The Regulators

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The Regulators
First edition cover
Author Stephen King under the name of Richard Bachman
Country USA
Language English
Genre Science fiction,
Horror novel
Publisher Dutton
Publication date
September 24, 1996
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 480
ISBN 978-0-525-94190-3

The Regulators is a novel by Stephen King under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. It was published in 1996 at the same time as its "mirror" novel, Desperation. The two novels represent parallel universes relative to one another, and most of the characters present in one novel's world also exist in the other novel's reality, albeit in different circumstances. Additionally, the hardcover first editions of each novel, if set side by side, make a complete painting, and on the back of each cover is also a peek at the opposite's cover.

King had previously "killed off" Bachman after the pseudonym was publicly exposed around the time of the 1984 release of the Bachman novel Thinner. However, on the book's jacket and in a tongue-in-cheek introduction by the book's editor, it was alleged that this 1996 work was written by Bachman years earlier, but the manuscript had only recently been discovered by his widow in a trunk.


King states that he got the idea for the book while having a conversation with the late Sam Peckinpah.[1] The novel originated as a screenplay titled "The Shotgunners".[1] Apparently, Peckinpah liked it and made some suggestions about the script. King wrote a second draft for it, but Peckinpah died before King finished the script.[1]


The story takes place in the fictional town of Wentworth, Ohio, a typical suburban community. On Poplar Street, an autistic boy named Seth has gained the power to control reality through the help of a being known as Tak. Soon, Poplar Street begins to change shape, transforming from a quiet suburb into a wild west caricature based on what Seth has seen on his television. Meanwhile, the other residents of the street are being attacked by the many beings that Seth's imagination is creating, due to Tak's control over them. These residents are forced to work together to stop Seth and Tak from completely transforming the world around them and stop Tak before he kills anyone else.

Seth's imagination is heavily influenced by a western called The Regulators and a cartoon called MotoKops 2200. The novel contains excerpts from scripts for both.


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 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. He had a really bad speech problem. 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 him. Because Seth is autistic, his mind is vulnerable and Tak possesses him and forces 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, and he makes many hollow threats; however, the strain is too much 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.


  • Seth Garin- Main character of the book. He is an eight-year-old boy with autism. His entire family is murdered in a reported drive-by shooting while on a vacation trip to the home of his father's old college buddy.
  • William Garin- Seth's father.
  • June Garin- Seth's mother.
  • John Garin- Seth's brother.
  • Mary Lou Garin- Seth's sister.
  • Audrey Wyler- Seth's aunt. She takes custody of Seth after his family's unsolved murder. Lives at 247 Poplar Street.
  • Herb Wyler- Seth's uncle. Commits suicide after Seth moves into his home.
  • Brad and Belinda Josephson- The only black couple living on Poplar Street. Lives at 251 Poplar Street, corner of Poplar and Bear.
  • Cynthia Smith- Clerk at the EZ Stop 24. She has been on the job one week.
  • Steve Ames- Truck driver that stops outside EZ Stop 24. He is the only character not from Poplar Street.
  • Ellen Carver- Eleven year old daughter of David and Kirsten Carver. Prefers to be called "Ellie".
  • Ralph Carver- 6 year old brother of Ellie. Very spoiled and obnoxious, calls Ellie "Margret" to make her angry.
  • Kirsten Carver- Mother of Ellie and Ralph, wife to David. David calls her "Pie".
  • David Carver- Father to Ellie and Ralph, husband to Kirsten. Works for the post office. The Carvers live at 248 Poplar Street.
  • Gary and Marielle Soderson- Gary is an alcoholic. Marielle is not well-liked by her neighbors. The Sodersons live at 249 Poplar Street.
  • Cammie Reed- Mother to the twins, Jim and Dave.
  • Jim and Dave Reed- Fraternal teen-aged twins.
  • Tom Billingsley- Retired veterinarian. Lives at 246 Poplar Street.
  • Peter Jackson- Professor at Ohio State. Lives at 244 Poplar Street.
  • Mary Jackson- Wife of Peter. Works at an accounting firm. Is having an affair.
  • Collie Entragian- Former police officer kicked off the force for alleged misconduct. Lives at 240 Poplar Street.
  • Cary Ripton- Delivery boy for the Wentworth Shopper. Plays back up shortstop for the Wentworth American Legion Team.
  • Kim Gellar- Lives at 243 Poplar Street with her teen-aged daughter Susie.
  • Susie Gellar- Lives at 243 Poplar Street.
  • Debbie Ross- Friend of Susie; is visiting for the day.
  • Johnny Marinville- Author of the popular Pat the Kitty Kat children's books. Lives at 250 Poplar Street.
  • Tak- Evil entity that possesses Seth Garin.

References to other King works[edit]

In the novel's epilogue, a letter written by a woman on her honeymoon to her friend mentions one of Stephen King's earlier works, The Shining. "You're the only person I know who's read not just one copy of The Shining to tatters, but two!" "...although I don't suppose it's much like Stephen King's Overlook..."

The Regulators is also mentioned in The Wolves of Calla.