After delving into the dark side of Hollywood Big Time Books return with another amazing anthology of short stories, 18 Wheels of Horror also edited by Eric Miller, this time telling 18 tales revolving around big rig drivers and their ever moving world of truck stops, deliveries and endless empty American freeways.
Billed as a trailer full of trucking terrors Miller opens 18 Wheels of Horror with his Acknowledgments explaining how although there are “millions of truckers plying the highways around the world, there’s not a lot of dedicated trucking fiction” and even less is horror related.
Thanking a number of drivers real and fictional including Carpenter’s seminal and sensation creation Jack Burton from Big Trouble in Little China he also cites Richard Matheson for writing Duel “the granddaddy of all trucking stories” before signing off.
A Foreword by writer and driver Paul Carlson follows detailing how truckers are the perfect hero’s for horror fiction seeing as they are “often far from home, in unfamiliar places, working alongside complete strangers” so as he says “The possibilities for trouble are endless.”
The first story A Dark Road written by Ray Garton an acclaimed wordsmith with over 60 books to his credit, sets the scene, setting and themes of many of the upcoming stories perfectly. Revolving around Spence a driver out in the deserted Nevada desert with nothing but troubling thoughts of his family far away to occupy his mind the lonesome man is drawn to searching through the channels on his CB radio for a fellow freighter.
Happening upon a stranger who sounds like Sam Shepherd things take a dark turn when it seems he is speaking directly to Spence and he knows things that no one else should know. Enraged and confused Spence tries to avoid the mysterious malicious voices goading him with loaded comments but he can only last so long until things explode over the airwaves and beyond.
Brad C. Hodson a screenwriter and novelist as well as the son of a trucker follows with Rising Fawn a tale following the same sort of character as the first story but this time seeking the elusive Lucille to help him through the long and difficult drive. Stopping at a truck stop he finds what he is looking for but things take a terrifying twist and the anti-hero ends up facing far more than he ever imagined in a life and death scenario with dire consequences.
Never Lost Again is a straight up ghost story delivered with aplomb by ex-newspaper journalist and 911 emergency call centre manager Joseph Spencer who is now a writer. Terry MacGlothan is a widowed trucker just spending a quiet night in a diner when a Neo-Nazi punk starts making a scene and threatening him and the owner. Scared and angered by the abusive intrusion what stuns Terry most is that the racist aggressor is in possession of his dead wife’s watch. Injecting supernatural elements on top of the lexicon of trucking clichés it is a chilling yarn of revenge, redemption and everlasting love.
My favourite story from the first 100 pages was most definitely Big Water by R.B Payne a renowned writer who here blends trucking fiction with Sci-Fi and monster movie madness as we follow Roy Kincaid, a big rig driver who makes deliveries to military black sites and secret bases. Dropping off at Slick Rock the most secret of all the US facilities he is approached by two contract killers working there who offer him a million dollars for a delivery no questions asked. The cargo is Mama and she is like nothing Roy has ever seen before and from this point on things only get more dangerous, dire and disgusting.
Another trucking tale of retribution turns up in Downshift by Daniel P. Coughlin an author who also interned for Wes Craven as a script analyst. Told in the first person and detailing the lengths a driver will go to get peace for his lost love who still haunts him, it bears a number of resemblances to Never Lost Again but is much darker in its tone and content which luckily keeps it feeling too familiar.
Editor Eric Miller himself pens the next part named Siren updating the classic Greek mythological monster to modern times as it attacks a pair of truckers shifting gears through the endless darkness. The introduction says the story came to him while driving a truck through west Texas where something was singing from the pitch black outside his window. Whether you believe it or not it’s a thrilling addition to the anthology packed with action.
The last of the stories to fit in the 100 pages of horror limit is Whistlin’ By a humorous look at what happens when your life is ruled by superstition. Written by Shane Bitterling a screenwriter described as a “true hillbilly at heart” we get to meet Hayward Lawson a man who believes every old wives tale ever created and instinctually acts on all of them. Although many just make his daily truck driving life slightly more complex than it should be the thing he fears the most is passing by cemeteries where he must hold his breath until they are gone or he will suck in some evil spirits. Are his superstitious beliefs ridiculous or right? You will have to read the story to find out.
Featuring 11 more horror fiction stories set in the trucking world, including the Bram Stoker Award-winning short story Happy Joe’s Rest Stop by John Palisano, you can look forward to reading about psychotic killers, devious ghosts, howling storms, undead creatures, and other dark forces haunting the highways and the truckers who drive them.
An absolute must buy for truck driving fiction fans and truckers as well, horror lovers unfamiliar with the lingo and lifestyle should not be put off as the book gives an insight into a world unknown to many of us but packed full of possibilities to terrify and trouble any reader willing to get behind the wheel.
18 Wheels of Horror Edited by Eric Miller is available now at all good book retailers online and in reality so check out their website HERE. Read our review of Hell Comes to Hollywood by clicking the title and we will be reviewing one more Big Time Books very soon. If you want to see previous horror book and graphic novel reviews from our 100 Pages of Horror series just click HERE