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Posted: July 8, 2019

A new and different view of America

Book Review

By Derryll White

Box, C.J. (2013).  The Highway.

C.J. Box has made his mark with Joe Pickett, iconoclastic game warden and solver of mountain mysteries.  ‘The Highway’ deviates, a seemingly stand-alone story with a whole new cast of characters.  Iconic Cody Hoyt, a lawman who operates in a gray zone of legal interpretation focussed narrowly on getting the bad guys, is the mentor for Inspector Cassie Dewell.  Cassie Dewell is new to the field but blossoms quickly in this novel.

The dark heart of this story is Ronald Pergram, the ‘Lizard King.’ Pergram is a long haul truck driver, driving his 18-wheeler back and forth across the United States.  He is despicable, preying on ‘lot lizards,’ the prostitutes working the truck stops. He is also not above scooping lonely young women off the shoulders of the highway, with them never to be seen again.

‘The Highway’ makes the reader stop and recognize the human presence of all those large trucks flowing past. After reading this book the whole texture of our society shifted for me.  Living in a mountain town with hard winters, avalanches and icy roads, the dependence on a flow of truck-born goods is clear. Food, gas, beer – you name it – arrives by truck.  All of these trucks have drivers – faceless, nameless people flowing down the road and stopping briefly, and in Ronald Pergram’s case bringing fear and horror to our town.

Inspector Cassie Dewell puts a new face on the literary landscape. She has the self-doubts and self-image problems common to most people. She is a young woman operating in a male-dominated field. And she has the strength and determination to succeed.  Cassie Dewell brings new understanding to the role of single mom and working mother.

C.J. Box has created a window into a new and different view of America. I see ‘The Highway’ as the potential launch of a new bold series from an already strong writer.

****

Excerpts from the novel:

TRUCKING – Oh how he resented the smug people in these towns.  They thought their food, clothing, furniture, appliances, and electronics simply appeared at stores or on their front doorsteps.  They didn’t stop to think that every item they ate or wore or used was likely transported across the nation in the trailer of his truck or those like him, or that the hardworking blue-collar rednecks they avoided in real life and despised on the road were the conduits of their comfort and the pipeline of their wealth.

MARRIAGE – “No one can ever really understand what goes on in the marriage of other people without being there.  It is the most complicated thing in the world.  I’ve completely stopped trying, you know?  There was this wonderful couple who live right behind me.  Married 43 years.  Every time I saw them they doted on each other.  The man, Walt, called her ‘honeybunch’ instead of Wilma, her name.  I really envied them.  Then one day he says he’s going out for groceries and he never comes back.  She won’t talk about what happened, and I have no idea.”

– Derryll White once wrote books but now chooses to read and write about them.  When not reading he writes history for the web at www.basininstitute.org.


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