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Drive    by James Sallis order for
by James Sallis
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Harvest, 2006 (2005)
Hardcover, Softcover

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Drive is a novella not long enough to be called a novel but too long to be a short story. While it's not a full-length book, James Sallis packs enough action into this shortened version to satisfy any reader.

Driver is a Hollywood stunt driver by day, who drives for criminals by night. Driving is what he does. He cares not for whom. Just don't tell him what the job is or who's involved. But when he is double-crossed, he starts to care. Badly. Drive is the story of a man's revenge and how he accomplishes it. No matter if the revenge is inflicted on friends. They were the ones who double-crossed him. No man can tolerate that.

Driver is an accomplished fellow who can wrap up a chase scene in one take or deliver his accomplices to their home base after a job within the blink of an eye. He is quiet, uninvolved, loves good food especially Mexican and good wine. Moves his place of residence frequently. Belongings don't interest him. He lives clean and watchful. A good man altogether ... until he's crossed.

2nd Review by Tim Davis (Rating: 3):

If you were to run into the protagonist of Drive and ask him, 'What do you do for a living?', the man known simply as Driver would answer in his characteristically abrupt way, 'I drive. That's what I do. All I do.'

And if you were to ask him about his background, you would probably get no answer. You certainly wouldn't hear very much about his difficult childhood, his hostile father, his disturbed mother, and his several years in foster care. He wouldn't have much to say about his abrupt departure from Tucson as a sixteen-year-old car thief. Yet he might tell you a few things about his arrival in Los Angeles and his roller-coaster ride to something resembling success over the past several years.

But if you were to ask other people about Driver - perhaps some of his friends, including the Hollywood writer Manny Gilden, the Hollywood stunt driver Shannon, the criminal Standard Guzman, or the man known only as Doc - they might have to answer differently by telling you that Driver is a tough, violent, and decisive guy who always seems to exist 'a step or two to one side of the common world, largely out of sight, a shadow all but invisible.'

Because of Driver's virtual invisibility and his other hard-earned characteristics, Driver has made an interesting career for himself as a successful stunt driver for Hollywood movies and, more marginally, as a much sought after getaway driver for all sorts of criminal escapades in Los Angeles.

However, when Driver is contracted for a seemingly simple out-of-town job that will involve two men, a woman, and a quick getaway with a guaranteed windfall of several hundred thousand dollars, Driver will discover that life is about to get very complicated.

In the aftermath of the violent collapse of the team's supposedly well-made plan, Driver - the injured, angry, and sole survivor from the badly botched job - realizes that the whole thing was a double-cross set-up. Someone clearly wanted the job to fail, and that someone has wise-guy connections to some very dangerous people. Now Driver simply wants out, but it isn't that easy. Everyone is committed to playing hardball, and it won't be over until quite a few dead bodies accumulate.

In Drive, a hardboiled thrill-ride that other critics have called perfect (The New York Times Book Review), stunning (The Boston Globe), and murderous (Chicago Tribune), author James Sallis has delivered a spell-binding piece of noir fiction that is bubbling over with blood-shed, treachery, and deceit. By impressively employing chaotic scene shifts - moving abruptly though effectively from past to present and back again - Sallis brilliantly underscores Driver's chaotic personality and riveting adventures. All packed into a mere 158 pages in this new trade paperback edition, the story of Driver is brilliant and fascinating, and the action is dark and explosive. Don't miss it!

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