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The Bad Seed

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  13,739 ratings  ·  606 reviews
Now reissued – William March's 1954 classic thriller that's as chilling, intelligent and timely as ever before. This paperback reissue includes a new P.S. section with author interviews, insights, features, suggested reading and more.

What happens to ordinary families into whose midst a child serial killer is born? This is the question at the center of William March's class
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 28th 2005 by Harper Perennial (first published 1954)
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Duane IIRC there is NO evidence that psychopathy (which is what we're talking about in the case of this girl) is hereditary. Genetic, maybe - the jury is…moreIIRC there is NO evidence that psychopathy (which is what we're talking about in the case of this girl) is hereditary. Genetic, maybe - the jury is out on that, and research is ongoing - but a psychopath can "pop up", recognizable from birth, in an otherwise completely normal family with upbringing virtually identical to its siblings. There's no correlation with criminality in earlier generations, though.

There's some evidence of a biological origin for true psychopathy (including the preceding), but it's hotly debated. The "Psychology Community" does NOT want to admit that that's even possible, because it implies that psychology cannot "cure" psychopaths (which does in fact appear to be the case) - something that's absolutely anaethema to The Medical Community, since it in turn implies that once identified, they need to be... um... Er... uh... "Removed From Society". (This applies, in a lesser degree, to any possible *hereditary* origin for criminality in general, as well... if it's deemed to be "not the criminal's fault", which the sikes would *love* to claim (they think), that also means that the "Sufferer" is *doomed* to being at least susceptible to criminal behavior, and believe me, if "Society" latches on to *that* idea, sooner or later anybody with the "wrong" DNA profile is going to be stigmatized for *life*, from *birth* (something the sikes, and the "Gay" community, and a whole lot of others haven't really thought through, and may find out the hard way, after it's far too late to do anything about it...).

Now, as far as criminality in general goes... that's a much more nebulous and uncertain question... criminality in general, while it encompasses psychopathy, certainly isn't limited to that in origin, and is *a lot* more influenced by "nurture" than "nature". You take any child and beat and abuse him or her and give them amphetamines and alcohol, sometimes even before their teens, and you can be just about guaranteed of creating a criminal.

(sorry for the long and digressive answer, but you've gotten onto one of my favorite subjects...)(less)

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The Bad Seed by William March is a 1972 Dell publication. This book was originally published in 1954.

Evil children can be found in literature, going back centuries. Matilda from ‘The Monk’ by Matthew Lewis ,written back in 1796, for example. However, evil children became a popular horror novel trope beginning in the fifties and reaching an epic peak in the seventies.

Evil children still make an appearance in movies and novels, never completely going out of style, and of course, are not solely c
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When a thriller written in 1954 crosses your path and you take a chance on it and happen to really enjoy it, it can only be described as like finding an unopened Christmas Gift in the middle of July.

The Bad Seed is a 1954 novel by American Writer William March and tells the story of a mother’s realization that her young daughter has committed murder.

A short but chilling and suspenseful piece of fiction that really held my interest as is as relevant now as it was back in 1954. What happens when
It seemed to her suddenly that violence was an inescapable factor of the heart, perhaps the most important factor of all - an ineradicable thing that lay, like a bad seed, behind kindness, behind compassion, behind the embrace of love itself.  Sometimes it lay deeply hidden, sometimes it lay close to the surface, but always it was there, ready to appear, under the right conditions, in all its irrational dreadfulness.

How many of you I wonder remember or have seen the 1956 movie classic based on
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always try to discover the Goth elements within beloved horror classics. There is but a few of them, and so I do this in order to find the true American thread: that of Gothic Horror, found from New World horror fables to Hawthorne; from Poe to Norman Bates. What makes them American, what makes them monstrous? Why are they still relevant? Why are they still imitated and remade?

The Bad Seed is "The Good Son." It's "The Omen." Guess it's this year's "Hereditary."

Except it came first. And for the
classic reverie
I decided it was time to read William March's The Bad Seed, though this Kindle edition was bought long ago, after seeing the 1956 version by Mervyn Leroy last weekend.

All excerpts are from this edition.

"Movie Adaptation of William March’s THE BAD SEED 1956: Produced by Warner Bros. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Starring Nancy Kelly, Patty McCormack, and Eileen Heckart. Screenplay by John Lee Mahin. Academy Award nominee for Best Actress, Best Actress in a Supporting Role (both McCormack and Heckart
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: american, 2017, horror
...the monsters of real life usually looked and behaved in a more normal manner than their actually normal brothers and sisters; they presented a more convincing picture of virtue than virtue presented of itself - just as the wax rosebud or the plastic peach seemed more perfect to the eye, more what the mind thought a rose-bud or a peach should be, than the imperfect original from which it had been modelled.

William March's classic thriller focuses on a child killer - the pristine Rhoda Penmar
Erin *Proud Book Hoarder*
“It seemed to her suddenly that violence was an inescapable factor of the heart, perhaps the most important factor of all - an ineradicable thing that lay, like a bad seed, behind kindness, behind compassion, behind the embrace of love itself. Sometimes it lay deeply hidden, sometimes it lay close to the surface; but always it was there, ready to appear, under the right conditions, in all its irrational dreadfulness.”

