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Killer on the Road: Violence and the American Interstate (Discovering America) Hardcover – April 15, 2012


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Product Details

  • Series: Discovering America (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: University of Texas Press (April 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0292726376
  • ISBN-13: 978-0292726376
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #931,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Ginger Strand is in possession of a sharp eye, a biting wit, a beguiling sense of fun—and a magnificent obsession. (Bloomberg)

Strand proves herself to be a first-rate storyteller. (Booklist)

The grim stories of murder on the highway may do for road trips what Jaws did for surfing. (Kirkus Reviews)

Who knew that these marvelously engineered clover-leafed roadways would not just drive the economy but also create a deadly combination of social transience and personal anonymity, destabilizing sociopaths and psychopaths while making them feel invulnerable to legal consequences? . . . Killer on the Road merges the chilling appeal of true-crime stories with compelling social history. (American History)

About the Author

Ginger Strand is the author of Inventing Niagara, a Border’s Original Voices choice, and Flight, a novel. Her nonfiction has appeared in many places, including Harper’s, OnEarth, The Believer, and Orion, where she is a contributing editor. She grew up mostly in Michigan and now lives in New York City, but spends a lot of time on the road.

More About the Author

I was born in Michigan and raised in Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan, but mostly on a farm in Michigan. Here are my obsessions: water, ancient Rome, infrastructure, SuperFund, airplanes, silent film, panopticons, P.T. Barnum, photography, lies, the 1930s, Niagara Falls, EPA, Edward Wormley, consumerism, and rhinoceroses, especially one named Clara who lived in the 18th century. You can learn more about me and my work at my website, www.gingerstrand.com.

Customer Reviews

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Interesting connection between sprawl and serial killers.
Yolanda Duralde
The author engaged my interest and kept it by presenting Kemper within the context of America's car-centric culture in a narrative that eschewed sensationalism.
C. M. Helm
Introducing some of the most dynamic and horrific individuals American managed to produce in the 20th century along the way.
Nhendrix

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By C. M. Helm on September 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have just finished _Killer on the Road_, which I read from cover to cover without stopping. It is a rather short book given the nature of its thesis and I was worried that the brevity would mean that it lacked depth. I bought a copy for two reasons: first, I read a lot of books in the True Crime genre because of being close to five murdered people, because I want to understand the act of murder better; and second, because of the review of this book by the New York Times yesterday.

Now that I am done with it, I am pleasantly surprised how it covered a rather wide array of threads and pulled them together to make a coherent and believable narrative. I put it down wishing that it were longer - something I can not say about a lot of books these days. As a retired academic, I am very impressed by the work. The author presented and supported her thesis well, and wrote just enough to do that and not a word more. As someone who has suffered the torture of grading undergraduate essays and peer-reviewing journal articles, I am impressed at this feat of prose construction. This is superlative writing.

The book also contained insights into already-familiar serial killers that this jaded consumer of True Crime books did not expect. For example, the saga of Edmund Kemper is one I have encountered several times. I expected that the author would have little new to add to all the Kemper reporting already published. I was wrong. The author engaged my interest and kept it by presenting Kemper within the context of America's car-centric culture in a narrative that eschewed sensationalism.

I do have some quibbles. I'm not sure that examples like Kemper really belong when compared to more mobile interstate killers.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I think the mark of great nonfiction is to deliver a content that validates something people have always suspected, but have never taken the time to think through. This book does that to an impressive degree. Strand, who admits she is a research freak, shows us (through relentless digging for the facts), how the interstate road system created a fertile playground for serial killers. It became a killing field where they could ply their trade. She says that certainly serial killers had long existed, but the road system provided them with what they most needed - anonymity, mobility, and huge numbers of trusting hitchhikers.

Strand has actually two books here. She has a history of the the highway system and how it came to be. She dispels myths about their being built for military purposes, that they were built to move military hardware from one side of the country to the other and to make one mile of every five was straight to accomodate the landing of planes. Not true. It first failed to pass because of the huge price tag. When they converted it to a "defense bill" it passed.

So there is a marvelous education on just how highways were planned and constructed and how they affected both cities and small town America. She discusses sociological impacts, too, and the reflection of all of this in pop culture, from James Dean to The Doors' song, "Killer on the Road," which inspired the title of her book.

She tells the full story of many serial killers who worked along these highways, many of whom killed hitchhikers and then blamed their victims, saying "they shouldn't have been out there on the road like that."

This is a beautiful book in that it provides a nostalic look at how roads were sold politically and socially.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By mmichael on March 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be boring. It seemed more a book on the history of highway systems than one about killers using them. It gave much more detailed accounts of the highways and their perceived social consequences compared to the murders that took place near or around them. The killings almost seemed vague in comparison to the endless spout of facts and conjecture concerning the interstate system. A third of the way through the book the author begins to refer to herself in first person. Her first hand account of a few events didn't fit well with the established style used in the first two thirds. The book derails in the end, probably from lack of usable material, citing other countries' examples of similar problems. It seemed out of character for a book in a series called "Discovering America" to fill in the last section in this manner. I was very happy when I finally finished it. Positively speaking, it made for a nice sleeping pill however.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Antonio Ferreira Cruz on November 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I'm not american but this book gave me a insightful view of the US interstate road system, its history and related problems. Quite interesting. Highly recommended.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bill Emblom on March 1, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I gave the book "Killer on the Road" by Ginger Strand three stars because only one chapter, Chapter 5, tells me about the life of truckers and the dangers of truck stops. Several other chapters discuss the cases of Charles Starkweather in Nebraska, Wayne Williams in Atlanta, Ed Kemper in California, Henry Lucas in Texas, in addition to time spent on Ted Bundy and other serial murderers. The cases of those mentioned above are in other books and need not be repeated here. Chapter 5, on the other hand, provides the reader with what life on the road is like for a trucker and the dangers that exist at truck stops. Author Ginger Strand gives us her distinction between a sociopath and a psychopath. I always assumed they were the same, but she states a sociopath would have a lower intelligence level (Charles Starkweather) than a psychopath (Ted Bundy).

The life of a trucker is one of the top ten most dangerous jobs with a high turnover rate. It's a lonely job with a lot of sitting down and eating unhealthy food at greasy spoon restaurants. The author mentions that any truck stop in New Jersey is dangerous, but other areas such as the Nashville area of Tennessee is listed as well. However, no one area can be considered immune from danger. With loneliness on the road being a problem truckers and prostitutes often find one another at truck stops and murders often occur in such circumstances. A trucker may commit a murder in one area and be hundreds of miles away as he moves along to his next stop. I did find a lot of interesting information in this chapter, but the other chapters on various serial killers I have found in other books and felt as though they were included here as fillers for the book.
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