass commercial audience in mind, Richard Bachman books were more serious and targeted at obtaining literary acclaim rather than just pure sales. The Richard Bachman books were deliberately released with a minimum of fuss and publicity and indeed, Thinner, published under the name of Richard Bachman, only sold 28,00 copies in its first run, but then went on to sell ten times that as soon as the author was revealed to be Stephen King.

Did Stephen King achieve his goals by keeping the ‘who is Richard Bachman’ question alive for so long?  Well, no. In his own mind, King has still to answer whether his success is due to talent or luck.

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