Roadwork

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Roadwork
Roadwrk1.jpg
First edition cover
AuthorRichard Bachman
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
GenreNovel
PublisherSignet Books
Publication date
March 1981
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Pages274
ISBN978-0-451-09668-5
 
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This article is about the novel. For other uses, see Road work.
Roadwork
Roadwrk1.jpg
First edition cover
AuthorRichard Bachman
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
GenreNovel
PublisherSignet Books
Publication date
March 1981
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Pages274
ISBN978-0-451-09668-5

Roadwork is a novel by Stephen King, published in 1981 under the pseudonym Richard Bachman as a paperback original. It was collected in 1985 in the hardcover omnibus The Bachman Books, which is no longer in print. However, three of the four novels in that collection - Roadwork, The Long Walk, and The Running Man - have since been reprinted as standalone titles.

The story takes place in an unnamed Midwestern city in 1973–1974. Barton George Dawes, grieving over the death of his son and the disintegration of his marriage, is driven to mental instability when he learns that both his home and his workplace will be demolished to make way for an extension to an interstate highway.

Plot[edit]

The novel starts with a "man on the street" news interview in August 1972, in which an unnamed man (later revealed to be Dawes) gives his angry opinion of the highway extension project. The narrative then jumps forward to November 1973, with Dawes, seemingly unaware of the underlying motivations of his actions, visiting a gun shop and purchasing a heavy-caliber pistol and rifle. As the story progresses, it is revealed that Dawes' son Charlie had died from brain cancer three years earlier, and that Dawes is unable or unwilling to sever his emotional ties to his workplace and the house that his son grew up in.

Dawes resigns his middle management job at an industrial laundry after sabotaging the purchase of their new facility, and his wife Mary leaves him once she learns of both these actions and his failure to find a new house for the couple. Dawes then approaches Salvatore "Sal" Magliore, the owner of a local used-car dealership with ties to the Mob, in an attempt to obtain explosives. Magliore initially dismisses him as a crackpot, so Dawes assembles a load of Molotov cocktails and uses them to damage the highway construction equipment. He is not caught, but only causes a brief delay in the project. Dawes initially refuses to accept the money offered him by the city for the house under the eminent domain statute, but they resort to blackmail, concerning his brief tryst with Olivia Brenner, a young hitchhiker he met up with earlier. Magliore agrees to sell Dawes a load of explosives, paid for with money from the sale of Dawes' house to the city. Dawes gives half the money from the house to Mary, and has Magliore invest most of the remainder on behalf of Olivia.

With only hours remaining before he is required to leave the property, Dawes wires the whole house with the explosives and barricades himself inside. When the police arrive to forcibly evict him, he shoots at them, killing no one but forcing them to take cover and attracting the attention of the media. Dawes coerces the police into letting a reporter - the same one who interviewed him in 1972, though neither recognizes the other - come in and speak to him. Once the reporter has left, Dawes tosses his guns out the window and sets off his explosives, destroying the house and killing himself.

A short epilogue reveals that there was no real reason for the extension project; the city simply had extra money in its road construction budget, and had to spend it for fear of having the next year's budget reduced.

Author's comments[edit]

In the introduction to The Bachman Books, King stated: "I think it was an effort to make some sense of my mother's painful death the year before - a lingering cancer had taken her off inch by painful inch. Following this death I was left both grieving and shaken by the apparent senselessness of it all... Roadwork tries so hard to be good and find some answers to the conundrum of human pain." King also described his disappointment with the work, and stated that he was of two minds about having it reprinted, but decided to in the end in order to give readers an insight into his personality at the time. In a new introduction to the second edition of The Bachman Books, King stated that he had changed his mind and that Roadwork had become his favorite of the early books.

Connection to King's other works[edit]