I recently took a road trip from Portland, OR to Logan, Utah (right above SLC). I went with my boyfriend, the driver in our relationship, and along the highway devoured a couple magazines and a horror novel called The Troop by Nick Cutter. (Mini Review of that – the story is one part Slither, one part The Bad Seed, one part Cabin Fever, one part Lord of the Flies. A fun, quick read that reminded me of Stephen King’s older works.)
On the trip, I couldn’t help but remember some of the better road trip novels I’ve read on past excursions. And, because I’m a weirdo who tailors and themes my life, the majority of them just happen to be road trip or highway related themselves!
Shattered / Intensity by Dean Koontz
For an author who has always been hit and miss with me, Koontz will have two mentions on this list. The first, Shattered, is about a man and his young, nerdy step-nephew who are taking a cross country road-trip to meet up with their wife and aunt, respectively. But they’ve been followed by a man with with a psychotic obsession, and the novel eventually takes a dark turn.
Intensity is probably the more popular title of the two, having been made into a TV movie. It follows a woman who survives a terrible home invasion and willingly/accidentally ends up on a road-trip with the psychopath who is holding a little girl hostage in his home. As the title says, the story is a fairly tense read and I think still an underrated classic.
Trucks by Stephen King
Some may think of Christine when you mention King and road-based horror, but I actually prefer the short story some only know as Maximum Overdrive (the title of the movie that was based on the short story). If you don’t already know what it’s about, just imagine what might happen if every vehicle in the world turned against the humans who’ve always been in control of them…
Lot Lizards by Ray Garton
A book I took a chance on, about female vampires preying on snow storm stranded motorists in a highway travel station. Admittedly a bit cheesy, in an enjoyable way, it was also a little creepy! In one chapter, one of the vampires out in the winter storm begins taunting a young boy through the windows of the truck stop diner, enticing him to come outside…
The Attraction by Douglas Clegg
A great, quick read that’s perfect if you’re driving through the desolate desert country. Reminded me a lot of the Trilogy of Terror segments about the murderous Zuni festish doll. Perfect too for those of us who travel the highways of America and actually enjoy stopping at those weird oddities we happen upon.
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
A seriously great apocalypse tale that follows the long journey of a man and his son on the dangerous, desolate, and crumbling roads of what used to be America. Personally, while I loved the book, I also found it to be a downer. So maybe not the best read for when you’re taking a long drive with friends…
Outside of these novels, I’d recommend any anthologies you might stumble upon. Short stories are much easier to gnaw on when you’re on the road and, depending on what you’re doing on the trip, the long plots of novels can easily be forgotten as the miles pass on by.
Any suggestions for more scary road trip reads? Drop them off in my inbox or leave a comment for your fellow readers! Drive safe, horror fiends!