On a remote highway in Arizona women are disappearing at truck stops. Journalist Johnny Sullivan travels to the area to investigate. He encounters hitchhiker Patty, who is being hunted by violent trucker Red. Patty tells Johnny of the local myth of the maniac trucker. Johnny also meets Valentino de La Cruz, a mysterious Mexican who is looking for his missing sister. Valentino is having an affair with Natasha, the wife of recently murdered businessman, Theodore Mills, whose wealth funds the corrupt police force in the area. The local highway patrol is run by sexually sadistic Sam Roche and Franklin Norman and they want to put an end to Johnny's snooping. Marshall Simmons knows a lot about the goings on in the area, and has a young woman captive in a house. He is reprogramming her identity. Meanwhile Johnny discovers that years previously serial killer Donald Lake disappeared in the area while in transit between prisons. And it seems he had police help. But what is being done to the women? And who is running the criminal organization that controls the area? Savage Highways is about lawlessness and the hunt for justice in a no-man land. Pedal to the floor all the way, the narrative speeds towards its stunning and unforeseeable conclusion.
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"One of the safest places in the United States."
When I was gifted a copy of Savage Highway by the rights holder, via Audiobook Boom, I was warned that it contained graphic violence and rape scenes so I was fully prepared, frankly, for something extreme and the opening depiction of prostitution being conducted at road station diner was graphic with a gritty realism. But as the tale continued it's journey into the unknown depths of somewhere in Arizona where an out of work journal!ist arrives investigating rumours of a Maniac Trucker, be!ieved to have abducted raped and murdered in excess of 100 people ( and of whom the locals denied any knowledge), I began to wonder if this was a comedy horror. Just the names of two of the towns - Virtue and Purity - set amidst the heartland of sexual lasciviousness, and the local hotel, the Morality Inn, soon had me smiling more than being overwhelmed by this tale of dastardly deeds.. The whole was just so overindulgent in trying to shock. Almost without reserve, the locals were foul mouthed and dirty minded, intent on rape, violence and murder whilst the two strangers to the area were fine, upstanding gentlemen looking out for the womenfolk.
Whilst I later again revised my idea that this was supposed to be a very black comedy, that opinion had been assisted by the deliciously deep, depth filled voice of the narrator, Scott Cummings. His voice was to me reminiscent of Vincent Price (the superb master of comedic horror) both in tonal quality and speed of reading. There are numerous protagonists to voice, and this Mr.Cummings does very well, with clarity and differentiation. And his text reading was superb (apart from a very odd pronunciation of the word buttocks).
Whilst I could see the basis of this book succeeding well as a film, with excellent character portrayals of two or three of the villains made obvious from the beginning whist keeping the other baddies hidden until a much later shock reveal, for me the story as it stands really didn't work . Even what should have been the very atmospheric nightmarish feeling of being trapped in an unreal world by virtue of always being funnelled back to the same four towns was underplayed, in favour of far too much emphasis on the rather immature sado sexual phantasy writing. The shock/horfor value was lost in the tediousness of similarity. A case of less can be much, much more.
So, a very good horror thriller idea which, for this reader, failed to achieve more than slightly amused exasperation for what might have been. Thank goodness for audio: the book is saved by the narration.
- Norma Miles