Fantastic Reviews - Horror Book Review
Thunder Road Thorne cover Thunder Road by Tamara Thorne

Pinnacle paperback - published July 2004
Reprint of Pocket Books edition, under pseudonym Chris Curry
copyright 1995 - 499 pages
cover photo by Simon Marsden (left)

Book reviewed July 2004
Rating: 7/10  (Recommended)

Review by Aaron Hughes

Interview with author Tamara Thorne

          Thunder Road by Tamara Thorne is a horror novel combining UFOs, the Apocalypse, not one but two serial killers, and a murderous religious cult.  No doubt you are thinking that Tamara Thorne must be quite deranged to try to pull all that off.  Perhaps she is (well, okay, probably she is), but don't forget that James Joyce successfully combined the same story elements in the last third of Ulysses.  (Didn't he?  I dare you to contradict me!  Have you read the last third of Ulysses?  Has anyone?)

Meet Tom Abernathy and Marie Lopez, two likable ranchers who are strongly attracted to each other, but both too painfully shy to do anything about it.  They are quiet, normal folks, and apparently the only such to be found in the entire desert town turned “ghost town” tourist attraction of Madelyn, California.  Among the less conventional residents are . . .

Justin Martin, who appears to be a bright, good-natured teen, but is actually a sadistic and delightfully obnoxious serial killer, urged on by the voice in his head.  He harbors deep admiration for and hopes to earn an apprenticeship with . . .

Carlo Pelegrine, Madelyn's local fortune teller.  Justin has correctly guessed (tipped off by the voice in his head) that Carlo was once a mass murderer dubbed "The Peeler" for his, shall we say, skin fetish.  Although he was never caught, Carlo has repented, and now avoids all temptations greater than peeling an orange, particularly the company of women.  He is thus quite disconcerted by his very strong attraction to . . .

Alexandra Manderley, a gorgeous UFO researcher drawn to Madelyn by its frequent UFO sightings, not to mention those animal abductions and mutilations that so annoy the locals.  ("You goddamned rustlers!" Marie Lopez shouts as she watches a UFO carry off one of her sheep on a great beam of light.)  Alex's work is made rather more difficult by the harassment of Air Force personnel, whom she suspects of kidnapping an assistant of hers who disappeared on an earlier UFO hunt.  Alex's UFOs are also of great interest to . . .

James Robert Sinclair, the charismatic founder of the local heavily armed religious cult, the Church of the Prophet’s Apostles.  The Reverend Jim Bob, as he invites anyone who has helped fill the Apostles’ coffers to call him, weaves Madelyn's UFO activity into his quasi-biblical predictions of the coming visit by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, scheduled to gallop down Thunder Road, the main drag into Madelyn, in five days (six if they miss their connecting flight).  His followers (including Justin Martin, who smells action) roam Madelyn carrying umbrellas for the imminent deluge and preaching to potential recruits.  Jim Bob intended all of this as a money-making scam, but he is starting to take his own prophecies more seriously because of, that’s right, the voice in his head.  His possible self-conversion is of great concern to . . .

Hannibal Caine, Jim Bob's most trusted advisor, who is determined not to allow Jim Bob to deviate from their church's original, pure purpose: to defraud people of money.  Caine and Eldo Blandings, Jim Bob's other top lieutenant, instruct some of their cultists to save the souls of the Madelyn townspeople through random acts of mayhem, starting with vandalism and working their way up to kidnapping, murder, maybe even a crucifixion or two.  Caine does this to preempt Jim Bob, who doesn’t know what they’re doing but will surely take the blame for it, from turning the cult legit; Blandings does it for fun.  It all creates a lot of extra work for . . .

Moss Baskerville, the harried chief of Madelyn's police force, which is understaffed on a good day, let alone when the town's citizens start disappearing as fast as the liquor at a political convention.  Baskerville (don’t ya love these names?) is the longtime beau of . . .

Cassie Halloway, Madelyn's tattooed lady, and let me tell you, you don't want to be the tattooed lady with two serial killers who like to skin their victims lurking nearby.  Hold on - was that a spoiler?  I hate spoilers in reviews!  Oh, wait, it's okay, because I'm yanking your chain.  The tattooed lady actually doesn't get killed.  No, really, she doesn't.  Honest!  Why won't you believe me?

Tamara Thorne has a great time bringing all these odd people together and just letting them interact.  She juggles chapters from the viewpoint of all of these characters and others, making for a narrative that is frenzied but never confusing.  I particularly liked the budding romance between Carlo and Alex, two kind, sweet people who could really make each other happy, if only he can resist the urge to skin her alive.  I was disappointed that the crucial scene where they get intimate and put Carlo's temptation to the test occurs offstage, but I'll forgive Thorne for omitting that scene (especially since it's quite possible she wrote it and had it yanked by a squeamish editor).  Thorne manages to tie her characters’ stories together effectively by the time the Four Horsemen arrive, and she even offers a thought provoking partial explanation for the UFOs’ involvement.

          Thunder Road, originally published in 1995 under the pseudonym Chris Curry, is not as overtly tongue-in-cheek as Thorne's most recent books, The Sorority Trilogy.  This is a horror novel, after all, and some rather unpleasant things happen to some nice people, although they are thankfully not described in terribly graphic detail.  But Thunder Road is still purposefully offbeat in ways sure to amuse anyone with an appropriately twisted sense of humor.  Tamara Thorne knows it's no fun being scared unless you're having fun being scared.  She'll take you on a weird and harrowing trip down Thunder Road that's a helluva fun ride.
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Copyright 2004 Aaron Hughes
Thunder Road by "Chris Curry"
Pocket Books edition (right)
cover art by Jim Warren
Thunder Road Curry cover

Fantastic Reviews author interview:
Tamara Thorne interview

More Tamara Thorne book reviews by Aaron Hughes:
The Sorority

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Links to websites about Tamara Thorne:
The Official Tamara Thorne Website

For information on more science fiction and fantasy books:
Denver Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club

This page was last updated - 27 December 2010