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Drive [Hardcover]

James Sallis
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 1 2005
Much later, as he sat with his back against an inside wall of a Motel 6 just north of Phoenix, watching the pool of blood lap toward him, Driver would wonder whether he had made a terrible mistake. Later still, of course, there'd be no doubt. But for now Driver is, as they say, in the moment. And the moment includes this blood lapping toward him, the pressure of dawn's late light at windows and door, traffic sounds from the interstate nearby, the sound of someone weeping in the next room....
Thus begins Drive, a new novella by one of the nation's most respected and honored writers of noir fiction. Set mostly in Arizona and L.A., the story is, according to Sallis, ...""about a guy who does stunt driving for movies by day and drives for criminals at night. In classic noir fashion, he is double-crossed and, though before he has never participated in the violence ('I drive. That's all.'), he goes after the ones who doublecrossed and tried to kill him.""

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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. I drive. That's what I do. All I do." So declares the enigmatic Driver in this masterfully convoluted neo-noir, which ranges from the dive bars and flyblown motels of Los Angeles to seedy strip malls dotting the Arizona desert. A stunt driver for movies, Driver finds more excitement as a wheelman during robberies, but when a heist goes sour, a contract is put on his head and his survival skills burn up the pavement. Author of the popular six-novel series set in New Orleans featuring detective Lew Griffin (The Long-Legged Fly, etc.) and such stand-alone crime novels as Cypress Grove, Sallis won't disappoint fans who enjoy his usual quirky literary stylings. Reading a crime paperback, Driver covers "a few more lines till he fetched up on the word desuetude. What the hell kind of word was that?" Lines such as "Time went by, which is what time does, what it is" provide the perfect existential touch. In this short novel, expanded from his story in Dennis McMillan's monumental anthology Measures of Poison, Sallis gives us his most tightly written mystery to date, worthy of comparison to the compact, exciting oeuvre of French noir giant Jean-Patrick Manchette.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Sallis has a bloodhound's nose for noir. Whether in the celebrated Lew Griffin novels or in his several stand-alones, his characters are always trapped--trapped by their inability to effect change in a malign world, trapped by their own character flaws, trapped by the wrong girl, trapped by walking into the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes they know they're trapped, and sometimes they are the last ones to know, but Sallis always knows; he can smell it in their pores, and he makes us smell it, too. So it is with Driver, the antihero of this quintessential noir novella about a loner with a passion for driving fast cars. He's a Hollywood stunt driver by day and a getaway car driver by night, but he has no interest in either movies or crime: he just wants to drive. Life won't let him, of course, and eventually he figures that out, as he sits in a Motel 6 near Phoenix, "watching the pool of blood lap toward him." Sallis shows us how he got there in one crisply written, spot-on scene after another. At one point, near the end of the book, Driver reflects that we neither choose our lives nor have them thrust at us. Instead, "they're forever seeping up under our feet." You won't find a better definition of the noir worldview than that, and you won't find a more textbook example of how to express that view in fiction than in this hypnotic little story about driving circles around your life. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't see what all the fuss is about. Feb. 5 2012
Format:Paperback
Currently halfway through the book, and it's been page after page of garbage. Run-on sentences, clumsy metaphors, pages of narration that tries too hard to be clever and just winds up being tedious and boring, followed by important points that just get glossed over. It's the kind of book that devotes two hundred words to what someone has for lunch, but skips over the getaway from a pawn shop robbery with "they barely got away." One chapter takes place from the perspective of a different character, but doesn't let on that we're not following the main character until halfway through -- we're back to the main guy in the next chapter, with no clear indication of the switch. It contains some of the worst descriptions I've ever read. I have no idea why people enjoyed this book, and can only assume they haven't read a lot of books for comparison.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Drive Nov. 25 2011
Format:Paperback
This book, like the movie, has kept me wanting more! Its not a long story, but in the first 2 paragraphs will have you hooked!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  111 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Something's Lacking . . . March 28 2013
By JCStreetSoldier - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I saw the film before the book, guilty as charged. The film was majestically dark, elegantly offbeat, with beautiful cinematography and it had the best soundtrack of 2012. The only thing the movie has in common with the book are the name of the characters, a line of dialogue in the beginning of the book, an action sequence in the motel where the chick from AMC's Madmen dies, and the ending of the book; that's not a spoiler by any means, that's just something that fans of the movie should know right upfront. Driver (the character's "name") in this novel isn't the quiet, cool guy that Gosling played in the film; this Driver is talkative, witty, smart, sometimes even obnoxious. I actually prefer the Gosling counterpart, but that's me.

Okay, so now let me talk about the book without comparing it to the movie. I think James Sallis was going for a Godfather-esque, noir story, but the plot was just so simplistic that the author had to scramble the scenes around like eggs; it wasn't necessarily hard to know if a scene took place in the past or present or future, but at the same, it wasn't necessary either. In fact, the first chapter in this novel was repeated in another chapter later on--word for word (or at least, almost word for word--because the narrative was repeating what had already happened in the beginning).

