Art and Life
In 2014, Stephen King published a novel titled "Mr. Mercedes.''
In this story, an angry young man steals a Mercedes and plows into a large group of people on a sidewalk. These people are waiting for a job fair to open in the building on that street. Eight people are killed and many more are seriously injured. The killer gets away. One of the cops assigned to the case has recently retired and receives a letter from the killer. He taunts the detective and hints that he may try something similar again.
The killer's next plan is to set off a suicide bomb in a concert hall filled with teens and tweens. The retired detective stops the killer and saves the day with help from two of his friends. Two more books featuring retired cop Bill Hodges have been published since then. Now the story is being made into a TV series.
Am I the only one who sees the similarities to real life and death here? Within two weeks in England, there has been a suicide bomber at a concert and a incident of terrorists driving into pedestrians. Did these criminals read Mr. King's books and get the idea from him? I don't think so. I think it was the other way around. I think he got the idea for these stories just from reading the news everyday.
This was not the case back in 1977. Mr. King published a novella called "Rage" under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. It tells the story of another angry young man who takes a gun to school and shoots several people. In the 80's and 90's, a total of five school shooting incidents were directly linked to the story. All five students had read it and some claimed to have been inspired by it.
Consequentally, Mr. King allowed the book to go out of print and refuses to let it ever be printed again. Is he to blame for all those incidents? I don't think so. I bet those kids all had serious problems long before they read that story. Nevertheless I do think Mr. King did the right thing.
When Mark David Chapman was arrested for killing John Lennon, he was calmly sitting on the steps of the Dakota reading "Catcher in the Rye.'' He claimed it was his statement and manifesto. Salinger's book is still in print and no other violent incidents have been associated with it. That story doesn't contain any such incidents of violence so why did Chapman choose to claim it inspired him? It does have some minor violence but mostly it is a story about Holden Caulfield's stuggles with the world and mostly with himself. Maybe that's why Chapman related to the story so much.
But back to Mr King's more recent work. should it be banned, removed from libraries and bookstores just because it bears some similarities to recent incidents? Again I say NO. If anything, it should be required reading for police and anti-terrorism units across the country and maybe even around the world. The retired cop's detective work is solid and he stops the bad guy before it gets really ugly. Actually, he has a heart attack right at the end and his young friends stop the bad guy. But it was his hard work and determination that got them to that point.
I don't know what the main theme of the TV show is going to be but I'm hoping it will stay on course with the books and maybe inspire some good and hope for millions of viewers.
Again, let me reiterate, Art mostly imitates Life. Sometimes art inspires people to commit violence but mostly the other way around. So don't blame art for the acts of a few crazies in the world.