Starting in the 1950s, Americans eagerly built the planet’s largest public work: the 42,795-mile National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. Before the concrete was dry on the new roads, however, a specter began haunting them—the highway killer. He went by many names: the “Hitcher,” the “Freeway Killer,” the “Killer on the Road,” the “I-5 Strangler,” and the “Beltway Sniper.” Some of these criminals were imagined, but many were real. The nation’s murder rate shot up as its expressways were built. America became more violent and more mobile at the same time.
Killer on the Road tells the entwined stories of America’s highways and its highway killers. There’s the hot-rodding juvenile delinquent who led the National Guard on a multistate manhunt; the wannabe highway patrolman who murdered hitchhiking coeds; the record promoter who preyed on “ghetto kids” in a city reshaped by freeways; the nondescript married man who stalked the interstates seeking women with car trouble; and the trucker who delivered death with his cargo. Thudding away behind these grisly crime sprees is the story of the interstates—how they were sold, how they were built, how they reshaped the nation, and how we came to equate them with violence.
Through the stories of highway killers, we see how the “killer on the road,” like the train robber, the gangster, and the mobster, entered the cast of American outlaws, and how the freeway—conceived as a road to utopia—came to be feared as a highway to hell.
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.
Table of Contents
- Introduction: Killer on the Road
- Chapter 1: What a Mean World This Is
- Chapter 2: Forklift
- Chapter 3: The Cruelest Blow
- Chapter 4: American Isolato
- Chapter 5: Drive-by Truckers
- Chapter 6: A Prayer for the Body Buried by the Interstate
- Sources and Acknowledgments
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The author makes some very interesting points and tells the tales of several serial killers who used the interstate highways in a compelling manner. However, she doesn't always develop her main theme, namely the role of the interstate highways and the reasons serial killers used them. Very worthwhile effort however, I read it cover to cover.
Very interesting and informative read. The author intertwines the history and development of the U.S. interstate highway system and the dark underbelly of serial killings the author hypothesizes that go along with it. It is two stories in one that kept my absorption throughout the journey. I learned a great deal geographically as well. I highly recommend this book, and I will be interested in others in the Discovering America series.