The first Stephen King book I ever read was Cycle of the Werewolf, which would later be called Silver Bullet in the film adaptation. I was 8 years old and I clearly remember a teacher taking it away from me in school. "This isn't appropriate reading for someone your age," she said to me.
"Why not?" I asked. "It's just a book about a boy and his dog." I would go on to read a great many of his books, and even got to interview him in-person. What a dream.
Stephen King's work has been critiqued, dissected, applauded, and adored for decades. I fell in love with him because my mother was a fan, and I suspect this is a common entry point into his delightfully macabre world. Because of this, I'm tempted to do what one woman on TikTok is doing. She is reading all of King's books in chronological order. However, she hit a roadblock when she couldn't find his 1977 novel Rage. Apparently it's out of print, and the reason is both topical and devastating.
Here's why Stephen King's 'Rage' is out of print.
Nicole, who goes by @nicolepearcebooks on TikTok, describes herself as having a type A personality which is why she can't skip Rage on her quest to read Stephen King's work in order of their release date. Unfortunately this book is out of print, which is how Nicole ended up at a library outside of Boston where she lives. Sadly a fair amount of tragedy follows Rage, one of eight novels King published under his pen name Richard Bachman.
The main character in Rage is a troubled teenager by the name of Charlie Decker. One day at school he physically threatens a teacher which lands him in the principal's office. This leads to Charlie getting a gun he kept in his locker, setting said locker on fire, then walking to his algebra class where he shoots and kills two teachers. He proceeds to hold the class hostage though all but one of his classmates would end up siding with Charlie. They nearly kill the only kid fighting back.
Perhaps this book would have come and gone if it weren't for the fact that it would later be connected with several school shootings. According to The Guardian, in December 1997, "14-year-old Michael Carneal – who would soon garner the alias The Prayer Slayer – walked into his school in West Paducah, Ky., with a shotgun, a rifle and a pistol." Carneal killed three students and injured five. Right before he gave himself up, Carneal said, "Kill me, please. I can't believe I did that."
A copy of Rage was found in Carneal's locker, but it's important to note he had undiagnosed schizophrenia and was constantly bullied and threatened to seek revenge because of this. The Guardian also reported that "Jeffrey Lyne Cox held a class of students hostage at gunpoint in 1988, inspired by the novel; Dustin L Pierce did the same in 1989, down to the detail of imprisoning his algebra class; in 1996, Barry Loukaitis killed his algebra teacher and two others, before holding the rest of the class to ransom.
It was because of this that King chose to let Rage go out of print. The first four Bachman novels were printed in one book titled The Bachman Books. That's basically the only ways one can find Rage nowadays, and it's how Nicole was able to snag it from a somewhat local library.
In September 2000, nearly two years after Columbine, King spoke with The Guardian about Rage. He talked about the fact that everyone is miserable in school, claiming that it's a particularly angry time for boys ages 14 to 18.
King attributed most of this to hormones but said that one of the few things that saved him growing up was not being a loner and of course his writing. Everyone "has that rage, has that insecurity. Rage allows people to find some catharsis," he said. "But to this day I distrust anybody who thought school was a good time. ANYBODY. You can be happy at 8 or even at 28. But if you say you were happy at 16, I'd say you were a f----ing liar, or you were abnormal, disturbed..."