It's amazing to think this book is almost 60 years old - it was definitely a ch
Sam Quixote
Jun 11, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Everyone who pisses off creepy 8 year old Rhoda dies – she couldn’t be murdering them. Could she…? DUuuuuuUUUUuuuuuhhhhh… waaaaaaaaaaaauUUGHghhhhhh! Muauarrrhghhhh! Wap wap waaaaaaap. Sorry, just trying to wrangle my brain to review this garbage semi-coherently!

Awful, just awful. The “pscyho kid that kills” premise might’ve been fun had there been anything more to The Bad Seed than that. Except William March was as unimaginative a storyteller as he was incompetent a writer so does nothing with
Apr 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Thrillers
5 Oh, the Memories it Brings Back Stars
* * * * * Spoiler Free
This book and the movie has a huge place in my, not because of an identification with the characters....but due to childhood memory of my sister being in Forensics during high school.

My sister is 4 years older than me and was a drama student. She would try out for plays and also participate in the Forensics competitions. During her senior year, she chose to do a monologue from The Bad Seed.

For months I would either hear pr
Oct 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
This creepy 1954 classic tale of the evil Rhoda Penmark must have been quite a shocker in its day, and IMHO still is today. I was hardly one-third of the way into the story, and I already wanted to ring the little monster's neck and run and hide from the repulsive handyman! Not the ending I hoped for, but it definitely added to the creep-factor of the book. (hope to track down the movie)

Update: August 2,2014

OMGOSH! I do not know how I missed this excellent horror flick, and I must admit I thou

Horace Derwent
May 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
one of the evilest books i've ever read

the author was suffered by mental disorder, was that evil too?

i know he was not kurt cobain, he was not a clam and i know this book was not nirvana, that this book was not the pearl that derived from his pain, which was created within the clam

did he got possessed? i just couldn't read this all, i don't mean the pages, i mean the things further from the pages of those i can't describe

1954, a great year in literary history. in that year, The Lord of the Rings
ijeoma Agbaje
Feb 21, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

1.5 Stars
This book was bloody tiring and reading it felt like a chore.
I'm now of the opinion that most books regarded as brilliant aren't so much about the plot but more about the time it was released. Take this book, i bet it would have shocked a shit load of people that someone would consider a child to be capable of cold, calculating often unfeeling murders. And not just any type of child, a sweet, well mannered child. So i'm thinking of course people are going to be intrigued, of course t

Rebecca McNutt
Mar 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A timeless psychological thriller, The Bad Seed has been adapted into several films including the 1956 original, a 1989 remake, a 1993 altered modern version of the story called The Good Son and a low-budget sequel to the original story made in 1995 called Mommy (produced by Troma Movies). Each of these films has established its own cult status, but it was a wonderfully chilling and nostalgic experience to read the book that started it all. March combines superficial innocence with inner evil an ...more
May 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This classis thriller written in 1954 is an outstanding and thought provoking story. This must have also been quite confronting for its time. Young Rhoda presents as a cute, delightful and innocent child but believe me she also has an extremely evil side and she is a killer. It is really hard to try to comprehend what this child does and brings up the old age question, 'can someone be born evil'?. After reading this I am leaning more towards believing that this could be true, but how does this o ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I can see why this book had popular appeal and shock value back in 1954. Ted Bundy was still just a fledgling psychopath, and Freudian analysis was still a big fad. The word "psychopath" wasn't even in use, and is never mentioned in the novel. Some of the analysis and conclusions are way off base, but William March got a lot of things right.

Rhoda Penmark, the eight-year-old serial killer, is quite chilling and convincing given what we now know about the psychopathic personality profile. Born wi
I remember watching that Macaulay Culkin movie a few years ago, "The Good Son" and realize that it was a homage to "The Bad Seed." I remember being freaked out at how Culkin acted in that movie. I have to say that Rhoda in "The Bad Seed" would have wiped out that character without breaking a sweat.

"The Bad Seed" is about a mother (Christine) at home waiting for her husband and realizing that her daughter (Rhoda) is not like the other boys and girls. When Christine starts to have suspicions about
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at:

What would you do if you suspect your child isn’t simply odd, but might just be a serial killer?

If I didn’t already know, there is no way I would have guessed this book to be 60 years old. A chilling thriller about Rhoda Penmark and how she always makes sure to get whatever her little heart desires. If you like tales of the macabre that keep you on the edge of your seat up to the last page, put this classic on your to-read list.

