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Killer on the Road by James Ellroy

Killer on the Road (1986)

by James Ellroy

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All of Ellroy' books I have read relate to corruption, and this one is no exception. It purports to be the memoir, written from his prison cell, of a serial killer called "Sexecutioner" by the media. Martin Plunkett is an extremely bright, insane individual. He completely baffles the school psychologists who try to bring him out of his self imposed shell; he rarely talks to anyone. During class he withdraws into movie screen images-- brain movies, he calls them, superimposing his classmates' and teacher's faces into a collage of bizarre images. He then begins to identify with a comic character bad guy, the "Shroud Shifter." Following his mother's ""— switched her Phenobarbital tablets with some Benzedrine— is placed for some months with a burglary cop who unintentionally supplies him with assorted burglary tricks. During his first burglary, he runs into a guard dog that he kills, and the thrill provides a bizarre sexual release for him that turns a thrill into a compulsion. Despite his preternatural caution, during one escapade where he entered a house to watch two people make love, he is caught and sentenced to a year in prison. Despite his obvious intelligence, and the lie that he has a master' degree in library science — already, by age twentyone? asks the skeptical deputy — he is assigned to the Trash and Freight section as a trusty because he was so obviously fit from his workouts and showed he could do thirty-one chin-ups. This is where is real education begins, listening to the other convicts talk about their exploits and learning from their braggadocio. Released after nine months, he moves to San Francisco, continually tormented by the brain movies, and he gets a job digging out tree stumps for a real estate developer. Then one night everything explodes. Invited in for a beer with an inebriated couple, he freaks when the girl comes out of the bathroom having just died her hair blond, and he kills both of them. Traveling in Wisconsin, Plunkett is nearly caught in the middle of a snowstorm at a roadblock set up to catch a local rapist who had murdered a series of young women in southeastern Wisconsin. That killer is eventually revealed to Plunkett to be a Wisconsin State Police sergeant, who forms a weird bond with Plunkett, and the two embark independently on assorted murder sprees. Plunkett's personal revelations are interspersed with newspaper reports of their homicides and later the diary of the FBI agent assigned to tracking down reports of unsolved murders where the killer may have crossed state lines. This book, despite its ghoulishness, is very hard to put down. I read it at one sitting, hardly able to get up for the bathroom. Ellroy has taken his exploration of evil to a new high (low?). ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
For me to properly review “Killer on the Road” by James Ellroy I need to implicitly and accurately describe the resonantial feelings I went through while reading this perceptive novel. Disgust, hate, jealously, fear, distrust, physical palpitations and complete psychic exhaustion go a long way in elucidating the moods I went through and the expedition Mr. Ellroy sent me on. Bearing in mind that this novel was written twenty plus years ago, the impression I get is of a superb writer with a deft hand at characterization and story development. I can hardly wait to pick up the next novel from Mr. Ellroy but for the sake of my sanity, I do need a breather. ( )
  BruderBane | Dec 1, 2007 |
The print equivalent of the film "Henry, Portrait of a Serial Killer." Unpleasant and depressing, but a good read, if you like that kind of thing. One of Ellroy's earlier and therefore more obscure works, if I'm not mistaken.
  Scratch | Sep 5, 2007 |
This is a terrific look into the mind of a serial killer from childhood to maturity. What moments and events shape the mind of someone to be so uncaring and evil? Elroy is great at putting words to this twisted story. ( )
  HvyMetalMG | Aug 23, 2007 |
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Dusenberry's estimated body count was low, and Warden Wardlow's stone metaphor only partly accurate.
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Original title: Silent Terror
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 038080896X, Paperback)

Martin Michael Plunkett is a product of his times -- the possessor of a genius intellect, a pitiless soul of brushed steel, and a heart of blackest evil. With criminal tendencies forged in the fires of L.A.'s Charles Manson hysteria, he comes to the bay city of San Francisco -- and submits to savage and terrible impulses that reveal to him his true vocation as a pure and perfect murderer. And so begins his decade of discovery and terror, as he cuts a bloody swath across the full length of a land, ingeniously exploiting and feeding upon a society's obsessions. As he maneuvers deftly through a seamy world of drugs, flesh, and perversions, the media will call him many things -- but Martin Plunkett's real name is Death. His brilliant, twisted mind is a horriying place to explore. His madness reflects a nation's own. The killer is on the road. And there's nowhere in America to hide.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:29 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In a shocking, terrifying look inside the twisted mind of a serial killer, Martin Plunkett finds relief from tormenting fantasies and nightmares in a grisly trail of blood that leads from L.A., to Aspen, to the Utah desert

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