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Death by Highwayman - Murder on Route 66

Updated on February 6, 2019
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish has been a professional writer and critic of films, books, music and theater for over 20 years.

The Route 66 Motel on historic U.S. Route 66 in the Californian Mojave Desert/
The Route 66 Motel on historic U.S. Route 66 in the Californian Mojave Desert/ | Source

First Life of Route 66 Was Only 60 Years

From 1926 to 1985

During the Obama Administration, some people asked, "How about reconstructing Route 66 as an ARRA Stimulus Project?"

The project would likely take a lot of time and create a lot of jobs for the duration. Route 66 has been under reconstruction a bit at a time over the years since 1985 and motorists have begun traveling its length again.

Although most of Original Route 66 was closed to traffic, new sections were built. At the same time, its stories and music still live.

It is interesting how many people have covered the original song Route 66:

  • The Rolling Stones, on their debut album.
  • Nat King Cole
  • The Cheetah Girls
  • Depeche Mode (my favorite, see the video the end)
  • Scatman John


Murder on Route 66

Just as the 1960s TV show presented a different story on Route 66 each week - some of them mysteries - this book edited by Carolyn Wheat presents 16 short mystery and suspense stories along the Mother Road, nicknamed by John Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wraith.

Television shows and books have discussed old Route 40, upon which both my grandfather and great grandfather worked in major roles. Later, In the late 2000s, Tom Brokaw presented a road trip across America on old Route 50. This may be the source for another anthology one day.

Chicago to Santa Monica
Chicago to Santa Monica | Source

I Thought There Was a Road Here, Once

Pardon the grammar, but this is a book to get lost in. Murder on Route 66.

The book is a collection of is engaging escapism about a famous road that was the backbone of a good portion of America, but which is no more - at least in its original has been rebuilt here and there, sometimes with new roadway running parallel to the old, broken down and pothole filled history that damages cars on it.

It is a ghost road tossing up stores with the dust that we raise as we ride down its pavement in our minds. Like an old room whose wallpaper has absorbed many stories, Route 66 has gathered many tales into its grasp, and run some of them into the pavement as tribute and homage for modern archaeological readers that choose to resurrect them.

The time frame recalls an era when I have stood in Wright Patterson Air force Base Museum and gazed at the Star Gazer gondola. Spacemen took it into the upper atmosphere on the top of a rocket and glided down with the help of many car batteries. They reached out the open portal and touched Outer Space on the way.

Amid the newness of the International Space Station and 13 people there all at once for the first time with their modern technologies, the old story becomes more interesting. We're not in a rush for tomorrow in the Space Race now, so we have time to go back and look at the story. So it is with Route 66 and the road stories of other decades. Without that physical road to travel, we take time to travel through the stories and remember with other individuals' impressions.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Carthage, MissouriArizonaAlong the route in the Southwest.
Carthage, Missouri
Carthage, Missouri | Source
Arizona | Source
Along the route in the Southwest.
Along the route in the Southwest. | Source

"We Lived Along the Road..."

Sixteen Towns, Sixteen Murders

This book is fun because it contains stories by 16 different writers that have lived along US Route 66 and brought their own imaginations and true life experiences to the creation of murder on the Mother Road in 16 towns.

The road itself has become a museum piece of sorts now, various roadside hamlets activating historical preservation societies to maintain some of the Route 66 landmarks. Humorously though, the authors bring the museum back to life through murder.

What Are the Stories?

The tales begin in 1920 and extend through the life of the open road, to 1985, making an enjoyable collaboration of parts.

Murder on Route 66

Edited by Carolyn Wheat

Berkely Prime Crime/Penguin Putnam, 1999.

