The Running Man: A Novel

The Running Man: A Novel

by Stephen King

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reissue)

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A desperate man attempts to win a reality TV game where the only objective is to stay alive in this #1 national bestseller from Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman.

“Tomorrow at noon, the hunt begins. Remember his face!"

Ben Richards is a desperate man. With no job, no money, no way out, and a young daughter in need of proper medical attention, he must turn to the only possibility of striking it rich in this near-future dystopian America: participating in the ultra-violent TV programming of the government-sanctioned Games Network. Ben soon finds himself selected as a contestant on the biggest and the best that the Games Network has to offer: “The Running Man,” a no-holds-barred thirty-day struggle to stay alive as public enemy number one, relentlessly hunted by an elite strike force bent on killing him as quickly as possible in front of an audience all-too eager to see that happen. It means a billion dollars in prize money if he can live for the next month. No one has ever survived longer than eight days. But desperation can push a person do things they never thought possible—and Ben Richards is willing to go the distance in this ultimate game of life and death....

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501143854
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication date: 04/19/2016
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 36,205
Product dimensions: 4.12(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Stephen King is the author of more than sixty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes The Institute, Elevation, The Outsider, Sleeping Beauties (cowritten with his son Owen King) and the Bill Hodges trilogy, End of Watch, Finders Keepers, and Mr. Mercedes (an Edgar Award winner for Best Novel and an AT&T Audience Network original television series). His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller. His epic works The Dark Tower and It are the basis for major motion pictures, with It now the highest grossing horror film of all time. He is the recipient of the 2018 PEN America Literary Service Award, the 2014 National Medal of Arts, and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.


Bangor, Maine

Date of Birth:

September 21, 1947

Place of Birth:

Portland, Maine


B.S., University of Maine at Orono, 1970

Read an Excerpt

The Running Man . . . Minus 100
She was squinting at the thermometer in the white light coming through the window. Beyond her, in the drizzle, the other highrises in Co-Op City rose like the gray turrets of a penitentiary. Below, in the airshaft, clotheslines flapped with ragged wash. Rats and plump alley cats circulated through the garbage.

She looked at her husband. He was seated at the table, staring up at the Free-Vee with steady, vacant concentration. He had been watching it for weeks now. It wasn’t like him. He hated it, always had. Of course, every Development apartment had one—it was the law—but it was still legal to turn them off. The Compulsory Benefit Bill of 2021 had failed to get the required two-thirds majority by six votes. Ordinarily they never watched it. But ever since Cathy had gotten sick, he had been watching the big-money giveaways. It filled her with sick fear.

Behind the compulsive shrieking of the half-time announcer narrating the latest newsie flick, Cathy’s flu-hoarsened wailing went on and on.

“How bad is it?” Richards asked.

“Not so bad.”

“Don’t shit me.”

“It’s a hundred and four.”

He brought both fists down on the table. A plastic dish jumped into the air and clattered down.

“We’ll get a doctor. Try not to worry so much. Listen—” She began to babble frantically to distract him; he had turned around and was watching the Free-Vee again. Half-time was over, and the game was on again. This wasn’t one of the big ones, of course, just a cheap daytime come-on called Treadmill to Bucks. They accepted only chronic heart, liver, or lung patients, sometimes throwing in a crip for comic relief. Every minute the contestant could stay on the treadmill (keeping up a steady flow of chatter with the emcee), he won ten dollars. Every two minutes the emcee asked a Bonus Question in the contestant’s category (the current pal, a heart-murmur from Hackensack, was an American history buff) which was worth fifty dollars. If the contestant, dizzy, out of breath, heart doing fantastic rubber acrobatics in his chest, missed the question, fifty dollars was deducted from his winnings and the treadmill was speeded up.

“We’ll get along. Ben. We will. Really. I . . . I’ll . . .”

“You’ll what?” He looked at her brutally. “Hustle? No more, Sheila. She’s got to have a real doctor. No more block midwife with dirty hands and whiskey breath. All the modern equipment. I’m going to see to it.”