I think Sallis tries to write like McCarthy, but he ends up sounding amateurish. He tends to miss words in sentences; for instance: Instead of, "The dog ran into the street to fetch the ball," Sallis would write, "Dog ran into street to fetch ball"--some of that works, but Sallis overuses this writing method to shorten sentences . . . it was almost as if he was trying to get below a certain word count, so he deleted a lot of words.

Another problem I had is that most of the characters talked the same way. The character's speech patterns actually missed words too (convenient, huh?).

Ultimately Drive was a disappointment. I prefer Cormac McCarthy's prose, but I suppose he's impossible to compete with. I see potential in James Sallis's writing . . . but he needs to flesh out his paragraphs, flesh out his characters, flash out his plots, and write a story in chronological order instead of scrambled scenes.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a marvelously dark read! Sept. 10 2005
By woodstock_ap - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Readers who delight in noir have a treat in store.

This short novel moves back and forth in both time and place, following a few weeks in the life of Driver - a character who provides no other name. He has a double career - first as a stunt driver for the LA film industry, self trained and among the best in the highly skilled group of specialists. And in the evenings and between film jobs he drives for thieves and con men. But that is all he does - drive. No burglary, no guns, no other participation.

A moonlighting venture goes wrong and sends Driver in search of those who double crossed him. In spare prose, important people in Driver's past and present life are clearly drawn and believable, some presented only as traces from Driver's memory. Although fragmentary, these brief references provide perfect motivation for Driver's actions as he moves toward his moments of revenge. He is a man not always on the right side of the law, or even of a just society, yet in Sallis' hands he becomes a man worthy of respect.
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Noir classic: short, dark, lingering. Jan. 17 2006
By Jerry Saperstein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A few paragraphs in and you can smell the musty 40s. Gooseneck lamps, gently rounded cars, double-breasted suits. Everyone smoked. Everyone drank. Everyone ate steak.

But it's the modern day in LA. Driver leaves his foster home at 16. Makes it to L.A. Becomes a stunt driver. Along the way he develops a sideline of driving getaway cars.

A robbery goes wrong. Driver escapes with the loot and a woman robber. Someone tries to kill Driver: doesn't succeed, but takes out the woman.

Driver is a gentle soul. I drive, that's all is his ethic. But someone wants more and Driver doesn't like anyone on his trail.

Sallis is a master of noir. In 158 pages, he bangs out a complete morality play in which there is no good, no bad: just is, just what is there. Driver doesn't have a past or a future. Just a moment that demands certain things be done. Rootless, but not souless, Sallis paints his portrait in subtle strokes, all the more telling for that.

Sallis dedicates this work to Ed McBain, Donald Westlake and Larry Block, three great American writers. Sallis is, in my opinion, matched only by Block. McBain was great, but Sallis is better at noir.

"Drive" is a pleasant escape into a different reality, a true gem.

Jerry
15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every word counts Feb. 28 2006
By The Pro From Dover - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Every word counts in this "sunshine noir" by noted mystery writer James Sallis. Drive is that rare thing, the proverbial novel you cannot put down. Yet, Sallis never cheats by loading up on worn plot devices. Instead, this slim volume pares the story down to its barest essestials, just plot and character, stripped of artifice. And drive. Yes, the story hurtles along, moving fast, but always under control. Do you think you have seen it all with noir? If you think so, then you owe it to yourself to pick up Drive. Sallis uses some familiar devices, but the story he tells and the character he tells it through, the "Driver," are new. Drive will keep you hanging until the last sentence. That's drive enough for anyone.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Modern Noir at its best May 15 2012
By Michael Kitto - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I've been thinking about this book a bit lately and I've put off reviewing the book for a week because I wanted some time to collect my thoughts. First of all, most people who know me know how much I love the old hard-boiled and noir novels. But modern noir has been a little off putting for me simply because I never feel they can get the tone and style right and for the most part, they don't. Now when I think of James Sallis' Drive, I don't think this at all. To put it simply, I love and adore the way he went about writing this book.

Drive tells the story of a man simply known throughout the book as Driver; a stunt driver for Hollywood and a getaway driver on the side. This book is so non-linear that I do worry if I tell more about the story I might be giving away something that should be discovered by reading this book. This is a short novel that is jammed pack full of a fantastic noir story that could hold its own against Noir greats like The Postman Always Rings Twice or The Killer Inside Me.

There was so much to like about this book but there were also some things that really bugged me as well. Driver is a mysterious protagonist but I felt he talked far too much for something that would have been more suited as the strong silent type. I'm not sure if he was supposed to be written that way but for me, the impression I received from the character and whenever he spoke, didn't seem to fit my image of him. There has been a recent movie made about this book and I'm keen to see it but I have a feeling there will be a huge difference between the book and movie. I can see a linear story (which I'm ok with) but I can also see them doing the Hollywood thing and try to make a romantic connection between Driver and one of the women from this book. All in all, this book is well worth reading and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel Driven.(less)
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