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Friday, April 6, 2012

Roadwork (audiobook) by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)

A story of a man whose world has fallen apart

Published in 2010 by Penguin Audio
Read by: G. Valmont Thomas
Duration: 9 hours, 40 minutes.

Way back in 1981 Stephen King released Roadwork under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. Bachman was the name King used to sell pulp fiction type stories so that he could afford to pay his bills and not hurt his reputation as he waited for his work he submitted under his name to take off. King opens this book with an interesting introduction that explains his rather complex relationship with his pseudonym.

Roadwork, on the surface, is simple enough. A man in this forties is losing his house, his job and the memories that he holds dearest to the expansion of a highway through his neighborhood. Due to imminent domain, Barton George Dawes will lose his last connections to his son who has died three years earlier due to a brain tumor. He will lose the house that he and his wife scraped and scrimped to buy. He will lose his career at the local laundry and the memories of the brothers who loaned him the money to go to college so that he could help them with their family business. His son is gone, the laundry has been swallowed up by a large corporation (he manages it for them and they show little interest in the business), his wife has become less of a friend and lover and more of a roommate.

Basically, Dawes' life has fallen apart and he is angry about it. Very angry.

Stephen King
Dawes refuses to look for a new place to live, even though the rest of his neighbors have sold out and moved on. He refuses to search for a new location for the laundry. Instead, he quietly goes behind everyone's backs and purchases weapons and contacts a local mobster about buying explosives so he can blow up the highway.

As a forty-something myself, I found myself sympathizing with Dawes to a point. Dawes has invested everything in a life that has come to nothing - no family, no job, not even the house he has worked for all of these years.

G. Valmont Thomas did a remarkable job of voicing Dawes, his internal alter-ego (Dawes often talks to another person in his mind) and the supporting characters in this tragedy. There is no great moral in this book,  no happy ending. It is a tragedy in the original sense of the word - everyone can see it coming from a mile away but what can a man do when he has nothing left to lose?

I rate this audiobook 4 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: Roadwork

Reviewed on April 6, 2012.

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