Running from a night of humiliation and murder, Johnny Burris leaves the city and his junkyard home, fleeing into the Ozarks countryside. While on the road, mysterious streaks of blue light in the night sky drive him into a forgotten bit of nowhere lost in the hills. Johnny thinks he’s found home and good work in an odd little gas station from another time.
Johnny quickly gets pulled into a world where the cars aren’t the only things all chromed out and everything seems touched with the energy of the flying blue streaks that led Johnny there.
Enticed and torn between two sisters, one an outcast for her normality, the other a beautiful monster, Johnny becomes the pawn of their father. The old man is both the town’s mechanic and its Doctor. He’s looking for a replacement and Johnny Burris is the man with just the right skills.
When Johnny learns the truth behind the doctor’s plans, he runs, taking one of the “normal” sisters with him. But the town, and the girl, turn out to be even more than he imagined. And his whole world comes down to just one choice, live as a monster, making monsters or die like a man. If he chooses to die, who will he take with him?
When you talk with author Robert E. Dunn, two things become clear very quickly. First, that he’s an extremely intelligent individual, and second, that his imagination is boundless and original. In his previous book, THE RED HIGHWAY, he demonstrated a remarkable ability to portray complex scenarios involving well developed, sympathetic characters and settings as real and as tangible as the chair you’re probably sitting in as you read this. In his newest release from Necro Publications, he takes what seems on the surface to be a simpler, more straight forward approach. But is it really? Not so much, no.
“Johnny Burris was a runner, not a fighter, not even a lover. It was the one thing that he had learned from an absentee father; when the going gets tough, get going and quickly. He was in the middle of one of those get going nights. Running from a death and his own life gone bad, from loneliness, looking to find anything—any place—different, he flew through the night on a motorcycle older than he was.”
Johnny Burris, running from a murder that he committed, is the good guy in this tale. That statement alone should give you an idea of what you’re into when you read this story of tragedy, terror, and body horror like none you’ve ever experienced before. Like THE RED HIGHWAY before it, MOTORMAN takes a tried and time-tested trope and makes it into a thing that is uniquely Robert E. Dunn and likely could have flowed from the mind and pen of no other author. Something of a Frankenstein story, it’s also a story of a young man looking for a place to belong, someone to love, but finding instead betrayal, pain, and a path of bloody vengeance both shocking and exhilarating in it’s use of unabashed, brutal violence.
When it comes to making a horror story work, Dunn has a repertoire of tools available to him and he wields them with the confidence of a master craftsman, delivering this captivating tale at the mind numbing pace of the supercharged muscle cars that populate his fictional world of Nowhere. There are several factors that make this book work, and work with such spectacular success, but there are a few that really stand out and take it from good to exceptional. First there’s Robert’s incredible use of vivid, clear imagery, his ability to paint a picture in full living color, leaving you with little need to stretch your imagination to see the scenery he’s showing you in each breathtaking act.
“That was before the Buick. It was an old Regal from the late-’90s that had been donked. It had a glowing blue paint job with matching wheels and low profile tires. Thousands had been put into the stereo, more into the blue velvet interior and almost nothing into the engine.”
The other thing that really makes this story move is Dunn’s outstanding use of character and dialogue driven action, pulling you directly into the story and propelling you at incredible speed all the while keeping his sense of direction and never losing his plot for a single sentence. His characters are quirky, eccentric, and darkly twisted, yet oddly endearing in spite of–or maybe because of–their brokenness.
“Okay, you know me, but you’re sleeping on my table. Why don’t I know you?”
“I stopped for gas and fell asleep waiting for you to open. Or—for the station—I guess. Is that what it means? Emma? Em’s garage?”
“And did you like the little show this morning?” The edge in her voice told him she was ignoring his questions not just skipping them for the moment. “You like peeking in on other people’s business?”
“I wasn’t peeking.”
“You were watching.”
“It was hard to miss.”
It’s that kind of snappy, naturally flowing dialogue and engaging interaction that rips you through this story with rocket-fueled urgency, delivering you all too quickly to the final, breathtaking and shockingly brutal and blood soaked conclusion.
Weighing in at 129 pages in the paperback edition, MOTORMAN reads like a book half it’s length and that’s the only real flaw in the entire story: it’s over too damn quick, leaving you wanting nothing so much as to spend just a little more time in Dunn’s dark and delightful creation. Robert E. Dunn has a strong grasp of the elements of story and he uses them with the prowess and competence of a true artist. He’s an author at the peak of his talent and it won’t be long before he’s discovered by one or more of the Big Five publishers. In the meantime, have you discovered him? You should, and soon.