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Drive by James Sallis

August 12, 2012

Like many people, I completely lost my shit over the movie DriveI saw it in the theatre, and was in love with it about five minutes in. After the amazing car chase that opened it up – an action scene that takes it time, using long shots and silence – it goes to a credits sequence with a pink cursive font and foreboding electronic music. I was in the tank at that point, and everything that followed only strengthened this feeling.  As I left the theatre, I immediately began plotting the next time I could go see it. I was not able to get there the next day, but within the next week I had seen it again. I felt like I was watching an instant classic; although it was fairly divisive in terms of reviews and popular consensus, I was over the moon for every shot and moment.

Naturally, in the gap between when it was showing it theatres and when it came out on video, I decided to get my Drive fix by reading the source material (and listening to “A Real Hero” “Nightcall” and “Under Your Spell” constantly.

Drive, the James Sallis novel, is of course quite different from the movie. I would call the plot more complex, but for a novel it is still fairly lean. The basic strokes are the same; Driver, a Hollywood stunt man who moonlights as a getaway driver, gets involved in a heist that goes bad, and is pursued by various henchmen until he confronts the big boss.

Sallis writes in a style that reminds me of Hammett, Chandler, and Le Carre; he uses plain, straightforward language, with hardly any unnecessary words. This leads to a streamlined, compact story, with sharply drawn characters and a compelling mystery. It does not have the arty touches of the movie (touches that I love) like the dreamy music, the kiss in the elevator where time seems to stop, or opera music playing as Gosling stakes out a bad guy he will have to kill. But it shares the movies simple plot, and archetypal characters that transcend the simplicity with which they are written.  It’s a good read for Drive (the movie) enthusiasts as well as mystery/crime novel fans.

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