He crossed the room, eyes swiveling hypnotically to the Free-Vee bolted into one peeling wall above the sink. He took his cheap denim jacket off its hook and pulled it on with fretful gestures.

“No! No, I won’t . . . won’t allow it. You’re not going to—”

“Why not? At worst you can get a few oldbucks as the head of a fatherless house. One way or the other you’ll have to see her through this.”

She had never really been a handsome woman, and in the years since her husband had not worked she had grown scrawny, but in this moment she looked beautiful . . . imperious. “I won’t take it. I’d rather sell the govie a two-dollar piece of tail when he comes to the door and send him back with his dirty blood money in his pocket. Should I take a bounty on my man?”

He turned on her, grim and humorless, clutching something that set him apart, an invisible something for which the Network had ruthlessly calculated. He was a dinosaur in this time. Not a big one, but still a throwback, an embarrassment. Perhaps a danger. Big clouds condense around small particles.

He gestured at the bedroom. “How about her in an unmarked pauper’s grave? Does that appeal to you?”

It left her with only the argument of insensate sorrow. Her face cracked and dissolved into tears.

“Ben, this is just what they want, for people like us, like you—”

“Maybe they won’t take me,” he said, opening the door. “Maybe I don’t have whatever it is they look for.”

“If you go now, they’ll kill you. And I’ll be here watching it. Do you want me watching that with her in the next room?” She was hardly coherent through her tears.

“I want her to go on living.” He tried to close the door, but she put her body in the way.

“Give me a kiss before you go, then.”

He kissed her. Down the hall, Mrs. Jenner opened her door and peered out. The rich odor of corned beef and cabbage, tantalizing, maddening, drifted to them. Mrs. Jenner did well—she helped out at the local discount drug and had an almost uncanny eye for illegal-card carriers.

“You’ll take the money?” Richards asked. “You won’t do anything stupid?”

“I’ll take it,” she whispered. “You know I’ll take it.”

He clutched her awkwardly, then turned away quickly, with no grace, and plunged down the crazily slanting, ill-lighted stairwell.

She stood in the doorway, shaken by soundless sobs, until she heard the door slam hollowly five flights down, and then she put her apron up to her face. She was still clutching the thermometer she had used to take the baby’s temperature.

Mrs. Jenner crept up softly and twitched the apron. “Dearie,” she whispered, “I can put you onto black market penicillin when the money gets here . . . real cheap . . . good quality—”

“Get out!” she screamed at her.

Mrs. Jenner recoiled, her upper lip rising instinctively away from the blackened stumps of her teeth. “Just trying to help,” she muttered, and scurried back to her room.

Barely muffled by the thin plastiwood, Cathy’s wails continued. Mrs. Jenner’s Free-Vee blared and hooted. The contestant on Treadmill to Bucks had just missed a Bonus Question and had had a heart attack simultaneously. He was being carried off on a rubber stretcher while the audience applauded.

Upper lip rising and falling metronomically, Mrs. Jenner wrote Sheila Richards’s name down in her notebook. “We’ll see,” she said to no one. “We’ll just see, Mrs. Smell-So-Sweet.”

She closed the notebook with a vicious snap and settled down to watch the next game.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“Under any name King mesmerizes the reader.”—Chicago Sun-Times

