White Knuckle, Written by Eric Red (Book Review)

Last Updated on August 5, 2021


PLOT: Sharon Ormsby, a feisty young FBI upstart, lobbies for an undercover gig to hit the highway and track down a ruthlessly indefatigable serial killer – a big-rig hauler known as White Knuckle – who's been raping and murdering women for over 40 years.

REVIEW: Less than a year after marauding the masses with the submarine monster-mash IT WAITS BELOW, Mr. Eric Red – returns this summer with an equally entertaining stint of vicious vehicular horror via his aptly titled new tome WHITE KNUCKLE. Trust me, this is one hell of a ride! In what struck me hard as a sick and twisted literary lovechild of Spielberg's DUEL and Demme's SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, Eric Red once again powerfully displays his superior storytelling expertise with this tightly tethered, rollickingly unpredictable and suspensefully mounted page turner about a young FBI agent-in-training in hot pursuit of grisly highway serial killer. Go out and bag a copy ASAP, because I had a f*cking blast! Real shit, WHITE KNUCKLE truly revs as a souped-up, quick-paced and nastily flagrant supercharged chiller! Wow, how about that…a thumbs up for this vilely violent bout of automotive terror? Hell, what else do you expect from the guy who gave us THE HITCHER?!?

An enthralling course of misdirection opens the book, which, for a story that sprawls across the intercontinental US in every compass angle, plays as a apposite motif. A young woman is driving home from work on an interstate highway when she's suddenly terrorized by a motorist in a hulking, monstrous 18-wheel big-rig that runs her off the road. We think for an instant this is our heroine, but oh no, Red is too clever for that kind of cliché. So right from jump street, our expectations are utterly sideswiped and left in a ditch somewhere to bleed off. Eric Red strikes again!

We're soon introduced to our true protagonist, 32 year old Sharon Ormsby, a young FBI Special Agent in training under the watchful command of Senior Special Agent Frank Campanella. Ever determined to climb the ranks of the Bureau, away from the tedium of mere desk work and into the dangerous field of high-stakes duty, Sharon is assigned to investigate the HSK, Highway Serial Killer, a suspected murderer who has been picking up truck stop prostitutes, or Lot Lizards as they're un-affectionately deemed, before brutally raping them, eviscerating their bodies into a gory pulp and then dumping the remains somewhere out of state. And whoever the killer is, he's been doing this shite for 40 odd years!

Turns out this monster is a ribald redneck named Roy Tremble, an inbred hayseed born into a life of violence. Not to excuse his actions as mere byproduct of his upbringing, but as always, Red does a great job painting a portrait of a complexly layered villain. One minute we're completely repelled by this odiously perverted predator, but through flashback, there's a humanized element that makes the character more than a one-dimensional baddie. Same goes for Sharon, who, also through flashback, we learn has molded her life after a marring childhood event that left her with a mission far greater than your typical wide-eyed FBI agent. We learn Sharon's mother left her inside of a gas station as a child, never to return. Was her mother also a victim of roadside abduction? Was she targeted by a lecherous monster akin to Tremble? Hell, was it Tremble himself that kidnapped Sharon's mom in the first place?

Answers are sought when Campanella commissions Sharon to hit the road as an undercover big-rig driver in training. She teams up with Rudy Dykstra, an ex-con hauling vet at one time interrogated as the potential killer. When he turned up clean and willing to help – a murder occurs while he's in custody – Sharon decided he's the perfect guide to hit the road with. Problem is, bodies have been abducted and strewn all across the country, often many states away from where the victims disappeared to begin with. Quite the task to track this sucker down – a needle in a stack of needles – but with Rudy's help and Tremble's carelessness catching up with him at his old age, the gap begins to narrow one car-length at a time. Buckle the f*ck up!

I'll leave it up to you to discover how it all plays out, but suffice it to say, Red delivers nothing short of an incendiary pinnacle that you will not see bending around the corner. This dude is the master of plotting, always one step ahead, offering subtle clues and red-herrings along the way to throw off the scent what will eventually unfold for real. I truly had a hunch one of the other main characters was going to turn out to be the killer, but boy was I glad to be wrong. There's nothing worse than knowing exactly where a story is headed, but just like Red has proven time and time again, be it on screen or on the page, he never tips his hand. The result in WHITE KNUCKLE is just that, a tautly gripping thriller that keeps your ass on edge throughout the entire cross-country trek. I mean it. From Florida to Oregon, gallons of blood get spilled!

Speaking of the violence in the book, this just might be Red's most unapologetically cruel bit of bodily violation. Not only does it deal with the vulnerabilities of women who fall victim to a repulsive rape artist, terrifying in its own right, the violence incurred during and after which is flat out disturbing. Skin-crawling. Deeply unnerving. In one instance, a 17 year old Pavement Princess (hooker) named Candy is unceremoniously picked up in a truck stop by Tremble, who stows the young gal away in a coffin-shaped compartment hidden under the belly of the rig's chassis. A rolling meat locker, stained with stale old blood and the hung fear of death from many before her. Candy stands nary a chance, and is soon heinously violated, savagely tortured, murdered and dumped lifelessly under an overpass. Shite's no joke!

Fasten 'em up folks, WHITE KNUCKLE is a heart-thudding thrill-ride that must be taken this summer. I shite you not. Eric Red deftly weaves a cross-country tale of pursuit and redemption that speeds at a break-neck pace with immeasurable entertainment value. The characters have depth, the horror has bite, the story stays one step ahead, and the whole world of big-rigging is incredibly researched. From vampiric seduction (DON'T STAND SO CLOSE), to a dusty werewolf western (THE GUNS OF SANTA SANGRE), then to ferocious deep-sea creature-feature (IT WAITS BELOW), Red now essays the grisly roadie serial killer subgenre with high velocity and interminable grit. Now hit the f*cking pavement!


Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

5379 Articles Published

Jake Dee is one of JoBlo’s most valued script writers, having written extensive, deep dives as a writer on WTF Happened to this Movie and it’s spin-off, WTF Really Happened to This Movie. In addition to video scripts, Jake has written news articles, movie reviews, book reviews, script reviews, set visits, Top 10 Lists (The Horror Ten Spot), Feature Articles The Test of Time and The Black Sheep, and more.