The Running Man

Stephen King Books, The Running Man, Stephen King Store
“Tomorrow at noon, the hunt begins. Remember his face!"

The Running Man film, the one with Arnie in a tight spandex jumpsuit and the opera singing psychopathic Christmas tree, bears virtually no resemblance to the book by Stephen King so, if you've seen the film, don’t think you know anything at all about the story in the book!

Stephen king's The Running Man was first published as a paperback under Kings’ pseudonym, Richard Bachman in 1982 and it was included in the collection ‘The Bachman Books’ in 1985.







In the book, Ben Richards, the protagonist, is living in a broken 2025 United States. Richards has been blacklisted from his trade and cannot find work, so he agrees to appear on the violent TV show The Running Man. In the book version of The Running Man, contestants are given a twelve hour head start, money, a video camera to record the events and they may go anywhere in the world to avoid capture by the pursuing hunters who have been employed by the TV network to kill them. Contestants are paid money for every day that they avoid capture, for every law enforcement officer that they kill and a bonus of $1 billion if they avoid capture for thirty days.

This is very different from the 1987 film version where the contestants are convicted criminals, they ‘run’ in an enclosed and set up studio environment and their potential reward is a pardon for their crimes. That said, the film, if you are one of the few people that hasn’t seen it, is still worth  watching. Some of the dialogue is a bit cringeworthy and, of course, Arnold gets to say ‘I’ll be back’. It can hardly be called a horror or even science fiction film and would probably be better described as a science pantomime!


Stephen King wrote The Running Man in a single week and has described the book as being "... a book written by a young man who was angry, energetic, and infatuated with the art and the craft of writing." But don’t that let you put you off; it is Stephen King we are talking about here and we like it!

It’s also worth pointing out the character of Ben Richards in the book is a scrawny guy fighting to earn some money to save his sick child and certainly not a wrongly accused cop with the physique of Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

With the way that reality shows have become the norm on TV, it is actually not hard to make the jump from today's ritual embarrassment of the contestants on these shows today to more sinister versions by the time we get to 2025. After all, who would have believed George Orwell when he said that we would be living in a society where our very move is tracked by a TV camera.

To be honest, the book version of Stephen Kings The Running Man is a million times better than Arnies’ film version. In the book you get suspense, deep charchterisation and growing desperation of the main protagonist. Not to mention an ending that will surprise you, if you have only watched the film. In the film you get to have a giggle, but little else!

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