Book review – A pedal to the metal guilty pleasure

2012-01-28 15:05

James Sallis is a former books columnist for the Boston Globe. He has also reviewed for the New York Times, LA Times and Washington Post. He is a prolific writer whose books are now being turned
into films.

The latest is Drive, which features Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. Sallis reveals the side of Hollywood that movie stars don’t inhabit. It’s the world of shysters, has-beens and wannabes. It’s a sub-working class underbelly replete with Mexican mechanics who won’t check your car’s papers.

Women are referred to as broads, bars serve alcohol 24 hours a day and cheap motels on the interstate house those who live outside the law.

A young man from Arizona arrives in this seedy neighbourhood in a car stolen from his foster parents. He is only known as Driver because that is what he does best – that and kick the guts out of anyone who crosses him. But he is not one to pick a fight.

Driver is taken under the wing of a star stunt driver. When the stunt driver dies in a crash on location, the young Driver assumes the throne. Having no clear moral compass and living in a world defined by fast cars and fast money, he takes on jobs as a getaway driver for armed robbery gangs.

This happens after he develops a friendship with a neighbour, a young Mexican mother whose boyfriend is in jail. When the boyfriend is released, he befriends Driver and lets him in on the kind of work he does.

Drive is full of high-speed chases, Chevys and Buicks, fight scenes and high doses of testosterone. It’s a short book, but is packed with an alarming amount of energy, incredible sentences and reluctant dialogue.

A road trip of any length requires scenery and Sallis provides it all – strip malls, desert landscapes, grubby neighbourhoods and a variety of things that litter the side of the road.

One of the most enduring characters is Manny, a washed-out but highly successful screenwriter with no taste – except for good wine. He is a postmodern philosopher and Driver’s only friend. Driver himself is the quintessential antihero.

Drive is a must-read for petrolheads who want some escapism.

Drive
No exit
190 pages, R145

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