  1. Michael Allen Dymmoch – Shades of 66 - Chicago
  2. Barbara D'Amato – Motel 66- Bloomington
  3. Eleanor Taylor Bland – The Canasta Club - Springfield
  4. Les Roberts – Willing to Work - St. Louis
  5. John Lutz – Endless Road - just west of St. Louis
  6. David August – Blind Corner- Palenville
  7. Lillian M. Roberts – Rest Stop - Tulsa
  8. Carolyn Hart – Spooked - Oklahoma City
  9. Doris R. Meredith – Incident on 6th Street - Amarillo
  10. Gary Phillips – ’53 Buick - just west of Amarillo
  11. Judith Van Gieson – Dead Man’s Curve - Albuquerque
  12. J.A. Jance – A Flash of Chrysanthemum - Arizona
  13. Charles Knief - _HELL- Mojave Desert
  14. Earlene Fowler – Blue Time- Barstow
  15. Dick Lochte – Rappin’ Dog - LA
  16. Carolyn Wheat, editor and author: Too Many Midnights - Santa Monica. Each of the stories in this anthology is worthy own right,and all are in a different style. This last selection by the editor is perfect for the finale slot. It is about the owners of a very special dress that appears throughout the timeline of the life of Route 66, from the 1920s to 1985. It's about the abuses and trimuphs each of its owners have endured and is quite good. The garment ties together all of the small pieces and messages left by the Mother Road as it stands broken apart today.


Selected Favorite Stories From The Book

I enjoy the whole range of stories selected for this athology, but I have favorites. Some of the stores are pretty gruesome but these reflect modern tensions. Adultery, abuse, and murder - especially murder - are recurring themes. The Great Depression, World War II cover ups, gender identity, and survival are high notes as well.

Other stories are nostalgic and poignant. The lot is fascinating enough to absorb a reader for contented hours of escape from the everday grind.

Shades of 66 - The first story tracks murder via the US Mail over the years in a series of letters from a trucker.

Spooked - This is my favorite, tied with Too Many Midnights.Local officials and army personnel seem to be "losing" the US Army's local supply of gasoline during WWII. At the same time, officials threaten to arrest the local diner's owner, a grandmother, fior baking pies - they accuse her of mishandling sugar rations, but she's using honey form her own bees. (Recipe included with this one.)

_HELL is just that - A SHELL service station sign in the desert along Route 66 loses a letter and signifies the status of a Viet Nam solder's relationship with his girlfriend and her husband. A surprise ending adds to the situation.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Patty Inglish MS

Comments & Experiences on Route 66

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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Yes, that's a good one!

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 

      7 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      love Depeche Mode, Route 66!

    • profile image

      Rosa Berger 

      10 years ago

      I'll definitely check out some of your books. Having travelled parts of the original Road 66 myself, I am fascinated with its history.

    • Chad A Taylor profile image

      Chad Taylor 

      10 years ago from Somewhere in Seattle...

      It's my favorite road in America...

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      A grant program under a "most endangered places" program is helping to resore the highway known as Historic Route 66. Evidence suggests that new businesses are growing along parts of the road -- The site states that the road is very confusing.

      Having been decomissioned in 1985, it fell into disreparir, but improvements are being made.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I could read 24 hours a day if I could stay awake! How about you, Good Cook?

    • The Good Cook profile image

      The Good Cook 

      10 years ago

      Does sound quite fascinating Patti. My reading list is getting very long!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I do so hope you'll like it, William. Murder on the OE is a favorite of mine as well. And, I like to read about Route 40. Tom Brokaw has been doing a TV series on Route 55 and I've missed every one of them, so I hope they re-run. Thanks for commenting!

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      It's amazing, Patty, how a highway can create such fascination with so many of us. It's inexplicable -- not any different from our fascination with (Murder On) the Orient Express. I'm putting the book on my reading list.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Now that you mention it, I HAVE seen that clothing line on occasion. Wouldn't it be fun if the road could be rebuilt?

    • emohealer profile image

      Sioux Ramos 

      10 years ago from South Carolina

      Very interesting! I had heard many stories, but you ressurected and brought to light new ones. There is even a clothing line Route 66


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