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DRIVEN by James Sallis


by James Sallis

Pub Date: April 3rd, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0010-6
Publisher: Poisoned Pen

Just in time for fans of the Ryan Gosling film adaptation, the further adventures of Driver (Drive, 2005).

He’s been calling himself Paul West for seven years. That’s the name by which his fiancée, Elsa Jorgenson, knew him when she died, killed by a pair of goons Driver swiftly dispatched. But everyone outside Elsa’s family (“we are your family,” her father mournfully tells him) still calls him Driver. It’s presumably Driver, not Paul West, that the men sent to follow him are interested in. Acquiring an innocuous-looking Fairlane 500 and tweaking its engine, Driver begins to make more and more adventurous forays outside Phoenix, where he’s settled. He shares portentous conversations with his hardheaded buddy Felix and his screenwriter friend Manny. He hooks up with law student Stephanie Cooper, whose ex-cop father Bill is sitting in a nursing home indulging in even more cryptic exchanges with ex–Special Forces visitor Wendell. He takes a meeting with self-anointed problem solver James Beil, who hints that Driver’s problems may be closely akin to his own. He works his way up the food chain to post-Katrina carpetbagger Gerald Dunaway and big wolf Bennie Capel in a search for whoever’s sent the interchangeable guys who’ve been dogging his tracks. All the while, Sallis (The Killer Is Dying, 2011, etc.) is using his mouthpieces to dispense nonstop nuggets of existential wisdom (“We think we make choices. But what happens is the choices walk up, stand face to face with us, and stare us down”) that both prepare and compensate for the inconclusiveness of the plot.

The noir formula readily accommodates Sallis’ mannered dialogue. Even so, most readers will feel a jarring split between the ostensibly thrilling tale and the downbeat commonplaces that punctuate it, or vice versa.