"Motorman" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Necro Publications
Written by Robert E. Dunn
2016, 142 pages, Fiction
Released on May 11th, 2016
After murdering a prostitute and his manager in a fit of blind rage, Johnny Burris hits the road, leaving his job and troubles behind, hoping to find greener pastures. Or maybe to just avoid jail time. Probably a bit of both.
Eventually, through which may or may not be fate, Johnny ends up at a gas station/garage in the middle of nowhere. Since he's pretty good with a wrench and he needs a job, he decides to accept the opportunity to be a mechanic. But, he soon learns, his duties won't just include fixing up cars, the clientele has secrets of its own, and there's something very weird hidden in the caves in the back of that junkyard.
I may have mentioned it before, but if I didn't, when it comes to books – as much as I love horror – the genre that just edges out the scares is...well, I don't know what exactly one would call it. Action? Thriller? Basically, if it's written by Lee Child, Robert Crais, Elmore Leonard, Joe Lansdale – I could go on, and those who read those authors know what I'm getting at – it's going to take priority on my reading pile than, say, Stephen King. Don't get me wrong, horror still has a big place in my heart (my favorite books of all time, of any genre, are Stephen King's IT and The Stand), but few authors in the horror genre have the same beat as the aforementioned. Like the snappy dialog in Joss Whedon-penned movies and shows? Yeah, Leonard and Lansdale have been doing it twice as long and twice as well, and I love Whedon. So what's the point here, you might be asking? Well, I'll tell you. The point is that it's very rare when I come across an author that is able to deliver that quick pace as well as supernatural discomfort and mystery, and it's always a pleasure when I do, like the case here.
My dumb words don't do Dunn's writing justice, so just take a gander at the first paragraph of Motorman:
Johnny Burris was a runner, not a fighter, not even a lover. It was the one thing that he had learned from an absentee father; when the going gets tough, get going and quickly. He was in the middle of one of those get going nights. Running from a death and his own life gone bad, from loneliness, looking to find anything—any place—different, he flew through the night on a motorcycle older than he was.
God, I love that beat.
Motorman is supernatural, for sure, but I'd speculate author Robert E. Dunn also reads a lot of thrillers because that seeps through the pages as well. Sure there are some weird blue lights in the sky, and yes, the folks that always find their way to the gas station have unique appendages, but there's also a mystery here of what is going on. Dunn never actually explains what, exactly, that mystery is, but he certainly gives enough for you to run with, and that's all you need.
I really have to give special credit to Dunn as well for making a protagonist, who is kind of scummy, so likable. I rooted for Johnny throughout the narrative, and I always had to stop myself because, at the end of the day, he's only in the position he's in because he killed two people. And the thing is, he killed them for no good reason. Sure, his boss was a bit of a prick, but all the prostitute was guilty of was doing her job (read it, you'll see). Yet that didn't matter, because as soon as I reminded myself Johnny is kind of a dick, I'd turn the page and start hoping he comes out of another situation unscathed. That's good writing, folks.
And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the glorious cover by artist Erik Wilson. Just look at that sucker. That looks like a glorious carsploitation movie poster. (Yeah, that's a thing.)
Because of Dunn's prose and the fact that this is a novella, you'll fly through this as fast as the cars found within. Buckle up because it's one sweet ride.
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