Trivia

Hard

Richard Bachman Was the Pen Name of Which Author?

Michael Crichton
Philip K. Dick
Dean Koontz
Stephen King
Stephen King at Comicon in February 2007.
pinguino k/Flickr

Answer: Stephen King

Over the years, many authors have written a book or two (or even a shelf full) under a fake name. Reasons for doing so range from wanting to write in a different genre, wanting to distance their well-known name from racy or unpopular political content, or to see if their writing stands up without their famous name behind it.

In the 1970s, famous author Stephen King adopted a pen name for one of those reasons and an additional one that is hardly considered an issue in the 21st century. When King adopted the pen name Richard Bachman, he partially wanted to see how his work held up in public opinion without his well-known name on the cover, but mostly he just wanted to write more. At the time, it was popular among publishers to limit authors to a single book release a year. The premise was that multiple releases from the same author within a year would be considered unacceptable to the public. However, for a talented and prolific writer like King, releasing only one book per year just wasn’t cutting it.

He convinced his publisher (Signet Books) to allow him to publish books under both his real name and Bachman’s name so that he could continue to write at the pace he wanted. Under the name Richard Bachman, he released Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork, The Running Man, Thinner, and was in the process of writing Misery to add to Bachman’s list of books when his ruse was discovered (two other books, The Regulators and Blaze, were also released later using the Bachman pen name).

That’s right, one of King’s most famous works, Misery, was destined to be published as written by Richard Bachman. The only reason Misery ended up with King’s name on the cover is that a very sharp-eyed clerk in a Washington D.C. bookstore noticed how similar King’s and Bachman’s writing styles were, did a little digging, and discovered publisher’s records in the Library of Congress linking King to his pen name.

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