The Rattler – Inspired By A True Event

Jason McNamara and Greg Hinkle are offering their horror graphic novel, The Rattler, exclusively on Kickstarter. The 96 page graphic novel follows Stephen Thorn, a prominent and bitter victim's rights advocate who built his career on the disappearance of his fiancée ten years earlier. His world is turned upside down when he begins to receive messages that may or may not be from his missing love. This sends Stephen on a dark journey of self-discovery. 

The story was inspired by true events that the author experienced and recounts here in an exclusive essay. 


It was Christmas Eve of 2001 and I had recently signed my divorce papers. My childhood friend Stephenie suggested that, what with her girlfriend back on the East Coast, we might spend the holidays together. She spontaneously suggested we leave San Francisco and spend the day exploring the more rural North Bay area across the Golden Gate Bridge.

ksassets2We hadn't made it a mile from her Potrero Hill apartment before her Saturn got a flat tire. Having no idea how to change a tire myself, I hovered uselessly while she rolled up her sleeves and put the spare tire on. Insisting our adventure could be salvaged, she called her girlfriend Allison and asked to borrow her pride and joy, a 62 Ford Ranchero. Allison loaned us the car, warning us that the gas gauge was unreliable. To be on the safe side, we filled the tank and kept a fuzzy approximation of mileage and assumed consumption as we explored the less-populated other world across the bay. In a tiny town we stopped at a charming inn for dinner. We toasted to our long friendship and the future ahead. As we left the inn we passed a pair of sheriff deputies on their way in for dinner.

Back in the car, we drove out into the night and had just started up a dark and curvy road when the car shuddered and died; we had critically underestimated the car's fuel efficiency. We let the car roll off the road and onto the shoulder. In near complete darkness, without cell reception, we weighed the options of abandoning the car and walking the two miles back to the inn or waiting for another car to pass. I joked that it reminded me of the opening scene of American Werewolf in London.

p_060_panel_3Not long after, the lights of a large truck came up the hill behind us. Stephenie waved the driver down as he passed us. He was in his late forties, with dark, unkempt curly hair escaping from underneath his un-ironic trucker's cap. He was affable, if slightly annoyed that his holiday evening involved helping two stranded city kids. He offered to tow us to a gas station a few miles down the road, but first we had to get the car out of the shoulder we had let it slide back into. He tied a length of rope between his back bumper and our front; he was concerned we might tear the bumper off of the vintage car so it was suggested that I push while he gently pulled it onto the street. Once that was safely done, he would stop, we would all get into his truck and continue on to the gas station.

As I strained to push the car off the road's shoulder his truck seemed to gently hover in place until it suddenly began to move, taking the car with it. Success! I stumbled forward, waiting for the caravan to come to a stop, when I realized that the vehicles were picking up speed. This man, whose name we never asked, was driving away with Stephenie and leaving me behind.

I broke into a run, hopelessly trying to catch up to the pair as they disappeared up the hill. The tiny red brake lights of the Ranchero danced back and forth in the darkness as Stephenie attempted to break free of the truck's control. Finally she pulled the Ranchero's emergency brake and the rope, connecting her car to his, snapped. His truck came to a stop shortly after. She undid the emergency brake and began to roll back down the road toward me. When our paths intersected she jumped out of the car and we looked up the hill. The man stood next to his running truck, lit in silhouette and just watched us.

p_085_panel_3After what seemed like an eternity he slowly got back in his truck and drove away, leaving us wondering if he was going to come back. We didn't wait to find out. We hightailed it back to the restaurant and to the deputies we had seen earlier. We told them our story and they took us to a private filling station to get us enough gas to get a proper station. They didn't seem too concerned with our tale and wished us a Merry Christmas.

Back in San Francisco, the meal I had at the Inn gave me the worst food poisoning I've ever had in my life. I spent my first Christmas as a bachelor lying on my bathroom floor, alternating reliving the previous night's events in my mind and throwing up profusely. One thought permeated my misery that day and begged to be answered: "what if he had used a chain instead of a rope?" And that is what inspired me to write the Rattler.

The Kickstarter to print copies of the book can be found here.

Readers of Bleeding Cool can read the first 8 pages of the book here.



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About Dan Wickline

Has quietly been working at Bleeding Cool for over three years. He has written comics for Image, Top Cow, Shadowline, Avatar, IDW, Dynamite, Moonstone, Humanoids and Zenescope. He is the author of the Lucius Fogg series of novels and a published photographer.
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