The novel starts with an "on the street" news interview in which an unnamed man (later revealed to be Dawes) gives his angry opinion of the highway extension project. The narrative then jumps forward several months, with Dawes, seemingly unaware of the underlying motivations of his actions,... read more (warning: may contain spoilers)
The novel starts with an "on the street" news interview in which an unnamed man (later revealed to be Dawes) gives his angry opinion of the highway extension project. The narrative then jumps forward several months, with Dawes, seemingly unaware of the underlying motivations of his actions, visiting a gun shop and purchasing several large firearms. As the story progresses, it is revealed that Dawes' son, George, had succumbed to an inoperable brain tumor several years earlier, and that Dawes is unable (or unwilling) to sever his emotional ties to his workplace and the house that his son grew up in.
Dawes loses his middle management job at an industrial laundry after sabotaging the purchase of their new facility, and after learning of his actions, his wife Mary leaves him. Dawes then approaches Sal Magliore, the owner of a local used-car dealership with ties to the Mob, and purchases a small cache of explosives. He destroys much of the construction equipment being used to build the extension, but soon discovers that he has only managed to delay the project for a short time.
At the novel's climax, Dawes barricades himself inside his home and shoots at the police sent to forcibly evict him. The confrontation attracts the attention of the media, and Dawes agrees to leave the house if a reporter (the same one who interviewed him earlier, as it happens, though neither recognizes the other) is allowed to come in and speak to him. Once the reporter has left, Dawes tosses his guns out the window and sets off the last of his explosives, destroying the house with himself inside.
A short epilogue reveals that there was no real reason for the extension project: the city simply had extra money in its road construction budget, and had to spend it for fear of having their budget reduced the following year.
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