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From a Buick 8 by Stephen King


Rating: (Recommended)


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Stephen King has said that From a Buick 8 will be his last book (except for wrapping up The Dark Tower serial). If that turns out to be true, the maturity of his writing settles well on the pages of From a Buick 8. King’s character development reaches a high point in this book. Allowing multiple narrators, the voices of each character show King’s ability to bring characters to life and keep them differentiated. King alternates revelation of the story in chapters headed “Then” and “Now”. By the middle of the book, the characters are understood and readers want to know even more about them, which King obliges. The spooky and weird stuff remains contained through the unusual Buick, an otherworldly vehicle that sucks life out of the rural Pennsylvania shed where it’s stored on a state trooper compound. King explores grief, violence and loyalty, all things on his mind and that of other Americans as he wrote this book. King’s own automobile accident was also an influence on writing this book, and readers will sense a writer more mellow and mature behind the words in From a Buick 8. Here’s an excerpt from page 38, set in the past (called “Then”):

“As for Trooper Wilcox, he got about three-quarters of an hour with that Buick before the country tow showed up with its orange light flashing. Forty-five minutes isn’t much time, but it was enough to turn Curtis into a lifetime Roadmaster Scholar. True love always happens in a flash, they say.
Ennis drove as they headed back to Troop D behind the tow-truck and the Buick, which rode on the clump with its nose up and its rear bumper almost dragging on the road. Curt rode shotgun, in his excitement squirming like a little kid who needs to make water. Between them, the Motorola police radio, scuffed and beat-up, the victim of God knew how many coffee- and cola-dousings but still as tough as nails, blatted away on channel 23, Matt Babicki and the Troopers in the field going through the call-and-response that was the constant background soundtrack of their working lives. It was there, but neither Ennis nor Curt heard it anymore unless their own number came up.
 ‘The first thing’s the engine,’ Curt said. ‘No, I suppose the first thing’s the hood-latch. It’s way over on the driver’s side, and you push it in rather than pulling it out – ‘
 ‘Never heard of that before,’ Ennis grunted.
 ‘You wait, you wait,’ his young partner said. ‘I found it, anyway, and lifted the hood. The engine … man, that engine …’
Ennis glanced at him with the expression of a man who’s just had an idea that’s too horrible plausible to deny. The orange glow from the revolving light on the tow-truck’s cab pulsed on his face like jaundice. ‘Don’t you dare tell me it doesn’t have one,’ he said. ‘Don’t dare tell me it doesn’t have anything but a radioactive crystal or some damn thing like in dumbwit’s flying saucers.’
Curtis laughed. The sound was both cheerful and wild. ‘No, no, there’s an engine, but it’s all wrong. It says Buick 8 on both sides of the engine block in big chrome letters, as if whoever made it was afraid of forgetting what the damn thing was. There are eight plugs, four on each side, and that’s right – eight cylinders, eight sparkplugs – but there’s no distributor cap and no distributor, not that I can see. No generator or alternator, either.’”

Constant readers, who have awaited publication of this latest work will be pleased with the result. Those who haven’t read King, but have seen movies may expand their impressions of King after reading this book. All in all, reading From a Buick 8 represents time well spent.

Steve Hopkins, October 16, 2002


ã 2003 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the January 2003issue of Executive Times


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