BOOK REVIEW: WHITE KNUCKLE / AUTHOR: ERIC RED / PUBLISHER: SAMHAIN PUBLISHING / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 2ND
Horror - the more credible the threat, the better the capacity to un-nerve today’s jaded audience. The late Richard Matheson knew this, as did Robert Bloch, taking the tropes of the horror story and firmly planting them in our own suburban lawns and on our highways.
Eric Red is the successor to Messrs Matheson and Bloch. And he proves it once again here with a ‘road’ story that is every bit as memorable as Matheson’s Duel.
White Knuckle is the CB handle of a long distance trucker, who has operated as one of America’s most prolific serial killers for forty years, with several hundred victims buried all over the USA. He chooses a victim at a truck stop, or forces them off the road keeps them locked in a steel box between the wheels of his truck. He then sadistically toys with them and finally dumps the body in a shallow grave in a different state, having knocked out the victim’s teeth out to further impede identification.
Enter Sharon Ormsby, a rookie FBI agent, who takes the case as an undercover assignment, taking to the road with a sympathetic long haulier to track down the killer who is out there, somewhere taunting on a CB radio. Possibly in an overtaking truck, possibly in the one in the rear view mirror.
Partly horror with a psycho on the loose, partly police procedural, it’s a taut suspense story, and a welcome return to the road horror story by the man who defined this subgenre in the eighties with his original screenplays for cult classic films such as Near Dark and Hitcher.
The greatest strength of the book is the simplicity of the protagonist’s motivation. White Knuckle murders without any real reason except for sexual gratification (necrophilia is alluded to) and the smug satisfaction of not being caught.
There is no padding in the story, the pacing moves as relentlessly as White Knuckle’s black Kenworth truck. Literally, no filler – all killer. It should come as no surprise that the film rights have already been secured.