Driscoll’s second novel strives for a more sustained focus and an even gutsier grip on the reader than Lucky Man, Lucky Woman (1998). His writing remains fresh as ever.
Stardog hurtles along like a terrific movie, with the author creating wonderful visual images while padding the plot with the usual novelistic background stuff that will get cut from the screenplay. This approach is entertaining, but readers are unlikely to be moved by any of it; Driscoll tries for emotion at the end, but a dose of climactic melodrama befogs his hopes and the story’s deepest possibilities. Earl Patrick Godfrey, a schoolbus driver and recovering alcoholic, reads that ex-wife Diane has put his glorious customized 1977 candy-apple red Ranchero 500 up for sale. Earl happens to be driving by his old house, where the Ranchero sits. Suddenly he stops the bus, leaves the kids, plows through snow to the garage and steals his former but still blazingly beautiful pickup. Using Diane’s Mastercard, he steals $200 from her account and takes his old beauty for a last ride, an illegal but glorious outing. At a Chippewa casino on the Upper Michigan Peninsula, he’s fed a straight flush worth $12,870 by casino dealer Miranda Mtn., who tells him to meet her later at a hotel. They join forces, and Miranda makes it clear that their stolen pot is a stake in doubling their take by betting everything on the red or black at a Canadian casino and then again at Atlantic City. Thus the story becomes a road movie as Earl and Miranda get to know each other—and Miranda’s quite an eccentric. What’s more, since abandoning her casino job overnight, she’s being chased by casino bounty hunters who know she cheated them. Unfortunately, Miranda’s character is never fully exploited, and her tie to Earl seems less than heartfelt.
Strong story, immense fun, but shortchanged on passion.