Synopses & Reviews
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.""
Set on the streets and movie lots of L.A. and, finally, the desert highways of Arizona, Drive is the story of a professional driver who, by day, does
brilliant stunt driving for the movies and, by night, drives get-away cars for criminals. The main character, known only as "Driver," is the absolute
best in the business à both businesses, actually. Thing is, he never, ever gets involved in the violence. "I drive. That's what I do. All I do." Well, there's a first time for everything and when Driver is double-crossed and almost killed his quest for payback is as relentless and as methodical as
his driving: "Driver set the box with its large pepperoni, double cheese, no anchovies, on Nino's chest. The pizza smelled good. Nino didn't."
Driver is the classic noir hero. As things spiral hopelessly out of control around him, he sets about imposing some sense of order on the chaos. There's
a dignity to Driver's efforts that transcends his rather questionable methods. His character is etched with equal parts violence and pathos without at the same time lapsing into either stereotype or sentimentality. He is outside the law, over the line and way out past the signposts of conventional morality. Yet he knows more about "right" and "wrong" than all the cops, lawyers and judges combined. Driver came up from nothing. His hardscrabble existence included foster homes and eventually, inevitably, a life alone and on the road. Driving became his salvation. Along the way he developed a sense of honor and character that remains unshakeable as well as a resolve and an unwillingness to be crossed that is boiler plated. Driver's
will, as Sallis describes it, is as solid and as impregnable as the venerable Ford F-150: " à graceless as a wheelbarrow, dependable as rust and
taxes, indestructible as a tank. Brakes that could stop an avalanche cold, engine powerful enough to tow glaciers into place. Bombs fall and wipe out
civilization as we know it, two things'll come up out of the ashes: roaches and F-150's à handled like an ox cart, rattled fillings from teeth and left
you permanently saddle sore, but it was a survivor. Got the job done, whatever the job was. Like him. -- James Clar, The Mean Streets (7.5.2005)
A new spin on classic noir...
"Critics write of James Sallis' work...
""Sallis is one of the finest crime writers around ... If you like your novels on a higher level, Sallis is your man.""
Sallis is...a fine prose stylist with an interest in moral struggle and a gift for the lacerating evocation of loss.
New York Newsday
James Sallis is a prolific and cruelly under-recognized writer - a poet, novelist, essayist and biographer (of the great crime writer Chester Himes). His new book, "Drive" (Poisoned Pen Press, 160 pp., $19.95), is a doozy: a compact, beautifully written little noir gem.
It whips along as coolly and efficiently as the guy it's named for. Driver is (what else?) a professional driver - for the movies by day, for armed robbers by night. Driver's the best, but he has some strict ground rules - he doesn't carry a gun or participate in rough stuff. He just drives, that's all. But when a heist goes bad and he's double-crossed, Driver doesn't hesitate to break his rules and exact implacable revenge. --Seattle Times (10/9/05)
In his latest crime novel, James Sallis has combined the plot of a pulp novel from the '40s with the atmosphere of a French film noir into one stark and stunning tale of murder, treachery, and deceit. Not content to merely imitate the classic forms, though, Sallis has crafted a story that is uniquely his, putting his own stylized spin on a familiar tale....
"Drive"... packs a wallop that far outweighs its page count. Sallis injects so much meaning and emotion into his carefully selected words that the power of his prose exceeds its volume...For those who have not yet had to chance to read one of crime fiction's most underappreciated writers, now is the perfect opportunity. -- David J. Montgomery, Boston Globe 12/27
"Imagine the heart of Jim Thompson beating in the poetic chest of James Sallis and you'll have some idea of the beauty, sadness and power of “Drive"...[it] has more thought, feeling and murderous energy than books twice its length." --Chicago Tribune
"Sallis is a gifted writer and he doesn't cram his story into this slim volume. Rather he distills it into a superbly potent brew that burns going down and explodes in the belly." --Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
"noir at its pulpiest best" --Library Journal
"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" --Publisher's Weekly, starred review
"a taut page-turner...It's a lovely piece of work that makes you wish some other writers would take lessons from him." --Washington Post
About the Author
A multi-faceted man of many talents, James Sallis has worked as a creative writing teacher, respiratory therapist, musician, music teacher, screenwriter, periodical editor, book reviewer, and translator, winning acclaim for his 1993 version of Raymond Queneau's Saint Glinglin. He has been shortlisted for the Anthony, Nebula, Edgar, Shamus, and Gold Dagger awards.