Road Trip to Murder

caravan parkA road trip mystery book, what could be better for someone as I, who travels every year to various and sundry locations, just to take pictures of huge muffler men, buildings in the shape of coffee pots, and deserted former Mother Goose parks with discarded dwarfs littering the land? If a Body, by George Worthing Yates, doesn’t fulfill all of my roadside America yearnings, but it comes close. Published in 1941, probably written in 1940, the war hadn’t yet intruded on the happy roadways, and tourism was doing well. People had just begun traveling with trailers. Wally Byam, the inventor and builder of the first Airstream recreational vehicles, was happily in production in his backyard, during the mid 1930s. He sold plans to others, so they could create their own perfect home away from home. By 1942 they were well known on the roads, but once the country was fighting, the government wouldn’t allow the building of caravans–they needed all the aluminum and other components for the war effort. After, Byam went through business difficulties, but finally created a factory full of shiny silver compact caravans that traveled across country, and overseas–he personally shipped several to Europe. In this spirit, Americans began caravan traveling–long lines of Airstreams would gather together for a rally. The Wally Byam Caravan Club would meet and stay at various caravan parks, throughout the states, enjoying each other’s company, holding competitions, and generally bonding. How do I know all this, besides the wonderful google? My grandparents owned Airstreams as long as I knew them, and traveled constantly–everywhere across the US–they had been to every state except Alaska (an earthquake occurred the year they had intended to go) and Hawaii (my grandfather said he’d go as soon as they built a bridge.) And to my dismay, I stayed for a week with them at one rally at a caravan park in North Jersey. I was ten, and the closeness of inhabiting an airstream with them, and a cousin, and being urged to enter a Little Miss something or other contest, didn’t go well. The only respite was traveling via train to NYC and the World’s Fair. Other than that, you could keep your caravan rallies!

As an adult, I’ll kill to own one of the vintage Airstreams my grandparents lived in. Would I join Wally Byam Caravan Club? Not sure about that, lol. In this mystery, one of the suspects has built his own trailer–all silver and sleek–no doubt with plans from Byam! The story starts out on the road, newlyweds Hazlitt George Brendan Woar and Katheren (no, not a misspelling–the author wrote it that way) Meynard Woar are running from the law–he’s in the US illegally, or so a law person who has a grudge has decided, and they want him for deportation. It’s rainy, they’re on ‘The National Old Trails Route from coast to coast -a trip every American should make’–more precisely, the part of Route 40 between Pennsylvania, West Virginia and hilly Ohio when suddenly a man appears in the direct line of their car, causing them to brake, and for the car behind to hit them. The victim, far from dead, seems none the worse for wear, being soddenmystery with drink. George swears he saw someone push the man in front of the car, but his new wife wants to hear nothing about detecting–he’s gotten into loads of trouble before when he dipped into the murder pool, having once been part of Scotland Yard. The accident necessitates a stay at a sleazy auto camp–Mizler’s Mountain View Rest Cabins–Everybody Sleeps Here! The other temporary residents include: a couple with their teenage daughter traveling via car and trailer; a middle aged couple from Wisconsin that rear ended the Woars; the drunk and his extraordinarily beautiful wife;. a single rough and tumble traffic inspector; an unlikely movie mogul and his flashy wife;  sullen twin brothers; and the skinny inn keepers, Mr. and Mrs. Mizler. What happens later in the evening sets most on a cross country trek suspecting each other of murdering the drunk, who escaped death twice, one after being hit, another after being rescued from his burning car. The third time did the trick,  his car ran into a huge tractor trailer.

What George can’t figure out is who knew whom before, why the widow has become instantly attached to the traffic inspector, why a movie man would be traveling in that fashion, and what the twins, middle aged couple, and family are up to at any given moment. The pace is quick. They travel from point to point on what  the roads were back then, including Route 66. The weaving in and out of cars, coincidences of meeting up with the same people along the way, while trying to avoid them, and the knowledge that one of the suspects also knows who George really is, adds to the swiftness of story, and the overall fun for the reader traveling along.

