Ellroy's third foray into first person narration — this time told from the viewpoint of a serial killer who earns the (primary) moniker "Silent Terror." This was Ellroy's last novel to date to feature a contemporary setting. Killer/narrator Martin Michael Plunkett crosses paths with Charles Manson and vows, in the novel's closing sentence, to continue "in some dark form." Ellroy has said his intent was that readers would think that Ellroy was being overtly self-confessional and was indeed the killer of the book. Plunkett's back-story echoes just enough of Ellroy's life story to support this claim. Underrated by many — including, perhaps, Ellroy himself — the book is arguably the best of his pre-Dahlia novels.


"Enter the horrifying world of a killer whose blood trail of carnage baffles police from coast to coast. There appears to be no motive...because Martin Plunkett kills just for pleasure.

"Martin lives in a world of his own twisted fantasies, tormented by dreams too terrible to endure. Until he discovers the blessed relief that comes from the sight, the taste, and the feel of fresh warm blood...

But Martin's quest for relief from the pain of his obsession is unquenchable. From secluded love nests in LA, to the snow-covered slopes of Aspen, to the lonely deserts of Utah, he follows his lust for blood, finding lone drivers or young lovers — leaving their dismembered bodies in grotesque positions of his own design. His next victim can be anyone...anywhere."

—© Avon Books

The novel was first published in paperback by Avon (ISBN: 0-380-89934-5) in 1986. Blood & Guts Press, an imprint of Vagabond Bookstore in L.A. (a key dealer in rare Ellroy books), published a limited edition hardback in two states in October 1986. The first is a signed, numbered edition of 350 copies; the second a signed and lettered edition of 26 copies. The lettered edition is also signed by mystery author Jonathan Kellerman, who supplied an introduction for the limited edition.

The novel was later given a different title in the U.S., "Killer on the Road," drawn from the lyrics of the Doors' tune, "Riders on the Storm."

So how did the title change? In an exclusive interview with James Ellroy's World, the author explained: "I called the book 'Killer on the Road.' Avon, who published it as a paperback original, wanted 'Silent Terror,' which was their title. They foisted it upon me. When they reprinted the book —re-jacketed the book — they wanted to be nice to me, so they called it 'Killer on the Road," which is my title."

coverOrder the trade paperback edition of Killer on the Road

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