Driving a tractor-trailer for a living is difficult, lonely work with a lot of time to ponder one’s failures. Argent Amos, in California Roll: A Paranormal Journey, captures in exquisite detail the trials and tribulations of the trucking life. Amos’ debut novel, and the planned first installment in a multipart series, first explores life on the road, life in Oakland and the Bay Area during the 1960s and 1970s, and then dives deep into a page-turning mystery.
Noah Sowles is a veteran big rig driver in his 60s who hides from his life and past in the cab of his truck. A former merchant marine estranged from his father and a loser in love, Sowles finds solace in the solitary life of a driver. Hauling a load from the Bay Area to Humboldt County he stops at a closed fueling station in a remote part of the northern woods. The station’s atmosphere fills Sowles with a feeling of dread and he quickly rolls out at dawn, delivers the load, and picks up a load heading south.
Driving past the station, on the return trip, he is hijacked by two heavily armed racists posing as highway patrolmen and forced to drive his rig deep into the forest. He is taken to a remote location where an armed force oversees a large cannabis plantation and its workers. But all is not as it seems as he is brought before the mysterious Doctor Scully and Sowles strives to unlock the nature of his game.
Scully projects an air of both genteel grace and vicious savagery and pressures Sowles to do his bidding. Sowles initially resists; however, after being tortured, he agrees to Scully’s terms: work with one of Scully’s henchmen and drive a truckload of cannabis to El Paso. As the trip south unfolds Sowles eventually realizes that Scully is not who he appears to be, and a titanic struggle ensues in which Sowles must fight to survive and save his soul.
The novel has two focuses. Its initial one is on the life of a long-haul driver as Amos explains in detail how trucking operates and the twists and in turns in Sowles’ youth that led him to his current situation. The novel then builds upon this base and becomes a thriller focused on drug dealing, human trafficking and the nature of the evil that underpins them. Doctor Scully is a superbly drawn villain, reminiscent of a character from a Rolling Stones song. Amos expertly builds the tension and delivers a variety of plot twists that keep the reader engaged. An excellent first novel which, hopefully, will be the first of more to come.
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|Mystery, Crime, Thriller