Customer Reviews

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The Running Man 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 222 reviews.
LaNenaFiny More than 1 year ago
So this would have been the first Stephen King book I read cover to cover. I was REALLY excited with the story line and could not wait to start reading it. The mistake I made was start at the beginning and am warning you about it because during the introduction "The Importance of Being Bachman" King gives away the ending!!! Not just a "Oh, and then something negative happens" but "Blah, blah, and then he blah blah" specifically. If you want to enjoy the book (as I am CERTAIN I would have) DO NOT READ THE INTRODUCTION!!!! Who does that?? Yes, I get it, it has been republished so you want to add a note, but for those who would have picked up the book for the first time (never had seen the movie either so I don't know if it tells the true ending) the book has been ruined!!!. . . I always pictured Stephen King as a smart man. . . WRONG! So please! Add a HUGE SPOILER warning if you are giving away the ending of a book before the story even starts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novel is a tense, page-turning, heart stopping chase. I wasn't expecting it to be so suspenseful or so dark. As others have mentioned, don't read the introduction until after you have read the novel since it reveals the ending rather matter-of-factly. The "Introduction" really should be changed to an "Afterward" with a disclaimer that it reveals key plot elements of The Running Man. I'm not sure why the publishers haven't made this change in recent printings. Incidentally, the other Bachman books share the same introduction, so if you are reading Roadwork or The Long Walk, for example, and you haven't yet read The Running Man, skip the introduction. This novel is more tightly plotted and cinematic than the other Bachman books. The 100 short chapters, titled only as a numerical countdown marching feverishly towards 0, contribute to the feeling that time is running out. The social commentary is biting and caustic, and the ending is both sad and chilling. Although I'm a huge Stephen King fan, I neglected to read this book because of my associations to the movie. The book is much better, much darker, and I am glad that I read it. For King/Bachman fans - don't miss it.
xxSCARFACExx More than 1 year ago
This was a great book and it really lies mention to the difference in social groups, as in poor and rich. It is a fiction and to the extreme. The ending is very unpredictable and you will find yourself wanting to keep reading to finish the book. I will definitely keep for a book I might read again
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read 4 of the Bachman Books, by far this is the best. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys other Stephen King novels. Five out of five stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is definitely NOT like the movie! The book is so much better! I just finished reading it, and let me tell you, it is so mind boggling, you'll never put it down! Excellent read!
Max Richardson More than 1 year ago
You know, I'm sure this book is great, but there's no way to tell from the free sample. It's nine pages long, and eight of them are copyright information and the table of contents. Barnes and Noble, if you're reading this, please lengthen some of your samples to include some of the actual story. People don't buy books for the introductions.
Guest More than 1 year ago
King wrote this book back when he was still pretending to be Bachman, and it is nice to see that it is being published with the King name on it because it was a great read. I was a little nervous about reading this book because lets face it, the movie was terrible. Thankfully the story is much different, better, from the one staring a certain California Governor. This is not horror story, which may turn off some King loyalists, but more of an action thriller. It's set in 2025 where the rich get richer and the poor die young. The only way to make some money for your family is to enter the Games.
Tannah More than 1 year ago
The Running Man is set in a 2025 American society in which the government is corrupt, pollution is rampant, and the television, or free-vee, runs people's lives. The protagonist, Ben Richards, is an unemployed man struggling to care for his wife and sick six month old daughter. As a last resort, Richards finally enters as a contestant in the game show Running Man, a show in which the contestant is given a head start and is then hunted by professional bounty hunters and essentially, all of America. For every hour he remains alive, money is sent to his family. While this novel sends meaningful messages about corruption, pollution, and social chaos, it was only vaguely entertaining and left me feeling indifferent about the themes and book as a whole. Though it was a bit of a page-turner, by the end, I felt as though I had only wasted my time reading it. I was more optimistic in the beginning of the novel, but the twisted ending was simply unnecessary and unsatisfying. Ben Richards, who, in the start of the novel the reader identified with and was rooting for, was alienated from the reader by the end because of his extreme actions and thoughts. He began as the underdog, but quickly became a heartless man whose only aim was inflicting pain on others. Though some may argue that his actions were justified and necessary for the author to effectively get his point across, I was slightly angered by the time I had finished the novel. Though the novel does communicate some frightening truths concerning the future of our nation regarding pollution and social class separation, it was overall not worth reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the running man is one of the few books i have ever read in which i could not remove my eyes from the pages. if you were only to read this by stephen king, i think you would have a good summary of his style.