Throttle and Duel

Homages are an interesting thing. Often enough they are created to tickle our fancy for the original. With the short story, “Throttle,” the reader gets just that. I think we can all agree that Richard Matheson has produced some fine works (I am LegendThe Shrinking Man, episodes for The Twilight Zone to just name a few for the uninitiated). One of his great anxiety inducing stories is “Duel,” which also was adapted for television and film by Steven Spielberg.¹

If you’ve never read “Duel,” I suggest reading Matheson’s story first, not only for the references in King and Hill’s story, but for the sheer fact that it is highly enjoyable.²

It sounds simple and maybe not as horrifying as one would imagine, but “Duel” literally races down the highway taking the reader along with it, leading to intense page turning. The story is about Mann, our leading driver, who finds himself impatiently trying to pass a truck on the highway. What ensues is a death-defying cat and mouse duel between Mann and the truck driver, who Matheson focuses on as a truck and less like a man (Man vs. Machine?). Matheson strips the characters of their identifying humanity, creating battling creatures.

Then, unexpectedly, emotion came. Not dread, at first, and not regret; not the nausea that followed soon. It was a primeval  tumult in his mind: the cry of some ancestral beast above the body of its vanquished foe.

So, you can see why Stephen King and his son, author Joe Hill (who is a completely wonderful writer in his own right; I hope to have some reviews of his work soonish) would take on the task of creating a story influenced by “Duel.” Homages can be fun when done right (no one likes a copy cat) and this one certainly is just that. In “Throttle,”³ we have a gang of hard-living motorcyclists with more back story than Matheson’s Mann. While on the road, they must maneuver down the highway while outracing a dueling tractor trailer. The motorcyclists have a seedy story to hide and it all comes to deadly fruition during the final duel. Oh, and there are illustrations to supplement the spinning tires and Army tats.

I’ve never seen Sons of Anarchy, but I’m sure fans of the show will like this one. I know I certainly had a good time. Also, I kept thinking of the grumpy Hell’s Angels in the East Village who yell at tourists, who dare to sit on the bench outside of their clubhouse on East Third Street. For all non-New Yorkers, even though absolutely no member ever sits on that bench, they don’t want you to, either.


  1. You can read a little recollection by Spielberg about the story and adapting it here.
  2. “Duel” is available to read for free online at Google Books.
  3. “Throttle” is available for a steal at .99 cents.

**Many thanks to Rory at Fourth Street Review for pointing this one out. I was a bit busy this month and I know I’m a day late and buck short, but maybe this one will count as my contribution to her month-long, King’s March.
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  1. Cool! I like Matheson a lot, and I love Hill, especially his short stories. And the latest TPB of Locke and Key is sitting on my bedside table now…

    1. Yeah, this made me want to include some Matheson in the near future. He’s been dreadfully overlooked on this blog (mostly because I haven’t read him in a while). If you haven’t read Duel yet, I recommend. Who knew one’s heart would palpitate with anxiety over literary road rage?

      I’ve read one Hill story (post coming soon), but no others, although, I have a few on my kindle. I did like Horns, which I hope to review, too. I’ll have to look into Locke and Key. I don’t know anything about it.

      1. Just read “Duel” now. Wow! Heart in mouth.

        I did a post on one of Hill’s short story collections waaaay back; loved it. I prefer his prose to the comics, but as a comic, Locke and Key is outstanding.

  2. Locke and Key is the standard to which I hold all other comics now – to the detriment of everything else. It’s very good. I love Stephen King (obviously), but I tend to think of Joe Hill as the better writer. NOS4A2 is really amazing and I enjoy his short stories.

    I’ve tried to get into Sons of Anarchy. I think I’m somewhere in season two, but have since abandoned it for the wonderful Wallander.

    And you can totally participate in King’s March, we have one more link up this Saturday. Every time I use totally, I feel very valley girl. It’s funny, in life I am very punctual and reliable, online I’m terrible and it bothers me (i.e. I read The Lodger and still have not posted anything about it…)

    1. I’ll definitely check into Locke and Key since both you and Nina (above) enjoy it. I’ve never read NOS4A2 (but I now have a copy), but I’ve read Horns. I remember thinking while reading that one: is Joe Hill a stronger writer than his dad? I think he is. I will eventually get around to reviewing it here and some short stories of his.

      I feel like I’m the only one in the US not watching Sons of Anarchy. One of these days…I always had a strange fascination with the Hell’s Angels HQ when I lived in the East Village. I find them both curious and ridiculous. In regards to Wallander, I’ve watched one episode and haven’t had a chance to return. I usually go through phases of exclusively watching dark Scandinavian/Scandinavian-inspired TV. Perhaps, this one will make the next wave.

      Yes! Glad I made the cut for King’s March. And I’m looking forward to what you have to say about The Lodger.

      Forget about it. I constantly think I must sound like a buffoon on the internet. I have so much to say, but I want to keep it short and succinct, which of course means it comes out like half-witted word vomit.

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