Novel Captures Truckers’ Lives in Whodunit Mystery
October 1, 2003
WINDSOR, Ont. - It's been 20 years since Michael Day sat behind a steering wheel in the cab of a tractor-trailer, hauling produce between Florida and Ontario.But he still has memories."I loved it and ...
READ ALL ABOUT IT: Michael Day, a former truck mechanic tells the tales of the trucking industry in his new book, Overload.
WINDSOR, Ont. – It’s been 20 years since Michael Day sat behind a steering wheel in the cab of a tractor-trailer, hauling produce between Florida and Ontario.
But he still has memories.
“I loved it and hated it,” says Day, now a financial planner in Windsor. “Leaving was always an adventure, whether you were heading south or loaded up and heading home. You always got this sense of adventure, but you always hated being away from friends and family too.”
Those days are gone. But aspects of them live on in Day’s just completed novel, Overload, which recently hit bookstores and truck stops in southern Ontario.
The book is a murder mystery with a cast of characters that spans the trucking industry, from rogue drivers to “gypsies” and workaday long-haulers as colourful as the driving day is long.
The book is a whodunit involving citizens of the fictional town of White Falls, Ohio.
It’s a day or two run for the millions of truckers who travel Midwest America’s main street, Interstate 75.
The characters include L.T., a bitter but competent senior police officer whose personal life too often overlaps his professional.
There’s Ruby, L.T.’s hard-working, heart-of-gold, if acerbic, girlfriend.
There are Carla and Marlin of Zephyrhills, Fla., brother and sister and their trashy, family-owned truck firm.
And there’s Doobie, the Toronto trucker who’s as laid-back and fun loving as his name implies.
The novel is laced with political corruption with overtones of the Mafia and rogue truckers up to no good.
As well, characters as crusty as they are witty, mistake-prone as smart, all trying to hold to life in a world where money never seems to pay enough and whose lives are as transitory as an hour’s truck stop break.
Day told Truck News he’s been writing – usually freelance for magazines – since he was injured as a truck mechanic in the early 1980s.
The plot for the novel came naturally. “I don’t know why,” he says.
He belongs to a small Windsor writer’s group.
“I bounced the idea off of them and they liked it so I ran with it.”
With the millions of people who drive truck for a living there’s been very little in the way of stories dealing with their lives.
Day hopes to help fill the gap.
“This is a little more serious than the Smokey and the Bandit stuff and I feel it contains a good bit of realism.”
He hopes his books will eventually become available at truck stops far and wide. His current book can be purchased online from Amazon, and at the Flying J in London, Ont. and the Husky stop outside Windsor.
He already has a second book underway, called Overdrive. But first he wants to get this novel widely distributed and “develop something of an audience.”
Feedback so far has been good.
“I’m getting calls every week from people saying, ‘You know, I couldn’t put it down, it’s a thrill ride, it’s a great adventure.'”
And, with Overload, truckers know that what they’re reading comes from one of their own. Whether drivers are identified by their Kenworths, Peterbilts, Great Danes or Freightliners, or whether the van is a “reefer” (as Day used to drive), the lingo is as familiar as a year-old roadmap. And you’ll find more than enough references to “slim jims,” “the doghouse” and even “LTDs” (lady truck drivers). Geography should be as familiar as The Bikini State, The Windy and T-Town.
Of course the book is punctuated with CB talk – trashy and otherwise.
Such as when Marlin and his Kenworth with Caterpillar engine overtakes a Mack Cabover on I-95 making for Harrisburg:
‘Okay, big truck,’ called a voice on the CB. ‘You blew my doors off. Bring it back in.’
‘Thank you, driver,’ Marlin replied, and flashed the trailer’s marker lights as he pulled back into the right lane. ‘You might as well shut down that reefer,’ said the Mack driver. ‘You forgot your load back yonder in the Bikini State.’
Marlin keyed the mile, laughed and replied, ‘Not true, driver. I’m loaded. Besides, everyone knows a Cat can outrun an old bulldog any day.’ The novel has plenty of romance, and some steamy sex. But humour is never far away.
Such as when Oklahoma trucker Wade comes on to Carla amid a sorry lot of drivers: “‘…sitting around drinking, belching and scratching their balls.” Wade says, ‘Life is short, Angel. I’m at the table over there if you’d like to cut the crap and have a good time.’ ‘Okay, so you’re cute, did you have to humiliate my ass in front of these people?’
‘First, your ass is so fine no one would ever consider it humble. Second, in front of what people? These are zombies. Like dead Indians. You and me, we’re the only people in here.’ She broke into a grin. He’d scored a few more points.’
While the characters may be offshoots of today’s road warriors from Toledo to Tennessee, Day says the book also pays tribute to the trucker’s life.
Now, more than ever, he says, it’s tough being on the highway. That’s because of pressure to move goods just in time and, for international haulers, the increased border tie-ups post-Sept. 11 due to Canada-U.S. security.
“We just can’t expect a person who has 16 hour days and 12 hours of them are behind the wheel, to be happy go lucky all day long, can we?”
A motorcycle enthusiast, Day also hopes to get back into trucking, a least the odd time.
“I’m thinking about running two or three trips a year for owner/operators who need a break,” he says, echoing a character in his book.
It will be a welcome taste of the open road, and no doubt, the adventures will provide freight for future plot lines.