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richardderus

Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

Drive - James Sallis Rating: 4* of five The Book Description: “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....”Thus begins Drive, a new novella by one of the nation's most respected and honored writers of noir fiction. Set mostly in Arizona and L.A., the story is, according to Sallis, ..."about a guy who does stunt driving for movies by day and drives for criminals at night. In classic noir fashion, he is double-crossed and, though before he has never participated in the violence ('I drive. That's all.'), he goes after the ones who doublecrossed and tried to kill him." . My Review: It's 153pp of very noir-y noir. It's got an anti-hero just as antiheroic as you want him to be...he knows how to do everything, drive, fight, drink, kill, pick a noir skill and Driver (no other name) has it.I'm a sucker for that kind of all-rounder. I like Sallis's New Orleans series featuring Lew Griffin, too, but this begins a new-to-me series of noir novellas featuring Driver. I'll be back for more.It's violent, but not graphic. The killings all take place in front of our eyes, but apart from the short and matter-of-fact reports of the means and aftermath of each killing, there's no ghoulish lingering on the pain or the gore. That means the reader's not stuck to the floor of the book in sticky goo, like in many violent novels.It's taut, not verbose. In this age of no thought left unexpressed, no feeling left unaired, no absurdity left unplumbed in the gazillionologies of two-thousand-page forest-rapers, that feels like the first cool breath of autumn after the horrid belchings of summer.Sallis, a serious writer, author of a biography of Chester Himes that's the gold standard on that underknown talent, delivers a happy surprise to the committed reader of darker books and more gritty crime fiction. He brings something fresh to something familiar. He abides by every convention of the genre he's chosen to work in and still gives a take on the tropes that's not hackneyed. The reason is he can write quite simple, Hemingwayesque sentences, and make them sound like he means them in both content and feeling.“What’d you need?" {Manny}"Desuetude." {Driver}"Reading again, are we? Could be dangerous. It means to become unaccustomed to. As in something gets discontinued, falls into disuse.""Thanks, man.""That it?""Yeah, but we should grab a drink sometime.”Well, there it is. If you like that, you'll like Drive, and if not, you won't.PS: Apparently there was a movie made of this book last year. Ryan Gosling and Bryan Cranston starred. I haven't seen it, but the plot summary is enough different from the book that I don't care if I do.