Books »The Bad Seed

The Bad Seed William March was a complicated character, his life was filled with inner turmoil (many claim he was a latent homosexual) and several stays in institutions throughout his prolific career. But, despite some acclaim, he's always been the kind of author whose fans worry he's forever unsung, overlooked and just about forgotten.

And perhaps that would have been his legacy if he hadn't written this final novel, The Bad Seed, which he himself put little stock in but garnered great critical and popular success as well as spawning a play and subsequent film adaptation. Pulling from theories of popular psychiatry of the time he created a suburban terror novel that captured not only readers but, for the first time in his career, literary critics as well.

Some elements of the novel feel a bit dated, especially living in an age when anyone with Court TV can pick up a fairly good grasp of the psychology of serial killers and psychopaths. But the core horror of the novel is timeless. What do you do when you love someone incapable of loving you back? It's a fear anyone can relate to and the novel takes it one step further. Imagine that person is your daughter and not only can she not love you, she's incapable of feeling any compassion but entirely too capable of killing to get what she wants. The guilt-ridden mother's story, as she struggles in isolation from husband and friends with the burden of her daughter's problem, is a harrowing one, even if the child killer theme has been redone a million ways since its publication.

Sadly, March died a month before the book's publication and never got to bask in his novel's success.

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Posted on October 29, 2007

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