The story gives a true look at what road travel was like before super highways–now monotonous duplicate exits, where you wouldn’t be able to tell what state you’re in unless told. The small towns, woods, farms, cities, are revived, if only for the time it takes to read 281 pages. My grandparents would have enjoyed this book, if they’d have ever taken time from behind the wheel.

4 thoughts on “Road Trip to Murder”

  1. It is helpful when you make it obvious this is another article about Mysteries – that way, those of us who are not Mysteryphiles can just hit delete and get on with our days.
    This used to be a useful site for booksellers in general but is quickly becoming another site devoted to mysteries and their devotees.
    Good luck.

    • George. If you visit often, you would see the variety of articles posted here, not just by me, but bookshop owners, book experts, online booksellers, etc etc. If you had noticed, there are articles about the future of independent bookstores, losing packages in the mail, new techniques for printing books, how rewarding it is to own a bookstore, how not to annoy your customers, about self publishing, and online reviews. Some of the articles have examples from my experience, which happens to be mostly crime fiction oriented, but most are of a general nature, and those by other posters are without theme.
      I fail to understand your animosity. It still is a very good site for booksellers in general, as I just showed. I think the problem you have with the site is not the content, but myself, as we have disagreed a great deal in the past. As you admit, you don’t like crime fiction posts, so don’t read them.

      Perhaps your best bet would to seek out the posters work on the site, of which there are many, that you enjoy, and disregard anything submitted by me.

      • Sorry, Diane, this is not about you – it is about the huge shift in the direction of the site from what it was when it was originally formulated as a bookshops blog.
        Even in normal economic times and without the ebook specter adding to the uncertainty of the books business there have always been a plentitude of mysteries sites available.

        I can recall an article a few years ago that stated mystery sales always improved during hard times. They do steadily constitute around 10-12% of our overall sales in our 5 stores and require less effort than most genres for a number of reasons.

        As I said – if some blogs were labelled mystery then it would be helpful to those of us who have no interest in them.

        Yes, I am thankful, there are a few booksellers who have survived still sharing their insights about the business but now it is difficult to find blogs that store owners frequent – maybe we are all too busy doing the neverending job.

        • George–I’ll reiterate what I’ve already pointed out–there are plenty, no, most posts on this site are generally book–any kind–oriented. Many have to do with direct discussion of book selling, such as shelves, customer interaction, stock, etc. Writers add new posts all the time to express their opinion about subjects that may or may not already been covered. My background is in general book selling, and crime fiction. I’ve written about both. The reason you believe the blog is leaning more towards crime fiction is because I write from that perspective. That doesn’t in any way make it a mystery blog. If most of my experience was in selling history titles, I’d be writing from that perspective.

          If you are concerned that not enough specific subjects about indies are being covered, suggest some topics–if I’m not qualified to write about what you have in mind, I’m sure some other poster is. Or, write some articles you feel would help others, yourself.

          I have no doubt that indie bookstore owners are working overtime to keep afloat. Many do frequent this blog–and some own bookstores specializing in crime fiction. And some general bookstore owners do have an interest in mysteries. As you point out, they sell well, especially in those stores that respect the genre. Crime fiction, at its best, lays bare human behavior, scrutinizes psychological pathology, and provides insights in an engrossing, palpable manner, in which many so-called straight fiction titles cannot. Perhaps that’s why there are so many fans, and therefore blogs devoted to the genre. The sites I frequent, and I believe are the overwhelming type out there, study golden age detectives–hardly of interest to today’s casual reader or book buyer, and therefore isn’t comparable to a site such as this one.

          I can only say that I write from personal experience, plus research, for all my posts. I regret that you feel no lessons or insights can be learned from my perspectives, others who frequent the site who are also booksellers, do.

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