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Bad Seed

Bad Seed

4.6 18
by William March, Elaine Showalter (Introduction), Elaine Showalter (Introduction)

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Now reissued – William March's 1954 classic thriller that's as chilling, intelligent and timely as ever before. This paperback reissue includes a new P.S. section with author interviews, insights, features, suggested reading and more.

What happens to ordinary families into whose midst a child serial killer is born? This is the question at the center of


Now reissued – William March's 1954 classic thriller that's as chilling, intelligent and timely as ever before. This paperback reissue includes a new P.S. section with author interviews, insights, features, suggested reading and more.

What happens to ordinary families into whose midst a child serial killer is born? This is the question at the center of William march's classic thriller. After its initial publication in 1954, the book went on to become a million–copy bestseller, a wildly successful Broadway show, and a Warner Brothers film. The spine–tingling tale of little Rhoda Penmark had a tremendous impact on the thriller genre and generated a whole perdurable crop of creepy kids. Today, The Bad Seed remains a masterpiece of suspense that's as chilling, intelligent, and timely as ever before.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A reissue of the 1954 classic thriller about little Rhoda Penmark, a child serial killer. (Aug.)
Library Journal
March's potboiler about a child who is a sadistic killer sold more than a million copies in 1954. It was adapted as a highly successful Broadway play and Hollywood film. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
P.S. Series
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.43(h) x 0.64(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Bad Seed

By William March

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 William March
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060795484

Chapter One

Later that Summer, when Mrs. Penmark looked back and remembered, when she was caught up in despair so deep that she knew there was no way out, no solution whatever for the circumstances that encompassed her, it seemed to her that June seventh, the day of the Fern Grammar, School picnic, was the day of her last happiness, for never since then had she known contentment or felt peace.

The picnic was an annual, traditional affair held on the beach and among the oaks of Benedict, the old Fern summer place at Pelican Bay. It was here that the impeccable Fern sisters had been born and had lived through their languid, eventless summers. They had refused to sell the old place, and had kept it up faithfully as a gesture of love even when necessity made them turn their town house into a school for the children of their friends. The picnic was always held on the first Saturday of June since the eldest of the three sisters, Miss Octavia, was convinced, despite the occasions on which it had rained that particular day, and the picnic had to be held inside after all, that the first Saturday of June was invariably a fine one.

"When I was a little girl, as young as many of you are today," she would say each season to her pupils, "we always planned a picnic at Benedict for the first Saturday of June. All our relatives and friends came-some of whom we'd not seen for months. It was a sort of reunion, really, with laughter and surprises and gentle, excited voices everywhere. Everyone had a happy, beautiful day. There was no dissension in those days; a quarrel was unknown in the society of the well-bred, a cross word never exchanged between ladies and gentlemen. My sisters and I remember those days with love and great longing."

At this point Miss Burgess Fern, the middle sister, the practical one who handled the business affairs of the school, said, It was so much easier in those days, with a houseful of servants and everybody helpful and anxious to please. Mother and some of the servants would drive down to Benedict a few days in advance of the picnic, sometimes as early as the first of June, when the season was officially open, although the established residents of the coast didn't consider the season really in swing until the day of our picnic."

"Benedict is such a beautiful spot," said Miss Claudia Fern. "Little Lost River bounds our property on the Gulf side, and flows into the bay there." Miss Claudia taught art in the school, and automatically she added, "The landscape at that point reminds one so much of those charming river scenes by Bombois." Then, feeling that some of her pupils might not know who Bombois was, she went on. "For the sake of some of the younger groups, Bombois is a modern French primitive. Oh, he is so cunning in his artlessness! So right in his composition, and in the handling of green! You'll learn much about Bombois later on."

It was from the Fern town house, the school itself, that the picnickers were to begin their long day of pleasure; and the parents of each pupil had been asked to have their particular child on the school lawn not later than eight o'clock, when the chartered busses were scheduled to leave. Thus it was that Mrs. Christine Penmark, who disliked being late or keeping others waiting, set her clock for six, which, she felt, would allow time for her ordinary tasks of the morning and for the remembrance of those last-minute, hurried things which are so easily overlooked.

She had impressed the hour on her mind, saying to herself as she fell asleep, "You will awake precisely at six o'clock, even if something happens to the alarm"; but the alarm went off promptly, and, yawning a little, she sat up in bed. It was, she saw instantly, to be a beautiful day-the day Miss Octavia had promised. She pushed back her blond, almost flaxen, hair and went at once to the bathroom, staring at herself in the mirror for a long moment, her toothbrush held languidly in her hand, as though she were not quite decided what to do with it. Her eyes were gray, wide-set, and serene; her skin tanned and firm. She drew back her lips in that first tentative, trial smile of the day; and standing thus in front of her mirror, she listened absently to the sounds outside her window: an automobile starting in the distance, the twittering of sparrows in the live oaks that lined the quiet street, the sound of a child's voice raised suddenly and then hushed. Then, coming awake quickly, in possession once more of her usual energy, she bathed and dressed and went to her kitchen to begin breakfast.

