I have to admit that I don’t read a lot of new fiction these days. Non-fiction (mostly true crime and music and movie bios) provide the bulk of my printed nourishment, along with a plethora of magazines and the odd comic book of course (online blogs and articles can be great and rewarding, but I still love the process of going to a newsstand and picking out a stack of public transport reading for the week). When I do decide to read fiction, I usually scan through my library or the shelves of a second-hand bookstore and pick out a thin old vintage horror or crime paperback, or film tie-in novelization, to keep me occupied for a weekend.
Having said that, I ordered a copy of Eric Red’s White Knuckle (2015 Samhain Publishing) from Amazon after reading a few rave notices from people whose opinions I usually respect and find reliable, and after diving just a few pages into the book I had become seduced and lost within its pages. White Knuckle is a gripping thriller about a prolific, truck driving serial killer who has spent over forty years criss-crossing the United States, abducting his victims and keeping them bound, helpless and terrified within a secret steel chamber installed underneath his big rig. A young, novice female FBI agent teams up with a seasoned, ex-con trucker to cruise the interstates in the hope of finding the maniac who has been leaving bodies all across the country. It quickly turns into a personal game of cat and mouse for both agent and killer, with each of them seemingly gaining the upper hand in turn, until the story reaches its frenzied climax.
Fast-paced, violent and gruesome, but with a true sense of character and a remarkable detail for life on the open road, White Knuckle is a cracking good read, with a few moments of genuine tension that help the book live up to its title (White Knuckle is the CB handle for the killer). The book has a real cinematic feel to it, not surprising as author Red has penned a number of excellent screenplays over the years, including The Hitcher (1986), Near Dark (1987), Blue Steel (1990) and Body Parts (1991, which he also directed).
I had a few minor quibbles with the story, mostly some moments of convenience and the odd detour into territory that seemed a bit far-fetched and over-the-top compared to what the bulk of the book delivers, but they did nothing to diminish my enjoyment of White Knuckle. Highly recommended if you feel like reading a gritty, pulpy thriller that contains elements of movies like Duel (1971), Breakdown (1997), Silence of the Lambs (1991) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), yet combines them into something wholly of its own. I’ll definitely be checking out more of Eric Red’s horror fiction in the near future.