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DRIVE’s James Sallis: Tend To What’s In The Headlights

James Sallis

James Sallis has lately been getting the attention his many fans feel he deserves.  His last novel, The Killer Is Dying, was met with rave reviews, and even more attention-getting was Nicolas Winding Refn’s film adaptation of Sallis’ 2005 novel, Drive.  Starring Ryan Gosling and featuring stand-out performances by Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, and Carey Mulligan, Drive brought both Refn and Sallis further into the American mainstream.

Thing is, Sallis seems he would be happy either way.

Take for instance this little anecdote he shares with The Daily Beast: after the success of the film Drive, his agent calls and asks if he has a sequel to the book in the works, the implication of a possible film sequel obvious.  Sallis, being an “artiste,” gives her a resounding no.  Then, after hanging up, he cannot get the “image of a woman leaning against a wall, bleeding out” out of his mind.  And thus Driven is born.

This might just seem like a quirky writer thing to do, to denounce even the idea of a sequel and then go ahead and do it anyway.  And yeah, it probably is, but I like to think there’s a bit more to it.  It’s almost as though Sallis’ creative mind simply had to do it that way.

Like, dig this: towards the end of this interview, TDB asks Sallis about how, as an author, one often has to live with the possibility that one’s works may never be appreciated in one’s own lifetime.  And Sallis responds, “You get on with your work, that’s all you control. Tend to what’s in the headlights, this line, this scene, this page.”  After the success of Refn’s film, the notion of a sequel must have been lobbed at Sallis at every turn.  But in order for him to focus, to stay within the headlights, he had to just flat-out refuse.  Then his mind, unencumbered by the pressures of commercialism, said, “Hey, check this image out.”  And there you go.

Driven is available from Poisoned Pen Press as of this week.

About Jimmy Callaway

+Jimmy Callaway rules over Criminal Complex with an iron fist in a Playtex glove. He lives in San Diego, California.

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