Apr 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This was the basis for one of my all-time favourite movies, a delirious and delicious camp classic. The novel differs quite a bit from the film – especially the ending. While the film concentrates on the evil and murderous little girl and her mother, the book goes into considerable detail about the mother’s own childhood and her own mother, and the true significance of the title becomes much plainer. Both movie and novel are wonderful examples of 1950s American paranoia, but this is not paranoia ...more
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think I might have actually known this child....or several just like her. They seem to be drawn to me like moths to a flame. This is a charming exposé of a " darling little girl" who is totally misunderstood! She just wants what she wants "and she wants it now". Not unlike Veruka Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but on massive doses of steroids.
I mean, seriously, why can't people just let her have her way, then she wouldn't t be angry and upset, and take revenge on those who " done
Rhoda Penmark is eight years old, self contained, manipulative, and a psychopath. Bad things happen when Rhoda doesn't get what she wants, what she feels she is entitled to. Woe betide anyone who stands in her way. This novel raises the issue as to the inheritance of "evil".

The character of Rhoda is well written, quite fascinating but it is her mother Christine whose dawning horror of the malevolence apparent in Rhoda that brings the story together.

This novel sent a few chills up my spine when r
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Hannah by: Margaret
Shelves: spookies, 2012-reads
The Bad Seed must have been a terrifying read back in the less cynical 1950's when it was published. Even today, parts of William March's story of little Rhoda Penmark have a chilling effect on the reader, perhaps even more then if the story had been more graphic in nature.

March's prose is spare, which works well in highlighting the turmoil and tension created by the story of a child born bad.

The narrative isn't from the child herself, but from her mother Christine, who slowly uncovers her own d
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Bren by: fans of Old school horror.
“What was to be their duty in future both to their child, and to the society in which they lived?”
― William March, The Bad Seed

For some reason, horror novels featuring creepy, evil little children really scare the heck out of me. I mean..everyone has their thing that scares them and that's mine. The Bad seed is one of those horror classics where you say to your self, "they just don't make em like that anymore".

This is without a doubt one of the best horror books ever written. And I used to read
May 06, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2011
"What will you give me if I give you a basket of kisses?"

How about a friendly shove off the stairs? Creepy little child, but an enjoyable read! Made me want to put some red lip stick on and get a blunt bang cut.

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T.D. Whittle
Feb 03, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviews
This book is a good read, despite already knowing the outcome — as I believe everyone does who has ever heard of it. March builds his narrative cleverly and precisely. He opens the story by focusing upon a single family and their social circle, in a small American town, and then narrows the focus down little by little, finally isolating his two main characters completely — in a social and psychological sense — so that the reader’s anxiety is held taut, through to the end. This is emotionally con ...more
Mar 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nature-v-nurture
A really well written book about an evil child - I think it's safe to say that without spoilers considering title and book cover.
If you love a good nature versus nurture conundrum then yay!
The characters worked really well and the predictability did not take anything away from the book.

 photo images_zps3d37c3d3.jpg
Lark Benobi
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Rhoda is a very believable serial killer, even if she is only eight years old. March gives her a naive sort of scheme-y-ness--she hasn't yet matured as killers go. The novel is dated in the most marvelous ways, reflecting mid-century theories of mental illness and sociopathy. It even has a character who was psychoanalyzed by Freud himself. I loved the conversations. I loved the journey of Rhoda's mother Christine, from slight unease to absolute certainty that her daughter is a murderer. Read it.
Aug 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I am glad this was a book club read or I would have never experienced this book. It was thrilling and interesting and creepy. It was somewhat predictable and I wasn't biting my nails but I wasn't reading this in 1954. If I had read this back then I would be shocked and running to my neighbors and shoving the book at them and demanding them to read it. The ending is soooo good!
Jammin Jenny
"What will you give me for a basket of kisses?"

If a young little girl with a dimple asks you that RUN!

I LOVE this story. I saw the movie first and it totally freaked me out. The book it was based on is just as good. A young girl named Rhoda (she's under 10 years old) is a psychopathic killer, and her mom doesn't know what to do. Great characters, great suspense and an awesome ending.
Steve Anderson
Oct 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This was a nice surprise to discover. I heard about William March from a reader of Under False Flags, who told me about March's quote about war in his WWI novel Company K:

"If the common soldiers of each army could just get together by a river bank and talk things over calmly, no war could possibly last as long as a week."

If only it were true. That reader is also an expert in crime noir, and he reminded me about this novel, which takes a far more damning and sad view of people. Another early Marc
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221 b Baker street: Lectura de Mayo 2018 21 32 Jun 13, 2018 01:19AM  

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William March (born William Edward Campbell) was an American author and a highly decorated US Marine. The author of six novels and four short-story collections, March was a critical success and heralded as "the unrecognized genius of our time", without attaining popular appeal until after his death. His novels intertwine his own personal torment with the conflicts spawned by unresolved class, fami ...more
“It seemed to her suddenly that violence was an inescapable factor of the heart, perhaps the most important factor of all - an ineradicable thing that lay, like a bad seed, behind kindness, behind compassion, behind the embrace of love itself. Sometimes it lay deeply hidden, sometimes it lay close to the surface; but always it was there, ready to appear, under the right conditions, in all its irrational dreadfulness.” 8 likes
“What you say about me, you're really saying about yourself.” 4 likes
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