Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Kings of Killer Cars

I don’t know what it is about the King boys, Stephen King and his son Joe Hill, but it seems that they are car freaks. I was reminded of this while reading King’s latest novel.

Stephen King started his killer car theme early in 1983. The novel Christine features a 1958 Plymouth Fury. Don’t you just love that the brand name is “Fury”? It seems appropriate: Christine is a truly killer car. The car itself is possessed by the spirit of her previous owner, a twisted person named Roland LeBay. Christine takes the soul of not only her new owner, teenage Arnie, but anyone who gets in her way.

From a Buick 8 is the second King novel to feature supernatural cars. King states he was inspired to write the novel after he slipped and almost fell into a stream of water while filling his car at a gas station in Western Pennsylvania. The thought that he might not have been discovered until much later lead him to the plot of this story. In this novel, a 1953 Buick Roadmaster is the key to mysterious events. While it appears to be a car, it is not a car at all. It gives off “lightquakes,”, grows mysterious plants and creatures, and causes people to disappear in the vicinity of the car.

Adding Misery to this list is sort of cheating, but a car crash is the impetus for the rest of the novel. When Paul Sheldon is rescued from his car accident by Annie Wilkes, she transports him to her home. There she discovers Paul is the author of her favourite books. When she finds out that he is killing off her favourite character, Misery, she forces him to write a new ending while keeping him prisoner. In the process Annie makes Paul’s life pretty miserable. One interesting bit of trivia is that Paul’s newest manuscript is a new crime novel entitled Fast Cars.

The short story The Road Virus Heads North from Everything’s Eventual follows Richard Kinnell. a successful horror novelist, who is driving home from Boston to Derry Maine. Stopping at a yard sale, he buys a bizarre painting entitled “The Road Virus Heads North.” It is of a sinister-looking man with filed teeth driving a Grand Am. This is the only surviving painting by a tortured genius who burned all his other paintings before committing suicide. Along Kinnell’s journey, he realizes that the painting is changing. Kinnell tries to get rid it, but the painting has other ideas!

Stephen King’s latest, Mr. Mercedes, is more of a traditional mystery. Retired Detective Bill Hodges, still troubled by an unsolved crime, is determined to find the killer named Mr. Mercedes who plowed into a crowd of hundreds of people waiting outside a job fair. The killer taunts him, hoping to force him to commit suicide. This only sparks a passion to solve this crime and stop Mr. Mercedes once and for all. The novel is an insight into a serial killer’s twisted mind and the mindset that stops it in its tracks. King announced in June this novel is the first in a trilogy. The second book, Finders Keepers, will be released in 2015.

Father and son joined forces in writing a tribute to the story Duel in the anthology He is Legend, Celebrating Richard Matheson. Throttle features a faceless trucker waging war against a tribe of motorcycle outlaws in the Nevada desert. It is like a blend of Breaking Bad with Sons of Anarchy. A bit of trivia about the original story: Matheson turned Duel “into a script for a young Steven Spielberg’s first movie, starring Dennis Hopper as a salesman fleeing a killer truck driver."

Joe Hill followed in his father’s tire tracks by featuring a 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith in his novel NOS4A2. Once again, how can you resist a horror novel car that is a “Wraith”? Who in the big automobile industry thinks of these names? In the novel Charles Talent Max drives his big, bad automobile around the country, and through time, kidnapping children. The final destination may have the fun name “Christmasland,” but it is far from a joyous place. In fact, it is deeply unsettling and scary as hell. The heroine of the novel, Vic McQueen, drives a pretty “wicked” machine of her own – Triumph motorcycle.

So as you go on your vacation road trip, I hope that you do not run into any of these cars.

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