Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Drive, by James Sallis [2]

*/***** (2/5)

I've read a few noir-like novels in the past but only James Sallis' 158-page murder novella DRIVE qualifies as true noir. It's psychologically twisted, it's erratically nonlinear, and big on the style rather than the plotting. I think a murder noir like DRIVE is worth reading once, and the short 2,3-page chapters realizes a quick read. The novella lacks a chronological flow and chapters jump erratically to different times and locales in Driver's life. The excursive prose equals the novella's dark, nonlinear intensity while the book mostly follows Driver's transition from a movie stunt driver to cold-blooded killer. Remarkably, DRIVE is extremely light on violence and language.

The Premise.

Since it's tough to describe such an erratically nonlinear murder noir such as DRIVE, this is going to be brief. We pick up the story in middle as we read about Driver in a hotel bedroom strewn with three dead bodies. From various flashbacks both from his childhood and from a more recent time period, the rest of the novel shows how the scene in the opening chapter comes to pass. We discover that Driver is a stunt driver for movies, and later, he's drawn into small-time "jobs" requiring good drivers. Driver earns a formidable reputation as a driver, he's the best at what he does, and everyone knows it. Driver doesn't want to know anything about the small-time "jobs" and he expects people to follow through on their ends of the deal. A betrayal from a driving job goes terribly astray and Driver coldly retaliates.

Driver expects people to hold up their end of the bargain as long as he holds up his end driving people and things in and out of discordant circumstances. When they don't hold up their end of the bargain, Driver methodically exacts his vengeance.

Because of the detached persona of its main character Driver and the nonlinear pacing, the book never really grips. Still, it was interesting to see a simple, humble stunt car driver transition into a cold-blooded murderer. Doesn't get any darker than this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interesting to know.