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Roll On: A Trucker's Life on the Road Paperback – April 15, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"Roll On takes us as readers out of our familiar world and into that of the long-haul truck driver. Fred Afflerbach, himself once a long-haul driver, brings Ubi and his changing world alive in a way that will touch your heart—and make you hope he finds happiness at the end of his picaresque journey. This novel stands out as new and fresh among many nostalgic reflections of life as it once was."

-    Judy Alter, Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement in Western Writing and former director of TCU Press.

"An entertaining and informative cross-country odyssey, Fred Afflerbach’s Roll On traces the life of “the last of a breed,” an almost mythic, independence-minded truck driver, as he transports furniture past famous landmarks, through dense forests, over major rivers, and in and out of congested  cities, carrying the reader along on an engaging narrative with telling dialogue and picturesque description. Whether rescuing students in search of the real America or picking up a hippie helper who proves an expert loader of others’ belongings or encountering fascinating figures whose household or business effects, even a grand piano, he moves from west coast to east and points in between, Afflerbach’s wholesome hero regales the reader with a know-how not only for maneuvering the highways in any weather or condition but for dealing with one’s origins and directions, in terms of love, family, and ethical decisions. The novelist knows his subject through and through and tells his compelling story artfully, one full of insights and characters any reader will come to care deeply about."

– Dave Oliphant, noted poet and jazz historian. His latest book is KD: A Jazz Biography.

Even though it’s fiction, Roll On is a stellar addition to your adventure travel collection. Scooch over your copy of William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways and John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley and ride shotgun with trucker Ubi Sunt as he steers Old Ironsides, his ‘56 Peterbilt 18-wheeler, along America’s highways.

Roll past Shiprock, the magnificent throat of a volcano rising 1,500 feet above northern New Mexico’s high desert plain. And see Manhattan anew from Ubi’s rig called a cabover that sits on top of a 350-horsepower diesel. Meet The Chameleon, who offers “polishing, painting and pills” at truck stops, and Mississippi Hippie, a pony-tailed musician who, for cash, helps Ubi load and unload freight and sleeps in the 45-foot trailer.

Freedom and the meaning of life are up for discussion as orphan and widower Ubi copes with progress that threatens his way of life. This resourceful Good Samaritan rescues “four wheelers” and other truckers who don’t have the road smarts that Ubi accumulated during what is now a bygone era of independent trucking. Who but Ubi knows to carry bleach in his magic side box to help improve traction on ice and snow?

If your father or grandfather was a jack-of-all-trades, you will identify with Ubi’s daughter Jeanne, who learned the value of tools and CB radios from her Dad, but now wants him to give up the road—or does she? Jeanne’s twins Molly and Jeremy want nothing of the sort, and excitedly beg Grandpa Truck to bring Old Ironsides to school for show-and-tell.

And don’t overlook the jazz lover and poet in Ubi, who keeps The Complete Works of Walt Whitman and a flashlight in his bunk for night reading.

Someone please send this book to Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones, who know the strong attraction of road stories and will appreciate the fine descriptions: “West of Fort Worth, the land peels back and the sky comes out like opening the curtains on a sunny day.”

Is Fred Afflerbach writing a sequel? Roll on! 

