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First edition paperback.

The Regulators is the 37th (or 38th) book published by Stephen King; it was his 31st (or 32nd) novel, and the sixth written under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman. It was the first of Bachman's two "trunk-novels," being described as a manuscript discovered by Bachman's widow following his "death." The book was released by Dutton on 24 September 1996, on the same day as its "twinner-novel", Desperation.


At the beginning, we learn about the residents of Poplar Street, a normal Ohio block. Brad and Belinda "Bee" Josephson are the only black couple. The Sodersons are next; Gary is an alcoholic and Marielle is generally disliked by most residents of the block. Audrey Wyler lives with her autistic nephew Seth Garin, whose entire family was murdered in a drive-by shooting. Cammie Reed lives with her twin sons Jim and Dave. Then there are Kim and Susi Geller, mother and daughter; Susi's friend Debbie Ross is visiting. There is also a store at the end where Cynthia Smith works and a hippie named Steve stops by. On the other side is John Marinville, an ex-author and ex-drug addict. Other residents include the Carver family - David, Pie, and their children Ralph and Ellen; Tom Billingsly, a retired veterinarian; Peter and Mary Jackson - the latter is having an affair; the empty Hobart place; then a creepy ex-cop named Collie Entragian.

A young boy named Cary is doing his paper route on this road, and a mysterious van pulls up behind him and kills him in a drive-by that parallels the shooting that killed the Garins. The gunman almost shoots the Carver kids, but kills the Reed's dog Hannibal, instead. Although everyone is shaken up, no one else was hurt. They all take refuge in their homes. Johnny tries to call the police, but he instead gets a mouth-breathing little kid reciting a lewd rhyme.

A while later, several vans return. One rear ends the nervous Mary Jackson. She gets out, and the driver shoots half of her head off and kills her. In the chaos, David Carver and Debbie Ross are killed, and Marielle has her arm shot off and it hangs by a thread. Everyone, except for Audrey and Seth, hides in the Carver and Billingsley homes, and the vans leave. While trying to stitch Marielle's wound, Entragian accidentally angers her, so she struggles and her arm is severed in the process.

The vans return later and shoot incredibly over-sized slugs at the survivors. Pie Carver has her face ripped apart by one of these, and the Hobart place begins to burn. Peter Jackson runs to the body of Mary Jackson, where he discovers that the vans are only an illusion, and it is only as if pictures of them are being projected. Peter is sucked toward the Wyler/Garin house, and the vans disappear.

While this is occurring, we learn that Seth Garin was addicted to shows like Bonanza, a spaghetti western called The Regulators, and a sci-fi cartoon called MotoKops 2200. Seth is autistic and normally unable to speak. On the day his family was murdered, they were traveling through Desperation, Nevada. Seth amazed everyone by speaking in full sentences, shocking his family. Seth told them to go to Desperation, and they did so Seth would keep talking. They toured a rediscovered mine that is home to a spirit known as Tak, which took over the mind of anyone who could let it. Because Seth is autistic, his mind was vulnerable, and Tak possessed him and forced characters from MotoKops2200 to kill his entire family. Seth was then taken in by Audrey and Herb Wyler. Tak made their lives a living hell, drove the Hobarts into leaving, and lusted for Audrey. When Tak tried to take over Herb to have sex with her, Herb refused and Tak realized he couldn't enter his stronger mind. With no further use for Herb, Tak forced him to commit suicide. Audrey's only way of escape was in her mind, where she can communicate with Seth, and go to "Audrey's Place", a safe haven that originated from a memory of a 1982 trip to a resort called Mohonk. At this resort, she spent a weekend with her best friend Jan.

In the present, Peter is brutally hurt and brainwashed by Tak. He is near death, and Tak tells him to enter a nearby Greenbelt and find his "friend," a dead bum. Tak is using Seth's mind to turn Poplar Street into a Western-themed world where he can make anything happen. He intends to kill everybody and feed off of their pain, which makes him stronger. Audrey, however, plots to get rid of Tak, and does so by feeding Seth laxatives, as Tak hates to be around Seth when he defecates. Audrey escapes to the survivors.

