Book Review: Full Throttle by Joe Hill

Full Throttle Cover with Blackboard Art
Full Throttle

Full Throttle by Joe Hill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am going to try something I have never attempted before, and that is to review a book of short stories. I am going to take some help from Joe Hill on this because he did such a great job of discussing how he came up with some of the storylines. But not so much that I get a call from Joe’s lawyer.

Let’s start with where Joe Hill says, “Musicians can do cover songs by the artists they admire. The Black Crows can cover ‘Hard to Handle’ by Otis Redding, and the Beatles could do Buddy Holly whenever they wanted. But writers don’t have the same privilege (when you “cover” another writer line for line, it’s called plagiarism, and the author you admire will be contacting you through his lawyer).

The reason for this discussion was to point out there is very little totally original material left in the world. Even Matt Cutts, the head of search spam at Google, said, “Of all the web pages and content across the internet, over one-quarter of it is repetitive or duplicative… somewhere between 25% to 30%…”

My point here is, while I read Late Returns, I thought, wow, this sounds a lot like 11/22/63, written by his father. Not that any of the lines were word-for-word what his father wrote there, just the idea of time travel. However, Joe turns that idea into something very similar but very different!

To me, that story is a must-read, as are many more in Full Throttle. I will not cover all the stories, but I will give you a glimpse of why I think you need to read it.

Who’s Your Daddy?
Yeah, that’s the title of his introduction. I found the intro as entertaining as many of the stories. He discussed the influence of his mother and father’s reading to him as a child. If you didn’t know, Joe’s mother Tabitha has written several books as well. He also talks about some of the talented people around them, particularly Tom Savini, the makeup and effects artist for the original Creep Show. More on that later.

Joe Hill got the idea for this story because of a request to write an adaption to honor horror writer Richard Matheson, I Am Legend, The Legend of Hell House, and many more. In fact, this was first published as Throttle, He Is Legend: An Anthology Celebrating Richard Matheson.

Joe takes as his inspiration the story Duel, which features a runaway truck. Joe says, “I had instantly imagined a short story about a faceless trucker taking on a gang of outlaw bikers, in a chase that would soon devolve into a war in the sand.” And boy, does he ever!

Since he had no experience with motorcycle riding, he collaborated with his dad on this one.

Dark Carousel
Which he calls, “the most shamelessly Stephen King thing I’ve ever put down on paper. It’s practically a cover of ‘Riding the Bullet’ or ‘The Road Virus Heads North’.”
It’s a fascinating story about four teens, beer, and a carousel ride that’s otherworldly.

Wolverton Station
Is Joe Hill’s spin on Werewolf in London, which he wrote longhand in a notebook on a train after seeing the name at a train stop, “Wolverhampton.” His mind certainly took off from there. Brilliant story.

By the Silver Water of Lake Champlain
Tom Savini winds up directing the adaptation of this for the new Creep Show appearing on Shudder. Joe says, “Keep an eye out for it.”

He wrote this story to honor Ray Bradbury, but it’s his mother that gave him the introduction to it because he was fascinated with the Loch Ness monster. While they were living in England, she tried to take him and Owen there while his dad was hanging out with Peter Straub, but the roads got flooded. He says, “How odd that even as a six-year-old, I was that fixated on monsters.”

He says this story owes a lot to Bradbury and C.S. Lewis but also Lawrence Block, who he said “…has something of a knack for the savage final twist.”

Late Returns
I was kind of disappointed he didn’t get more into how this story came about. All he said was, “I hate the idea of dying when I’m only halfway through a book.” I was thoroughly fascinated with this story, much like 11/22/63, and had to read it twice.

This is a pretty weird tale about a teenage boy who loses his mother to a murder, most likely caused by an abusive terrorist father.

In the Tall Grass
This is another of his stories that his father had an influence on writing. It has also been made into a film that’s available on Netflix as is NOS4R2, which is not in Full Throttle but a full-length novel. Joe says he and his dad wrote the story in six days, start to finish.

Read it and then watch it, would be my recommendation. I did it the other way around. You could also get this as a stand-alone for $3.99.

Oh, by the way, Joe says Sleeping Beauties written by his brother Owen and his dad is “a big, brawling, Dickensian story of wonder and suspense and ideas. Check it out.”

Summary & Recommendation
Thirteen short stories to keep you entertained and sleepless, two of which were co-written by Stephen King. The only problem I can see with short stories is they either end too soon, or not soon enough. Most of the stories in this book left me wanting more.

How many ways can I say, you need to read this book? What if the NY Times said, “In his new collection of short stories, Joe Hill shows how insanely good he is at shocking, terrible, whoa, cover-your-mouth-and-gasp endings . . . Seamless and finely crafted work.”

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