I worked in a large office for an extended period during my somewhat checkered employment career. I don't think I had been there but three weeks when a gentleman suddenly took ill and retired on sick leave. He died a few months later of brain cancer. Another man inherited his desk. He, too, was dead within a year from a tumor in his brain. A third gent was given the desk, and within six months, he also was gone, for the same reason. A number of us attended his funeral, and when we returned to the office, four of us, by agreement common and unspoken, took the desk and unceremoniously shoved it into a storage room where it may still remain. I have been convinced since that time that there are some objects in this world that for whatever reason are salted with a wrongness. Maybe it's a storefront where a business can never successfully take hold, or a piece of jewelry that seems to herald domestic problems, or something else. It's as if they're not meant to be here. But they are.
One of these objects is the basis for Stephen King's new novel, FROM A BUICK 8. There have been some nattering nabobs of negativism who were deriding this book as "Christine II" before it ever came out. Nope, this Buick, unlike Christine, does not sell its soul to rock 'n' roll. Sure, you can't read this bad boy without hearing Bob Dylan's "From A Buick 6" floating in the background --- it even makes an appearance in the story. But the vehicle in this book isn't haunted. No. It's worse.
This Buick 8 pulls up to some gas pumps at a full-serve gas station in Western Pennsylvania in 1979. While the pump jockey is gassing her up, the driver walks around to the back of the station and...disappears. The local gendarme, two Pennsylvania State Policemen named Ennis Rafferty and Curtis Wilcox from Troop D, show up and almost immediately notice that this car isn't...right. For one thing, the sumbitch can't be driven. And...it hums. You can't really hear it, but it's there. Troop D takes custody of it and they watch it. This is one Buick 8 that bears watching. And guarding. Whatever it is, it's not a car. Worse than that, it breathes. It exhales things out into our world and inhales things in to...who knows where. You don't want to know, and you don't want to go there. You won't come back. The car becomes Troop D's family secret, kept in Shed B and quietly but vigilantly guarded. When Wilcox is killed in a senseless accident in the fall of 2001, Ned, his 18 year old son, begins doing odd jobs around the barracks, trying to hold onto his father's memory. Ned discovers the car and the story behind it and he wants to know more. And the car is ready to give him far, far more than he will ever want...
The first draft of FROM A BUICK 8 was completed shortly before King's infamous injuries at the hands of a careless motorist in 1999; there are a couple of moments in the book that seem to eerily prefigure what happened to King. The inspiration for FROM A BUICK 8 itself arose from another incident that I won't reveal here --- King does a wonderful job of it in his Afterward --- but accounts for the setting of the tale in Western Pennsylvania. King did yeoman's research here, hanging out with Pennsylvania State Patrolmen stationed in the area, and nails the region and the people so well that you'd swear he spent his entire life there. What is perhaps so fascinating about FROM A BUICK 8, however, is the canny manner in which King transports this...this car, which does not belong, into our world. As one of the characters indicates in FROM A BUICK 8, there are a lot of Buicks out there. It's not at all hard to imagine that there are objects like this, objects so strange we can barely imagine them, sitting out there. And waiting. You won't be able to read FROM A BUICK 8 without laying awake after ward and wondering about them.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 24, 2002
From a Buick 8