First published back in February of 1977, British pulp author Guy N Smith’s novel ‘The Truckers: No. 1 The Black Knights’ was commissioned so as to cash-in on the relative success of the tv drama ‘The Brothers’ (1972 – 1976); commencing what the publishers planned to be a gritty series of novels involving the world of heavy haulage in Britain and Europe.

The novel was followed on by the sequel which was also penned by Smith entitled ‘The Truckers: No. 2 Hi-Jack!’ (1977).

DLS Synopsis:
Mike Britton wasn’t happy driving for Stafford’s Road Haulage.  It was nothing against his employer, Ralph Stafford; it was simply that the lorries were no longer safe to drive.  It was clear that Stafford was struggling.  Finances were tighter than ever and Mike could see that the company was on its way out.  But that didn’t help him with the here and now.  He was driving an articulated lorry that had no chance of passing an MOT.  In fact, it was no doubt a danger on the road.

And then the inevitable happened.  The trailer on the Foden articulated lorry swerved outwards of its own accord, ploughing into a Mini and crushing to death the driver.  The road accident only worsened when another car came careening into the contorted mess of crushed metal.  Mike Britton walked away alive.  But the horrific incident would leave a lasting mark on his conscience.

The accident put the final nail in the coffin for Stafford’s Road Haulage.  Ralph Stafford was already under pressure to sell to logistics giant, Wheeldon Transport, and he knew that he now had very little choice.  That is, until Mike Britton came to him with a better offer.  With a sizeable bank loan and the entirety of his life savings, Britton was in a position to take over the company.  Further complementing the transaction, Britton would make Ralph one of his drivers, keeping him in work and in the business he knew.

It was a move that Marcus Wheeldon of Wheeldon Transport wouldn’t take too kindly to.  But with Britton offering more money for the company, and Wheeldon being out of town at the time, Stafford agrees upon the buyout.  And shortly after, Britton Transport is born.

However, Mike Britton has underestimated his competitor immensely.  Marcus Wheeldon is a man who gets what he wants – no matter what methods are required to accomplish it.  And when Britton refuses Wheeldon’s offer for a quick resale, things quickly turn ugly.  It’s not long before Mike is given the first underhanded warning.  And following that the accidents start to happen.

Britton knows that Wheeldon is ultimately responsible for each one of these so-called ‘accidents’.  However the law have nothing to link his rival with.  In fact, Detective-Sergeant Wadsworth of the C.I.D. is completely convinced that Wheeldon is innocent of any wrongdoing.  So without the authorities on his side, Mike Britton has no choice but to fight back outside of the law.

Things are about to get very nasty in the dog-eat-dog world of haulage…

DLS Review:
Author Guy N Smith launches into his first gritty thriller involving the underbelly of the trucking business with a keen desire to get straight into the hard-hitting corruption and vicious rivalry.  The scene is set incredibly quickly, and with barely a page or two having gone by, we’re confronted with the first explosion of lethal carnage.

Smith stays on course with the downtrodden turn in events, introducing Marcus Wheeldon soon after, so that the main crux of the escalation plot of bitter rivalry can get properly underway.  From here the tension starts to mount, page by page.  Wheeldon is depicted as nothing short of a vile thug with absolutely no conscience whatsoever.  And the man has power.  He has a veritable army of equally psychotic thugs who he can call upon at the drop of a hat.  So what starts out as quite hard warnings soon turns into something far, far more sinister.

If you’re expecting an everyday 1970’s thriller here then you’ve forgotten who it is who’s penned the novel.  Even though the story is quite far removed from the horror genre that Smith’s made his name within, the tale is nevertheless crammed with a great deal of the author’s usual violence and debauchery.

A lot of the tale is focussed on one particular character - the principal protagonist, Mike Britton, who Smith has made as a very easily liked character.  He’s an honest family man who stands by his principles.  As such you feel yourself instantly siding with him; symphonising with the anger, misery and devastation he is unfairly facing.

Smith’s handling of the police is one which (quite purposefully) breeds further anger and helpless frustration.  Detective-Sergeant Wadsworth heads up the investigation, showing arrogance and ignorance from the outset, which continues no matter what Britton comes up against.  This blinkered and breathtakingly close-minded response from the law adds an extra level of gritty interest into the story whilst simultaneously becoming the catalyst for Britton’s ‘outside-of-the-law’ response.  Furthermore, it helps with slipping in a smirk-inducing social commentary that will sit nicely with many of the readers.

One thing that the novel does, and it does it remarkably well, is build upon an almost palpable sense of tension and barely suppressed danger.  All through the novel the reader finds the threat mounting, almost by the page.  And this ultimately makes for a very difficult-to-put-down read.

It’s true that the novel does have its faults.  The storyline is very linear.  The bursts of adrenaline are sometimes brought to an end just a tad earlier than they perhaps should have been.  And the ending is a bit too unrealistic for comfort.  However, Smith’s skills at characterisation, his (almost signature) no-holds-bared approach to kick-starting trouble in his tales, and then pursuing the sordid grittiness for the thrills and spills it will invariable deliver, ultimately makes for a pretty darn good read.

And I guess that’s why his fans love his work so much.

The novel runs for a total of 112 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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