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Hello, my name’s Shan and I love horror! No I’m not going to steal your child, skewer your cat, dress as a clown and hide in your wardrobe or even sneak up on you in your bathroom and slash away at your shower curtain. In fact you wouldn’t have a clue that the forty something, ordinary looking woman standing next to you in Tesco has just been reading about the gruesome death of a young woman, eviscerated and blinded just for shits ‘n giggles by a failed experiment on a fictional Island and had thoroughly enjoyed every squish, slash and scream. You really wouldn’t.I’ve always enjoyed the more macabre side of fiction, ever since being introduced to Shaun Hutson in my early teens by my stepfather and, for a while, splatter horror was my thing. Then I found the King…. Yes, Stephen King, the King of (modern) horror fiction. I don’t know why but his works are rarely well received by literary critics, they are often written off as over verbose, long winded trash fiction, not fit for the serious reader and not worthy of mention unless to ridicule and pooh pooh their subject matter, but they’re not, really they aren’t, they’re works of art. King can write a book where nothing horrific really happens, nothing at all but you’re still scared to leave that toe poking out of the duvet, you know.. just in case..

For instance two of my favourite novels, Gerald’s Game and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, you’d struggle to find anything that you could describe as being really horrific. In Gerald’s Game a husband and wife are at their little country retreat, a secret tryst, off season when a sex game goes wrong, leaving Gerald dead and his wife handcuffed to the headboard. The story is just about her, her determination, her desire to live, her fights with her inner demons… Yes there are a couple of Eeep moments but nothing that would rate even a 15 in the film industry. The same goes with TGWLTG.. A little girl on a hike with her mum and older brother, she needs a wee, they’re arguing (again) so she goes off on her own, gets lost and the entire tale is of how she deals with being lost, how she copes and her resourcefulness in the face of what seems an inevitably bad end. Of course there are maybe two or three squeaks to be had but this one would get away with a 12+ rating at the cinema.

Yes he’s written some really slashy, splashy stuff but most of the time it’s more psychological thriller or even fantasy. His works are quite introspective, dealing with the minds and emotions of his characters, rather than the squishy squashable bits. Certainly none of his works have ever struck me as being an ‘How To’ guide.. 

He’s had his demons, he is an alcoholic, he is a substance abuser (currently clean but I’m reliably informed once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic), He’s written stuff he claims not to remember and he’s written some pretty shockingly bad things during his fugue years but they’re his, they’re in print and they’ll stay in print, good bad or indifferent.. So what made him revoke the publishing rights for his short story Rage (published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman)? Why did he allow it to fall out of print?

The story revolves around young Charlie Decker, a troubled teen who after being involved in a fracas with a teacher, takes his father’s gun into school (he admits he has no idea why) and after threatening his principle and setting his locker on fire, holds his class hostage, killing two teachers in the process.

The class then becomes an impromptu psychotherapy session, with students confessing hitherto embarrassing secrets, holding a kangaroo court of sorts and eventually meting out a vigilante style punishment to one of their classmates.. It’s all about teenage wrongs being righted in a very angsty teenage manner. Dramatically..

This story was originally published in 1977 and just sat there, unassuming, just another horror story among many, entertaining millions and affecting no one. Apart from maybe an occasional nightmare or two.


26th April 1988, Jeffrey Lyne Cox, a senior at San Gabriel High School in San Gabriel, California, took a semi-automatic rifle to school and held a humanities class of about 60 students hostage for over 30 minutes. A friend of the boy told the press that Cox had been inspired by the novel Rage,which he’d read over and over again and with which he strongly identified.

Then Dustin L. Pierce, a senior at Jackson County High School in McKee, Kentucky, armed himself with a shotgun and two handguns and took a history classroom hostage in a nine-hour standoff with police on September 18, 1989, that fortunately ended without injury. Police found a copy of Rage among the possessions in Pierce’s bedroom, leading to speculation that he had been inspired to carry out the plot of the novel.
2nd February 1996, Barry Loukaitis shot and killed two students and critically injured another before killing his Algebra teacher. He’s alleged to have said “This sure beats algebra, doesn’t it?” a line attributed (erroneously) to Charlie Decker. (The actual line is ‘This sure beats panty raids’)

This was the final straw for King and he let his book fall out of print saying “The Carneal incident was enough for me. I asked my publisher to take the damned thing out of print. They concurred.”

But is he really to blame? Was his story that good? Is his writing inspirational? Would those kids have committed those crimes if they’d not read Rage? After all, I’ve read some pretty sickening stuff yet I’ve never felt the need to act them out in real life, at least I don’t think I have. Look at Shaun Hutson, Richard Laymon, Clive Barker, Dean Koontz, Joseph D’Lacey, James Herbert, they’ve all written far more horrific books than Rage and yet I don’t believe any of them have felt the need to withdraw a novel due to someone somewhere committing a crime and having one of their books found on the suspect’s shelves.

Would those kids have found inspiration elsewhere had King never written Rage? Surely they were pre disposed to violence and it’s purely coincidental that this tale can be linked to these atrocities? Has everyone who’s read Bambi gone out and shot a deer? Everyone who’s read Lolita become an abuser? Everyone who’s read Twilight developed a taste for blood? Everyone who’s read 50 Shades gone out and… Actually I’ll leave that one, cable ties are like hen’s teeth round here! We read to escape into a world of fantasy, we read to experience worlds other than this one, we read for pleasure.. Surely we aren’t driven to act out a scene or a storyline even if it resonates with us, Surely?

I don’t know the answers but I do think it’s a shame that an author felt the need to remove his works from the public eye just in case it inspires anyone else to kill..

There are a few books out there responsible for far more death and destruction than Rage could ever be credited with, (however tenuous the link)that I can think of off hand and that are still being published in huge numbers but that’s not for this discussion..

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