Apt Pupil by Stephen King

Kurt Dussander had been at Bergin-Belsen, Auschwitz, and commandant at Patin.  He was now in his 70’s and living in Todd Bowden’s neighborhood.


Todd “looked like the all-American Kid as he pedaled his twenty -six-inch Schwinn with the apehanger handlebars up the residential street.” His 4th grade teacher had written on his report card that he was an “apt pupil”.  His parents cared deeply about him and he seemed to be a fine young man.

Todd had found some old magazines about the Holocaust and became fascinated and obsessed to know more. He went to the library and read all that he could find. He learned about Kurt Dussander, the torture, the death, and the decades-old manhunt. He also learned that this man was living close to his home, using the name Denker. Todd doesn't want to turn him in, he wants to know more. Lots more.

Todd has leverage over Dussander and uses it to learn all that he can, but after enough time passes Dussander gains leverage over Todd for hiding his knowledge of him.  Todd doesn’t exactly change but his harder side seems to be more present. They seem to bring out the worst in each other.

The irony of this story is that it shows that what you read and dwell on changes you and can hurt you.  Is this a message that Steven King really want to tell us?

see literary favorites for more on Stephen King and links to all of his books reviewed on this site