From a Buick 8: A Novel
The state police of Troop D in rural Pennsylvania have kept a secret in Shed B out back of the barracks ever since 1979, when Troopers Ennis Rafferty and Curtis Wilcox answered a call from a gas station just down the road and came back with an abandoned Buick Roadmaster. Curt Wilcox knew old cars, and he knew immediately that this one was…wrong, just wrong. A few hours later, when Rafferty vanished, Wilcox and his fellow troopers knew the car was worse than dangerous—and that it would be better if John Q. Public never found out about it.
Curt’s avid curiosity taking the lead, they investigated as best they could, as much as they dared. Over the years the troop absorbed the mystery as part of the background to their work, the Buick 8 sitting out there like a still life painting that breathes—inhaling a little bit of this world, exhaling a little bit of whatever world it came from.
In the fall of 2001, a few months after Curt Wilcox is killed in a gruesome auto accident, his 18-year-old boy Ned starts coming by the barracks, mowing the lawn, washing windows, shoveling snow. Sandy Dearborn, Sergeant Commanding, knows it’s the boy’s way of holding onto his father, and Ned is allowed to become part of the Troop D family. One day he looks in the window of Shed B and discovers the family secret. Like his father, Ned wants answers, and the secret begins to stir, not only in the minds and hearts of the veteran troopers who surround him, but in Shed B as well….
From a Buick 8 is a novel about our fascination with deadly things, about our insistence on answers when there are none, about terror and courage in the face of the unknowable.
Stephen King, an evil car, and a teenage boy coming to terms with the fragility and randomness of life…. Wait, haven’t we read this before? Diehard King fans, worry not. Aside from the titular car playing a main role in the story, From a Buick 8 could not be less like King’s 1983 masterpiece, Christine. If anything, this story resembles King’s serial novel The Green Mile, with reminiscing police characters flashing back on bizarre events that took place decades earlier.
The book’s intriguing plot revolves around the troopers of Pennsylvania State Patrol Troop D, who come into possession of what at first appears to be a vintage automobile. Closer inspection and experimentation conducted by the troopers reveal that this car’s doors (and trunk) sometimes open to another dimension populated by gross-out creatures straight out of … well, a Stephen King novel. As the plot progresses, the veteran troopers’ tales of these visits from interdimensional nasties, and the occasional “lightquakes” put on by the car, are passed on to the son of a fallen comrade whose fascination with the car bordered on dangerous obsession.
Unlike earlier King works, there is no active threat here; no monster is stalking the heroes of the story, unless you count the characters’ own curiosity. In past books, King has terrorized readers with vampires, werewolves, a killer clown, ghosts, and aliens, but this time around, the bogeyman is a more passive, cerebral threat, and one for which they don’t make a ready-to-wear Halloween costume—man’s fascination with and fear of the unknown. While some readers may find this tale less exciting than the horror master’s earlier works, From a Buick 8 is a wonderful example of how much King’s plotting skills and literary finesse have matured over his long career. And, most of all, it’s a darn creepy book. —Benjamin Reese