-- Elaine Davenport, Publisher, Writer's AudioShop (

Book Description

Ubi Sunt, a long-haul trucker driving an aging Peterbilt named old Ironsides, has spent his life trying to balance the difficulties and stresses of a family life with the isolating yet magnetic draw of living on the road. While Ubi thinks he has successfully maintained this juggling act over the last three decades, his daughter only has deep-seated memories of missed birthdays, holidays, and graduations. As her children begin to reach the age of soccer games and school plays, she finally tells her father that if he wants a relationship with his grandchildren, he’d better settle down—drive local and be home—or forget it. 
Anxious to see the only family he has left after the death of his wife, but not quite ready to drop anchor and retire, Ubi decides to hop in his truck and head east. As he makes his way from the palm trees and beaches of sunny California to the narrow brick roads and fast-paced city life of Philadelphia, he notices dramatic changes in the American landscape: jammed toll roads lined with fast-food restaurants and hotel chains; a younger generation of truckers hurrying past like packs of wolves with their twin-turbo six-hundred horsepower diesel engines, only thinking of the next buck and never learning the “code of the road.” Additionally, the family-owned company he has worked at for over thirty years has been broken up by investors and their network of warehouses, and replaced by cheap rental yards and portable offices in industrial parks, threatening his job safety. 
Ubi’s transcontinental trip across the Painted Desert, the Black Hills of South Dakota, and lush landscapes of Minnesota, through America’s breadbasket into the gritty northeast, allows the reader to view this country from the standpoint of an old-school long-haul trucker via his spy glass: the windshield of a big rig.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (April 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0897336232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0897336239
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,566,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In 1979, at age 22, Fred Afflerbach scraped together $3,500 and used the money for a down payment on a GMC diesel rig. He soon began writing about life on the road for truckers' tabloids. At age 50, he earned journalism and English degrees at Texas State University. Writing for a daily newspaper in Central Texas, he won several Associated Press awards. Roll On is his debut novel. He lives in Cedar Park, Texas with his wife Diane.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BC on May 15, 2012
Format: Paperback
A damn fine read -- nicely structured, fast-paced, cinematic; iconic American themes interlacing a personal story. While Afflerbach taps some of the familiar road themes in American literature, he does not overdo them; characters do not overstay their welcome. Ubi Sunt is not without his faults; his relationship with his daughter is nicely textured and revealing; his inability to stop moving haunting. While I picked up the novel with trepidation (I was a co-driver with Afflerbach in the early 1980s and have published non-fiction history books, including one on trucking, and articles myself), I smiled while reading this new voice in American literature. He got most of the road right (though some detail might escape non-truckers) and held my interest as much for discovering the characters as for experiencing the road again. A poignant ending creates uncertainty about any sequel, but demands a second novel from Afflerbach, and the sooner the better.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Fred G. on May 14, 2012
Format: Paperback
I'm ashamed to say that when I first saw this book by a trucker about a trucker, I was expecting something just north of comic book caliber. But, having made my living on the road myself, and having met and dealt with many, many different types of professional truck drivers, I had to pick it up. This is where one usually says that he couldn't put it down but I actually could. In fact, the scenic descriptions of America's roadways in all seasons and weather was for me a nostalgic journey that I didn't want to end. Roll On provides insightful information about what goes on behind the scenes of the long-haul trucking industry even though the instances of interaction with State Law Enforcement was cliche and simplistic. Our hero is a likeable professional who cherishes his career and has the enviable problem of longing for his work and for the road. Only two of the book's characters are really built up but they are built up well and their relationship tells a story that many of us who have to make a living often far from family can relate to. Knowing more about them, and a deeper dialogue between them and others would have made this good read even better. Afflerbach makes a strong debut and I will watch for more from this author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sarah on November 20, 2012
Format: Paperback
Fred Afflerbach's debut novel is a wonderfully nostalgic and surprisingly moving story of family, love, and freedom. When I heard this novel was about a trucker, I expected a run-of-the-mill road trip novel, but I was pleasantly surprised. Afflerbach--once a cross-country trucker himself--knows his craft, and breathes life into his novel through vivid descriptions of wide open America, and the tough choices that must be made by his fantastic protagonist, Ubi Stunt, a widower who must decide between his love for the open road, and his love for his family.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dr Penner on November 28, 2012
Format: Paperback
Roll On isn't your typical road novel about a trip driving across the country-it's a road novel about an entire life driving across the country. As the landscapes change, so does the time, which must inevitably change the people that drive through it. Fred Afflerbach gives a strong debut novel that examines the life of a trucker; one that is a constant struggle between family and a job that takes you away from it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Veva525 on November 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
Fred Afflerbach offers his readers a last glimpse into what life is like on the road. Trucking is all that Ubi Sunt knows, but after the death of his wife, his daughter Jeanne is eager for him to settle down. Rich with all the colorful landscapes that America has to offer and the wide, winding highways that connect them, "Roll On" is a gem of a novel.
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By Amazon Customer on September 10, 2014
Format: Paperback
It’s been said, probably more than once, that today’s long-haul truckers are our society’s equivalent of the 19th century cowboy—characterized by some profound restlessness of spirit, needing to be constantly on the trail, unable to find much virtue in a settled life.

But here’s the difference. The American cowboy is immortalized in story, song, film, and art—so much so that we all think we know who he was. In contrast, the American trucker is a largely unknown figure. Thundering past us on the highway at seventy plus miles an hour, head four or five feet higher than ours, often hidden behind tinted windows, we usually can’t make the all-important eye contact from which would learn so much about his (or her) humanity. Add to that the fact that his steed is sheet metal and rubber, loud and scary, and the American trucker has a hard time gaining an emotional connection with an audience.

Maybe that’s why truckers haven’t received cultural immortality yet. Sure, there’ve been a few forgettable films, and some country/western songs come to mind—but almost no significant fine art, and very little serious literature about this breed of adventurer.

That may be changing. Fred Afflerbach’s Roll On: A Trucker’s Life on the Road takes the reader into the cab of an aging big rig to ride with its aging driver, who turns out to be a loveable romantic, a respected professional and a cussedly independent fellow on the far side of middle age. To his grandchildren he’s the best thing since ice cream. To his daughter he’s a total frustration. To the new owners of the van lines he pulls for he’s a tightass who won’t play on the team. He knows that one way or another, he’s likely to find himself turned out to pasture sooner rather than later. But he ain’t goin’ without a fight.
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