Later she went to her daughter's room to waken her. The room was empty, and it was so tidy that it gave the impression of not having been used for a long time. The bed was neatly remade, the dressing-table immaculate, with each object in its accustomed place, turned at its usual angle. On a table near the window was one of the jigsaw puzzles that her daughter delighted in, a puzzle only half completed. Mrs. Penmark smiled to herself and went into the child's bathroom. The bathroom was as orderly as the bedroom had been, with the bath towel spread out precisely to dry; and Christine, seeing these things, laughed softly, thinking: I never deserved such a capable child. When I was eight years old, I doubt if I could do anything. She went into the wide, elaborate hall with its elegant, old-fashioned parquetry floors of contrasting woods,


Excerpted from The Bad Seed by William March Copyright © 2005 by William March. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Alistair Cooke
William Marsh is still the unrecognized genuis of our time.

Meet the Author

William March (1893-1954) was born in Mobile, Alabama, attended Valparaiso University in Indiana, and studied law at the University of Alabama. He served in the Marine Corps during World War I and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Navy Cross, and the Croix de Guerre with Palm. After the war, he took a job with the Waterman Steamship Corporation, and worked there for eighteen years before giving up his position to devote himself to writing. March published three volumes of stories and six novels, including The Bad Seed, his final book.

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Bad Seed 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
kren250 More than 1 year ago
Young Mom Christine Penmark knows something isn't quite right with her eight year old daughter, Rhoda. Rhoda seems too perfect: too poised, too polite, too independent. While Christine's husband is working overseas, it becomes more and more clear that something is very wrong with Rhoda. On a school picnic, a young boy drowns; and Rhoda was spotted near the spot where his body is found. Christine starts to wonder if Rhoda had anything to do with it. Then there's the old woman in the place they used to live, who mysteriously fell down the steps and died....while babysitting Rhoda. As more things point towards Rhoda being disburbed, Christine is forced to examine her own childhood and makes a shocking discovery. I first encountered The Bad Seed as a teen, when I stumbled across the movie on cable TV. Because of having seen the movie first, I think much of the book's impact was lost on me. I already knew everything that would happen; there were no twists. Still, it was interesting to read the book; I thought it was well written although it certainly doesn't have the shock value today that it would have when it was first published. Little Rhoda is actually tame compared to more recent villians created by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and others. Be prepared to be more creeped out by The Bad Seed than downright frightened.
Piratesavvy More than 1 year ago
What an amazing novel! I was engrossed in the pages of this book for two days until I completed it and said to myself, "amazing!". The story is thrilling and will keep you constantly entertained. It's also not some mindless thriller that has only one purpose and that's to scare you, but it is also psychological as well. It always keeps you thinking (even after reading!) I reccommend this book to anyone of any age!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was so different from other books I have read since the emotion is so strong and really affects the reader. The Bad Seed made me interested in psychology, since the book provides many mysteries of the mind among the characters. This book was so powerful in emotion and connection, that I even cried at the end! I really recommend this book it's a page-turner.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books! I have seen the movie, but I wanted to read the book as well.  As disturbing as the movie was for its time,  the book is even darker.  This is a must read.
bluelu More than 1 year ago
this is a classic for a reason... the writing is spectacular. the plot is a young girl who kills & kills... need i say more.. it is excellent and will keep you reading until you finish...keep the doors locked. chills & thrills & suspense. & evil!!!!
Bruninha More than 1 year ago
I do recommend it. Great book, well written and the story is quite good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This creepy tale of a seemingly perfect little girl,Rhoda Penmark, takes a turn for the uneccpected. William March uses his own shoking memories and feelings to create this strange tale. Rhoda has a beautiful smile and the best manner;until, she does not win the penmanship medal at her private school. The little boy who one the medal is found drowned at a school picnic, and the medal is missing. Rhoda's mother starts to suspect Rhoda of being emotionless and even calls her " an adroit liar." This story has many swists and turns concerning both Rhoda and her mother Christine, and every page leaves the reader shocked and desperate for more. Plus the author icludes a very sinister and creepy grounds-keeper, Leroy, who is always pestering Rhoda. He sees directly thruhg her and she thrugh him;it is thruogh their relationship that the reader can see some truth. This book is wonderful and suspesful, but it does have a bit of crude terms and language. The Main theme of The Bad Seed is Nature vrs. Nurter, and it leads to many strange ideas. I would recomend this book to anyone who enjoys suspenceful and interesting books that make you think. I would not recomend it for those who enjoy romance novels, nor would i recomend it for children under the age of eighth grade. I personaly loved the creepiness and the fact the Rhoda is an eight year old little girl. I love when the antagonist is a child. There wasn't anything that i majorly disliked, it was a fantastic book that i highly recomend. I would also recomend the Play version adapted by Maxwell Anderson, some of the charactors are changed for the sake of the stage, but it is very similer and also extremely well written.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
i think this book was teh most coolest book i have ever read. i like rhoda she reminds me of my self. just a little. well i recommened that everone be required to read this book. you'll read it and love it .
Guest More than 1 year ago
i read this play in school and wayched the movie and i think it was very very good and i don't do much reading. so for me to say this book was good it must be good