WRITTEN REVIEW: The Regulators

As Stephen King month comes to an end, I figured I should write a little bit about my favorite King novel. I haven't read much King in my life, so it is fitting that my favorite book of his wasn't even written by "King" himself.

The Regulators was the last of the Bachman Books. Richard Bachman was an alternate personality created by King in the late 1970s intended to basically see if he could make lightning strike twice and become a famous author under two names. However, by the mid 1980s people started to realize that Bachman and King were the same person so King unceremoniously killed off his alter-ego in 1984. When King wrote The Regulators in 1996 to tie in with his novel Desperation, he decided to revive Bachman and release the book as the lost "Bachman Book". Funny enough, when I first heard of the book in high school, I didn't even know that it was part of Stephen King's oeuvre. My friend, who was much more well-versed in horror literature than I was had to explain to me that Stephen King and Richard Bachman were the same person. When I heard that, my enjoyment of the novel increased exponentially.

The book takes place in the suburban town of Wentworth, Ohio. One day, a block on Poplar Street finds itself cut off from the rest of the world. Before the residents of Poplar Street have any idea what's going on, some mysterious figures drive up to the neighborhood and begin shooting people at random. As the day winds down, the neighborhood slowly begins to transform into a Wild West caricature, complete with strange, gun-toting bandits and horrible mis-shapen creatures. As the survivors begin to piece together what has happened, they learn that an autistic child in their neighborhood named Seth has somehow manifested these monstrosities from his own imagination; an imagination revolving entirely around a trashy old Western film called "The Regulators" and a science fiction cartoon show called "MotoKops 2200". The surviving suburbanites must all work together to stop Seth before his fantasy world completely transforms their reality and kills them all!

Like most of King's books, The Regulators keeps readers glued to the pages with some very detailed scene descriptions and well fleshed-out characters, punctuated with moments of extreme violence. The novel does a good job at world-building as well as giving us excerpts of the various stories that influence Seth's imagination. Also, like almost all of King's stories, the book contains interesting tie-ins and callbacks to other Stephen King works. Desperation is a direct spinoff of this book, but there are also references to both The Shining and Under the Dome.

The Regulators is definitely one of King's more other-worldly novels, but I think it would make a terrific movie. It was no surprise to me to learn that the book was originally written as a screenplay intended for Sam Peckinpah, and I would love to see this unique vision brought to life on screen. I could easily see someone like John Carpenter translate this story to film. Carpenter is familiar with King's work and he's always been a fan of equal parts Horror, Science Fiction and Western so I would love to see what he could do with this bizarre and sometimes graphic book.

Update: As of August, 2014, there have been talks about turning The Regulators into a TV mini-series so it looks like my wish may have come true. Until that time, find yourself a copy of this novel and experience the madness of the Bachman Books for yourself!


★ ★ ★ ★