“We got a shooting out on I-89. Lady in a station wagon. Is this piece-of-shit day never gonna end?”
~Joyride - by Jack Ketchum (2010)
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I put off reviewing this novel for a couple of reasons. One: I'm often one of the first to submit a review before reading other writers' critiques in my SHU program. I decided to do things differently this time. Second: I'm afraid I'm a real freak. I love Jack Ketchum's writing. Not just his writing, but his stories. What does that say about me? I've read how others feel that his novels are a bummer. A trip down the filthy alleyways of a twisted humanity that only exists in the worst of nightmarish dreams. And maybe it's true, but it doesn't bother me. If anything, I'm appreciative. His prose is real, and he dives into storytelling in a way that is different from others.
The first part of the story, Wayne witnesses a murder and it thrills him. His sentiment about it is not so different from those who enjoy reading about serial killers, or those who look on the internet for fatality crashes and are amazed at the blood and aftermath. Is he so different from the person who drives a car and just for a moment wonders what it would be like to plunge her/his bumper into a crowd of people taking their time crossing the road when the light is green...the person who is waiting to turn right but can't because that person dosen't dare?
"It was not the product of the kill, which was nothing but meat and emptiness when you got down to it, though the person you killed wasn’t there anymore and that was something. But the act itself, the moment of the taking and the losing. That was classy. That was important."
Ketchum (Kindle Locations 425-427).
And that is what is important in this story when you read it. Something you need to stick in the back of your brain as your fingers turn the pages.
Another thing I really liked about the way Ketchum put this book together is that he plays with your thoughts as you read. An example is when Lieutenant Rule reflects on what he knows about Carole. Where you might think at one point she's one hell of a bitch, later you discover she had real reasons for wanting her ex-husband dead. But then you have to consider, is there ever a real reason for wanting someone dead? And does the wanting ever justify the actual act?
As a writer and student of writing popular fiction, there were some POV errors I noticed now and then. None of them seriously bothered me, but I noticed them just the same. The way the story flowed I caught myself wondering if we're too hard on POV changes in manuscripts. Perhaps. I also had a problem with some of the sentence structure. There were places on the pages that a comma would have been beneficial and kept me from reading the same sentence over a few times to catch the meaning.
I've heard others call this book "in your face" writing, but I'd rather describe it as "stare in the mirror" prose. If you enjoy traveling a road where the scenery isn't pretty, but you can acknowledge the loveliness and complexity of a sewer or waste-treatment plant, this story is for you. If you're afraid to stare into the pupils of your own reflection, or you gag at the stench of decaying muscle or mounds of stinking raw feces . . . then don't inhale the words written inside this masterpiece. This is a book best devoured by those who have a palate for the nuances of evil mixed with the subtleties of a timebomb. Overall, this was an excellent read and anyone who disagrees is going in my notebook.
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