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Running Man is evidence that Stephen King is the best action thriller writer around. The book is set in a world of pollution and turmoil, only twenty years ahead of our own. Only a few years ago the government made a law forcing every one to get a Free-Vee, it¿s almost like today¿s television, except for the game shows. The Game Network makes people not compete for just money but for their survival. Ben Richards, out of work and poverty-stricken and is unable to afford a doctor for his seriously ill daughter, Cathy . After watching her suffer with no medical care, he decides to collaborate with the thing he hates most, the Games. He soon gets picked for the deadliest game, if you lost you would not end up in the hospital with a heart attack or loose one or two limbs, you would die. This game name is The Running Man. I thoroughly enjoyed this well written novel it had a perfect blend of suspense action with the numerous plot twists. Besides the action and the main plot, this book illustrates our fears of the future. Stephen Kings writing leaves no room for improvement and demonstrates amazing writing anywhere. If you liked the book you would love, some of King¿s other novels. These include Salem¿s Lot, and the Dark Tower series.
Refill 5 months ago
Some people like to say that stories like “The Running Man” are prescient in their looks at reality television, but since these shows are typically not putting contestants in any real danger, I find that comparison ridiculous. Instead, this story seems far more accurate in its depiction of news being manipulated to be entertainment and also create an impression that is not always true. And, unlike the inferior movie that was loosely based on it, the book is far more successful in presenting an uprising in a dystopian future. Ben Richards is an unhappy man living a life nobody wants. All he really seems to have going for him is his family, which includes a sick daughter. To help raise money for her, Richard appears on a popular show where he will be chased around the country by people who want to kill him leading him to have to make life-and-death decisions while deciding how much he wants to stop the system that has created this world he lives in. Unlike the film, there are no hockey stick or chainsaw-wielding stalkers which may seem like a letdown, but Stephen King (writing under his pseudonym Richard Bachman) does an effective piece of writing that is even more exciting (although, exciting may not be the word for some of the dumb fight scenes in the movie.) It is actually the action sequences that are the most useless parts of the book since they can be somewhat difficult to follow along with. But the drama of a man who has little to hope for, and people he meets, is so much more important. And it leads to one of the most sudden endings I have ever read (helped along by a countdown format for each chapter heading.) A bit depressing, keep going with the story, as the way our hero evades those hunting him makes for a great journey. So far, this is my favorite of King’s Bachman books. Four stars out of five.
Anonymous 6 months ago
One of my favorite Stephen King books
matthew254 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Running Man is Stephen King's other, and in my opinion, better of his dystopian game-show books he wrote under the Richard Bachman name (the other being The Long Walk). This is my second go around for this book and I'll just say what I say anytime the book is mentioned: it has almost nothing to do with the cheesy 80s Arnold Schwarzenegger film; King's book is decidedly more enjoyable. I shamefully like the movie, too, but for nostalgia's sake.
daxman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As far as chase books go, this one is the greatest.
Austin12 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The novel, The Running Man, by Stephan King, encompasses the theme of the don't make dumb decisions. In the beginning, Ben Richards, the protaginist, struggles with needing money to support himself and others so he joins a game that can nearly take his life but the outcome of one billion new dollars if he stays alive. Throughout the middle he perserveres through nearly losing his life by a shot gun blast and being knifed by the other participating in the 30 day hunting game. (102/276)
jseger9000 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ben Richards needs money in a bad way. He has nothing to lose, but a lot to live for. His desperation drives him to sign up for The Running Man, free-vee¿s hottest game show. If he can survive being hunted for thirty days, he will win the grand prize of one billion New Dollars. So far the record is eight days.The Running Man is about as stripped down a book as Stephen King is likely to write. In the introduction he mentions it was written within a week and published with very few changes. A very straight ahead thriller that churns right along with barely a pause for breath.The book is fast paced and fun with a wallop of an ending, but the social commentary is a little heavy handed. A fun book and the most simply entertaining of the Bachman books in this collection, but it is far from being top-tier King. The Running Man is a goof (though not as fun as it should have been).
