Friday, November 2, 2012

Two Minds Aren't Better Than One

Joyride was hit and miss for me. Between the extreme number of characters and the heavy use of passive voice, the story became very difficult to submerse myself in. Ketchum had reasons for these choices--experimenting with the pathos of characters being murdered and building massive amounts of backstory for those characters--but these issues still kept me away from really entering the world of chaos. At a certain point, also, Wayne goes from his joyride of murder to a killing spree of his neighborhood. I was so thrown out of the story by this change of pace, I had to reread the section several times. Not until the author's note at the end of my copy did I realize Ketchum took inspiration from multiple murderers and juxtaposed the madmen instead of interlacing them, which explained my confusion.

So, why didn't this juxtaposition work? Well, I suppose anything's possible, but it seems Ketchum has incorporated two different psychotics in this story. The first is set off by seeing a murder. He's charged (either sexually or with adrenaline) when he witnesses Carole and Lee murder Carole's husband; he can't control his fascination any longer. Wayne kidnaps them--after all, misery does love company--and goes on a random killing spree as he forces them to watch. This killer gets off on the act of murder.

The second murderer Ketchum combined into Wayne was a loner psychotic--a madman who sits alone at home, boiling about revenge. This murderer seemingly gets off on retaliating against those who have wronged him. The narration even mentions at a certain point that Wayne didn't want to hurt one victim, but he got in the way of Wayne's target. The killer Wayne started off as enjoyed killing everyone equally.

The second killer took up targets, he had a hit list, and his road to insanity included a past filled with incest, much like Psycho; the first was a stable character driven by the thrill of murder, always teetering on the edge until he realized he could take the leap. These two characters might work by themselves, but the book fragments because of their awkward combination. To be even more extensive, the second character came off as tacked on and almost two-dimensional as a cool idea or quick explanation for Wayne's murderous tendencies. The first killer's personality worked better. He was more interesting, and like John Doe from Se7en, he didn't even need a back story or motive to work as a man who just caves to his horrific desires.

The only character that really stood out to me as well rounded was the investigator, Rule. The author's note mentions him, too, and apparently, Ketchum started with an investigator who was too understanding of Carole and Lee, so Ketchum had to expand the character, give him some haunting backstory. His family leaving him and his counterbalance to Wayne worked very well, and his obsession with the dollhouse in the garage, a symbol of building rather than destroying, made him the most interesting character in the book.

I respect Ketchum and enjoy other tales by him, but this one was too sporadic and fragmented. However, in analyzing its faults, and taking the author's note into consideration, Joyride offers some good lessons in writing: by understanding how and why Ketchum worked the story the way he did helps me figure out how to keep my own stories active and coherent--a feat easier said than done.


  1. Good post. I especially appreciate the insight into the character of Wayne and how Ketchum combined two profiles into one character.

    I did something I don't usually do when reading a novel. I only read the story from Wayne's pov. In other words, I only read the parts where he told the story. Creepy to see in evolution that way.

  2. I thought it kind of jumped around too, and at times read like a flat police description of events. However, that being said, I found Wayne to be scary in the fact that he killed at random. I think that when you leave things to chance, and take the method out of the madness, that it makes it harder for the cops to find, and that anybody could be a victim at that point. Good post.