Drive & Driven – James Sallis

Category: Adults, Suspense, Thriller

Drive Series, Book 1
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…

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. Sallis won’t disappoint fans who enjoy his usual quirky literary styling.

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.

Drive Series, Book 2
At the end of the initial novel, Drive, Driver has killed Bernie Rose, “the only one he mourned,” ending his campaign against those who double-crossed him. Driven tells how the young man, done with killing, later will become the one who goes down early one morning in a Tijuana bar.

Seven years have passed. Driver has left the old life, become Paul West, and founded a successful business back in Phoenix. Walking down the street one day, two men attack him and his fiancee, and while Driver dispatches both, his fiancee is killed.

Sinking back into anonymity aided by his friend, Felix, an ex-gang member and Desert Storm vet, Driver retreats but finds that his past stalks him and will not stop. He has to turn and face it. Because he drives…that’s what he does.

A review Sallis once again pays homage to the tight behaviorist style of French noir master Jean-Patrick Manchette (“he felt the trachea give way and fold in on itself”) and the bleak existential world of criminals beloved by fans of the films of Charles Bronson and Alain Delon, not to mention the passionate cult following for the 2011 film version of Drive. As is the case for all such episodes in the life of the stoic driver, you can come into this excellent novel cold, strap in, just hit the gas, and go.

Drive - Part 1

Drive - Part 2

Drive - Part 3

Driven - Part 01

Driven - Part 02

Driven - Part 03