AFishCalledAmy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's the year 2025 and Ben Richards, resident of the dystopian Co-Op City, is out of work, his daughter is dying of pneumonia, and his wife is prostituting herself to feed their family. The only thing left for him to do is run. He auditions for Games Network, a government-run reality television station, that run compulsory program on all of the city's televisions 24 hours a day. He is selected to be a contestant on the Network's most popular TV show The Running Man. On the Running Man contestants are branded enemies of the state, released into society, and win 100 New Dollars for their beneficiaries for each hour that they are able to evade capture and execution by the show's hired "Hunters."Let me stop right here and preface my review of this book by saying that I am a HUGE fan of King. He can weave stories so convincing that I am able to suspend disbelief for literally anything that he is able to come up with. Seriously. The man could write about homicidal bananas, and I would be completely on board (and most likely terrified of bananas for the rest of my life).With that said, on to my review . . .I really enjoyed the running man. Like King's other "Bachman Books" The Running Man is grittier than a lot of his other work, and that's one of my favorite things about King writing as Bachman, he really makes you feel the desperation of the situation. Ben Richards is a great character. Initially I found him annoying, but as the book progressed his snarkiness really grew on me. The cast of supporting characters is excellent as well. Bradley, one of the people who helps Ben in New York is one of my most favorite King characters ever, and "Chief Hunter" McCone is so appropriately sleazy that he made my skin crawl. The story moved very quickly. There were a lot of well written action sequences and completely unexpected plot twists. It held my attention so well that I was able to finish it in a single sitting. My only real gripe was the ending, which is the case with quite a few King books. To me it felt a bit rushed, but maybe that's because I was hoping for a different outcome. Overall I'd recommend The Running Man to any King fans or fans of dystopian literature; and with the popularity of more recent works like The Hunger Games and Battle Royale it's really worth a look for fans of those series as well.
blockbuster1994 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very successful, but unlikey King novel. Characters are developed quickly. The pace is fast and furious. Nothing is supernatural or overtly frightening, but, oh man, is this a sinister place set sometime in the future. The Running Man is a nationally televised gameshow featuring ordinary US citizens, who through their own personal circumstances, volunteer to be chased by professionally trained headhunters with the goal that the citizen contestants will be executed for pure entertainment value. It is possible to for a person to win by outmaneuvering the executioners, but in reality, nobody has ever survived for more than 8 days. Despite knowing the odds and probable outcome, Ben Richards enters the game, with the hope that he might last long enough to earn enough game money to provide medical treatment for his daughter, gravely ill with pneumonia. Or perhaps from pollution created by the capitalistic, greedy country that has evolved. However, Richards proves to be the ultimate player and his experience is cliffhanger. I could not put this story down.My secret favorite character is McCone, the premiere headhunter, who King describes at one point his snarling at Richards as "a completely unconscious gesture, one that could probably be traced all the way to McCone's ancestors, the Neanderthals who crept up behind their enemies with large rocks rather than battling to death in an honorable, but unintelligent manner."
placo75 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An entertaining, quick read. It differs quite a bit from the movie. This book was originally written by King under the pseudonym, Richard Bachman.
TheTwoDs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Completely different from the film, the book takes the game across the country and puts Ben Richards, who looks nothing like Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a battle for survival amongst the public.
FrancescaFB More than 1 year ago
Stephen King writes great stories, stories that take you away from your realities and brings you to a place you have never been before, never seen before, never felt before, if just for a little while. THE RUNNING MAN is the best sort of magic we all need.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In response to the comment written on july 16, i think your nook may have malfunctioned. I recieved 4 chapters of the running man-Quills
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You must read this book!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've read it before and I remembered the story and how it ends. But its One of my favorites. Excellent writing imagery.
ellison61 More than 1 year ago
In 2025 the rich watch TV and the poor compete on TV. Ben has a sick daughter so he applies for a chase-to-the death show. He goes to NYC and then Boston. He eventually car jacks a woman and uses her purse to bluff his way onto an airplane. Swearing, violence, and social commentary. Insightful.