Cars have inspired fiction writers ever since Henry Ford first produced the Model T in 1908. The novels may be about the journey or about the road but whatever angle the writer takes, the car is paramount and some titles are recognised as defining moments in fiction.
The bookworms at Adrian Flux Insurance Services have examined their personal libraries and come up with this list of classics featuring cars.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac, first published in 1957, is one of the most well know and influential books about travelling in the USA. It was hailed in the New York Times as the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouoac himself named as ‘beat’. Based on the travels of Kerouac and his friends across America, the novel contains five parts, three of them describing road trips. Such is the influence of this book that Kerouac’s grave in Edson Cemetery, Lowell, Massachusetts is a still regularly visited by fans leaving gifts of beer, cigarettes and joints.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1972) written by Hunter S. Thompson and illustrated by Ralph Steadman is based on two trips to Las Vegas, that the author took with attorney and Chicano activist Oscar Zeta Acosta in March and April 1971. It revolves around journalist Raoul Duk, and his attorney, Dr. Gonzo as they report on a motorcycle race. Their trip soon degenerates as they begin experimenting with a variety of recreational drugs leading to a series of bizarre hallucinogenic trips, during which they destroy hotel rooms, wreck cars, and have visions of desert animals, while mulling over the decline of culture in a city of insanity.
Wonder Boys (2008) by Michael Chabon tells the story of Grady Tripp, a middle-aged professor and writer who is going through a personal and professional crisis. Not specifically a road trip, it is a trip of discovery during a chaotic weekend of debauchery. Revolving around Tripp driving around with a dead dog in the boot of his car and antics with a tuba, Marilyn Monroe’s ermine-lined jacket and a squashed boa constrictor.
Hit and Run by Doug Johnstone, a modern Scottish writer, is about making a split second decision that changes a life. The novel begins with Billy Blackmore driving home through Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park with his girlfriend and brother, on the way back from a party high on drink and drugs. They hit a pedestrian and believing the man to be dead, they decide not to report the death. Billy struggles with this decision and his ensuing head injury while encountering some of the seedier elements of Edinburgh.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman is a blend of American fantasy and modern and ancient mythology, based on the idea that when people emigrate to a country they take their gods with them. It follows the journey of the suitably named Shadow as he gets out of prison and meets up with Wednesday and travels across America. Various real-life towns and tourist attractions, including the House on the Rock with the ‘world’s largest carousel’ and Rock City, are featured through the course of the book, although Gaiman says he has obscured the precise location of some actual places featured.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, better known for its film adaptation, is a novel published in 1964 and written by James Bond creator Ian Fleming. Commander Caractacus Pott, an inventor, buys and renovates an old car. Called Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang after the noises it makes when starting, the car surprises its owner by beginning to exhibit independent actions and starting to fly, taking them on a series of wild adventures.
The Wind in the Willows by Graham Greene first published in 1908, the year of the Model T Ford, has become a classic of children’s literature. It focuses on four animal characters set in the English countryside. It mixes mysticism, adventure, morality and friendship and Toad’s car provides some exciting action and is a pivotal part of the plot.