Reading is fun and a pleasure that allows you to relax or be afraid. Stephen King is the master of horror and psychology with fantastic, horrific or psychological novels that are all literary successes with numerous audiovisual adaptations. However, Stephen King’s book was eventually withdrawn from sales after a series of dramatic events in school environments where readers with psychological disorders ended up taking inspiration from the hero of the book “Rage”. [Be careful, this article contains spoilers from the book Rage]
Rage tells the story of a teenager who was abused by his father but also by students at the school. Charlie Decker is the main antagonist in the story, he is a shy teenager who has suffered a recent aggression that his school does not really take into consideration. The hero takes a weapon from his locker, kills one of his teachers before holding his class hostage with a few students.
After several exercises of manipulation and domination of Charlie over the other students, each one releases his secrets which creates psychological tensions between the characters. Charlie is then shot and killed by the police, shot and wounded, he ends up in a psychiatric hospice (Image credit Aurore Dawn)
The book Rage was published in 1977 under the name of Richard Bachman, this author’s name is often used by Stephen King who had created an alter ego for his books with a real existence, giving him a birth, a woman and even a child. Stephen King finally admitted that he was Richard Bachman after a bookseller had started reading one of his books, “skin on bones” and immediately understood that the two authors were one. Stephen King eventually killed the author, but since he had a second author’s contract with another agent, he gradually ended up publishing Bachman’s unfinished books, which he had rewritten in between.
The omnipresent tension of the book “Rage” makes this book a cult novel that teenagers appreciated and the novelist became in between an author more and more famous since the book “Carrie”. But here it is, sometimes it can happen that readers in distress find themselves in one of the characters of the stories they read and identify with him, his story, his experience until it becomes an obsession and this obsession becomes morbid.
Unfortunately, this was the case on 28 April 1988 when a teenager, Jeffrey Cox, took his class hostage in San Gabriel, but fortunately the high schools had managed to control the young man. While going through his things, Stephen King’s book had been found. The story repeated itself on September 18, 1989 when Dustin Pierce, a teenager in Kentucky, took his class hostage with a gun and two pistols still without a victim, but once again Stephen King’s novel was found in the young man’s belongings.
But if these two hostage-taking incidents had not caused any victims, the following ones unfortunately ended in tragedy: on February 2, 1996 Barry Loukaitis, a fourteen-year-old teenager, shot dead his math teacher and two other students, he was a depressed teenager and had been assaulted a few days earlier by one of the two students he had killed, during his trial he had reported having read many books but especially Rage who had marked him with the similarity of his own life. On December 1, 1997 Michael Carneal, who was the same age as the previous killer, organized a massacre in his school killing three teenage girls and seriously injuring five others, he suffered from schizophrenia and a copy of the book was also found in his locker. During the Columbine High School massacre, rumours had claimed that one of the killers had the book in his possession, although they were strongly inspired by the film Natural Born Killers (killers born of Oliver Stone) as well as various video games.
Stephen King then decided to remove the book from the sale and gave several seminars on violence in high schools to prevent this kind of phenomenon from happening again. This did not prevent further killings from taking place, but history will not tell if the book had any influence on the other murderers. According to Stephen King, the book was not intended to create influences for troubled teenagers, but to show raw and difficult adolescence in high schools where students are trying to survive or make a place for themselves but also somewhere in search of recognition from other students and teachers.
Image credit on the front page:
- Aurore Dawn