“Killer on the Turnpike” is a 63-page story by William McGivern that was originally serialized in the “Saturday Evening Post” in 1961 under the title “Murder on the Turnpike.” It was later the anchor of a five-story McGivern anthology paperback released by Pocket Books later in 1961. Finally, the story was collected in the Alfred Hitchcock compilation, “Stories to Be Read with the Lights On” from 1973.
“Killer on the Turnpike” takes place over a single night when a serial killer (before there was a term for that) is stalking, abducting, and killing motorists along a 100-mile length of interstate highway stretching south from New York. The state troopers patrolling the turnpike first notice an abandoned car followed by a dead body - with more mayhem to follow. Even still, it takes them awhile to piece together what’s happening.
Adding to the tension is the fact that 45 miles of this highway will be traveled by the motorcade of the President of the United States later that night. Dan O’Leary is the earnest young state trooper who discovers the first abandoned car 200 yards away from a highway diner where his girlfriend works. He later spearheads the cat and mouse game between the police and the killer that is the centerpiece of this enjoyable story.
McGivern writes both tense suspense scenes as well as logical police procedural passages very well. The scenes jump from the killer to the police with smooth transitions. Perhaps it stretches realism when the President’s convoy isn’t rerouted while there’s an active manhunt happening on the turnpike, but what fun would that be?
In any case, “Killer on the Turnpike” is a fun way to kill some time with an old, crumbling paperback. Don’t spend a fortune on it, and you won’t be let down. Recommended.
Note: McGivern's turnpike story became a movie, "Nightmare in Chicago". It was directed by Robert Altman in 1964 and features Charles McGraw.
Buy a copy of this book HERE