Drive is the story of a Hollywood stunt driver appropriately named Driver. He isn’t just a stunt driver though, he is the best. On the side he also is a top freelance getaway driver. He takes a job which goes very wrong, very quickly. He finds himself in a hotel room surrounded by dead bodies. With a duffel bag filled with money from the botched job he decides to seek revenge on those who turned on him.
Drive is classically bleak noir; think films from the 40’s & 50’s, but is never oppressive in its telling. It’s interesting to note that when one looks for comparisons to Drive one inevitably gravitates towards film. If ever a book read like a film, this is it.
Maybe he should turn around. Go back and tell them that’s what life was, a long series of things that didn’t go down the way you thought they would.
Drive is told in quick successive chapters that would be equivalent to jump cut edits if it were a movie. All of the moments in the story are told out of order and it is only upon its completion that the final order of events is evident. This isn’t used a trick though to distract from a weak story. It enhances the story and perfectly compliments it in every way. Drive is a stylistic tour de force. Every moment in the story is carefully chosen by Sallis to reveal those parts of the story and of Drivers life that resonate with intensity and insight. Like a poet carefully deliberating then choosing the right word, the one that will have multiple meanings and reveal hidden depths under the guise of perfect clarity, Sallis tells the story of enigmatic Driver with a surgical precision. Despite its length it is a complex and interwoven narrative that bounces across the timeline of Drivers life with startling clarity.
She had one ear off and a wide red mouth drawn in his throat before he could set his coffee cup down.
Possibly reflecting Sallis’ own dealings with Hollywood Drive is at time a vicious satire of the Hollywood studio system. While waiting for his scenes to be shot Driver has a lot of downtime on set, he spends it with bit actors, assistant directors, script doctors and failed novelists. There are anecdotes traded that act as thinly veiled observations of the ways in which movies are made.
Uniformed Catholic schoolgirls waited for buses across from lace, leather and lingerie stores and shoe shops full of spike heels size fifteen and up.
With an economy of words that is closer to poetry then prose Drive exists in the shadows and recesses. Like Miles Davis’s classic album Kind of Blue which derived its power not only from the notes that were played but also from the space between the notes, Drive uses a kind of negative space to help define the narrative. What’s not said is as equally important as what is said.
The cover of the trade paperback version is covered with blurbs that exhort one to buy this book. There are times when such praise is unwarranted or hyperbolic in nature, this is not one of those times. Drive is perfect and deserving of all the praise and attention that is heaped at its feet.