At the Billingsley home, Steve and Entragian leave for the Greenbelt; while at the Carver home, Jim, Dave, and Johnny leave for it as well; neither group is aware of each other. Steve and Entragian notice that the world is changing around them. Seth's drawings of animals, landscapes, and bullets are becoming real, and the land is now almost entirely Western, complete with cacti and signs leading to the settings of Western shows/movies. A mountain lion attacks them and they run back. Jim sees them, and blindly shoots before realizing it's Steve and Entragian. Entragian is shot in the head, and he crawls into a cactus, killing himself. Johnny screams at Jim for doing it, and Jim kills himself out of guilt. After hearing the gunfire, Brad, Cammie, and Cynthia come running. Cammie, overcome with emotion, tries to kill Johnny when Dave screams that Johnny killed Jim. The mountain lion breaks up the dispute, and Cammie kills it instead. Peter comes toward them and asks where his friend is. Steve tells him where the bum is, and every survivor goes to the Carvers'.

Peter finds the bum and sits down to talk to him. His senses are deteriorating, and Tak uses his physical state as an opportunity to make a cactus grow and stab him in the back, paralyzing him. (It is implied he is dead.)

Marielle, at this point, has died from blood loss, and Gary has drunk himself into deep sleep, and Tom thinks he's dead. He leaves Gary behind. Gary is attacked and killed by a gila monster.

Kim Geller's mental stability is slowly deteriorating, and eventually she starts racial fights against Bee, which causes Bee to almost break her arm and Susi to abandon her mother. Audrey tells everyone what's going on, and tells them that the Regulators are coming. They eventually do, and Kim runs in a rage outside to tell them the police are coming, and they kill her. The houses have already changed to a more western theme, and all of them are destroyed besides the Carvers'. But before they can be killed, Seth goes to the bathroom and the attack stops.

Audrey and Johnny run to the Wyler/Garin home, unaware that Seth has telepathically told Cammie to murder him. Without Seth, Tak cannot possess anyone because of their stronger minds, and cannot harm anyone. Audrey sweeps Seth off of the bowl and runs away. In his mind, Seth has escaped to "Seth's Place" just as Audrey goes to Mohonk. There, he is metaphorically killing himself and "turning off his emotions". Cammie is able to kill both Seth and Audrey. In "Seth's Place", he is "opening the door" which he hopes leads to where he wants to go (it is not revealed until the end). Audrey and Seth die hugging each other.

Johnny realizes that Tak can go into other peoples' minds, but cannot stay for long because they are stronger. Tak possesses Cammie, he makes many hollow threats, and finally her head explodes, killing Cammie. We are unsure if Tak is really dead, as there is a bizarre cowboy cloud in the sky.

The houses and street return to normal, and the police finally come. The survivors - Brad, Belinda, Ellen, Ralph, Tom, Dave, Susi, Cynthia, Johnny, and Steve - finally go out into the sunshine. Their fates are all implied: The Josephsons will take care of the Carvers; Dave and Susi will take care of each other; Cynthia and Steve become friends; Tom and Johnny will go back to their normal lives. Johnny tells an officer that he's going "To sing a song about the good guys and the bad guys."

In a letter from Mohonk in 1986, we hear about a woman who, while staying there, has heard stories about ghosts at the resort. It is strongly implied that when Seth and Audrey died, they became those ghosts and reside there, in "Audrey's Place". Attached to the letter is a simple picture, presumably drawn by Seth, portraying Seth and Audrey holding hands.

Twinner to Desperation

The Regulators is the twinner novel to Desperation; as such, it is almost a mirror of the latter novel. The action in The Regulators takes place not in Nevada but in Ohio. John Marinville is a recurring character, as are Peter and Mary Jackson, Steve, Cynthia, Tom Billingsley, and Collie Entragian, although Entragian is not the antagonist in this novel. Similarly, while Audrey was an antagonist in Desperation, in this novel she is a sympathetic protagonist and one of Tak's primary victims. The Carver family returns as well, although the parents and children have been switched, and David Carver is now married to Pie Carver. Tak retains elements of his Western-style, and appears to have originated from the same place as in Desperation.


There are two different audiobook versions of The Regulators: an abridged version read by Kate Nelligan and an unabridged version read by Frank Muller.

The Bachman Books
RageThe Long WalkRoadworkThe Running ManThinnerThe RegulatorsBlaze