In 1977, Stephen King published the slender novel, "Rage," under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. The book centered on Charlie Decker, a disgruntled high school senior who shoots his algebra teacher and holds his classmates hostage.
In 1988 in San Gabriel, Calif., Jeff Cox held his English class hostage. He told the police he got the idea, in part, from "Rage."
After three similar events, King pulled the novel from publication.
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In his new Kindle single, "Guns," King takes a look at the complex issue of gun control in America. He explores related topics like bullying, mental health and America's supposed culture of violence. He chastises both sides for their heated rhetoric and offers suggestions on what can be done to curb the violence.
He covers a lot of ground in a short single.
King begins "Guns" with a timeline of events following a hypothetical mass murder. He outlines a 22-step blueprint beginning with a shooting and ending with the reactive legislation getting bogged down in the "legislative swamp." In between, King plots out points for moments like the first shaky cell phone video of the shooting and the NRA's response.
Each point on the timeline includes exaggerated descriptions. When discussing the networks' non-stop coverage of the hypothetical aftermath, King writes, "We will be shown the superstars of America's unbalanced and disaffected time and time again: Harris, Klebold, Cho, (Muhammad), Malvo, Lanza. These are the guys we remember, not the victims. News producers are especially fond of Aurora movie theater shooter James Holmes' booking photo, 'cos gosh, that motherf— just looks so crazy. He really is your worst nightmare."
In comments like these, King's tone seems off, as though it is a bit flip or insincere. While readers will understand the sarcasm, these asides interrupt the flow of the rest of the book, which is well researched and serious.
In the chapter discussing violence in American culture, King skewers the thought that violent art leads to violent crime.
"The idea that America exists in a culture of violence is" bull, he writes. "What America exists in is a culture of Kardashian."
To support his argument, he claims in the single that only two of last year's 10 most popular novels — "A Game of Thrones" and "The Racketeer" — featured violence of any kind, and only one of the 12 highest grossing movies from 2012, "Skyfall," featured gunplay. It should be noted that King draws a distinction between "Skyfall" and superhero movies like "The Avengers" or "The Dark Knight."
"(Superheroes) don't carry guns," he writes, "They use their various exotic powers."
And, he notes, while shooter video games remain popular, the best-seller list is also packed with sports games and "old standbys like 'Super Mario Brothers' and 'Pokemon.'"
King's opinions reflect the plight of Americans caught in the crossfire between staunch pundits on either side of the debate. He agrees with points of each camp's arguments. He says he owns three handguns and is a supporter of the Second Amendment, but he believes in stricter gun control measures and universal background checks.
In the end, King urges readers to use their moral compass to guide their decisions. He didn't pull "Rage" because he was forced to; he said he did it because "it might be hurting people, and that made it the responsible thing to do."
By Stephen King, Philtrum, 25 pages, 99 centsCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun