by Bruce Davidson

"This is it. Months ago. These are the last few hours where I am still blissfully unaware of the fact that I'm already truly miserable."

In transportation terminology, "deadhead" is slang for a truck, train or bus traveling without a payload. The term can also refer to a person who is nothing more than a parasite.

The protagonist of Bruce Davidson's noir novel–Deadheaders–is named Myles. Myles is scared, lonely, and inept at whatever he does. But he does have a caustic sense of humor, which is based on his nihilistic perspective of life. As the story opens, Myles is gainfully employed by Endeavor Rent-A-Car, but after being let go for failing to go "that extra mile," Myles finds himself deadheading through life. Not only is he unemployed, but his girlfriend dumps him. Myles ends up sponging meals off his sister and her husband, Brody. Brody is a bus driver for Metrocity Transit. Through Brody's intervention, Myles lands a job driving a bus. Things don't go well.

Myles accidentally runs over and kills a bicyclist. Aghast and unsure of what to do, Myles accepts help from his fellow bus drivers, a group known as "the deadheaders." The deadheaders cover up the accidental murder by disposing of the body in a lake. Myles comes to discover that this isn't the first body the deadheaders have gotten rid of. Yet because of his participation in "the crime," Myles is stuck between a rock and a hard place.

How Myles extricates himself from his predicament forms the bulk of the novel. Deadheaders is a gloomy book, almost depressing. There's no happy ending, and none of the characters in the story demonstrate even an inkling of virtue. They are truly deadheaders, parasites. That being said, the author writes well. The tension slowly builds, keeping the reader hooked. And Myles' inner ruminations are often morbidly funny. The grand finale–the Epilogue–is in tune with the overall tone of the book, which seems to be: Is that all there is?

Return to USR Home