Sunday, August 05, 2012


Driven written by James Sallis, published by Poisoned Pen Press.

Driven, the sequel to James Sallis' noir fiction Drive, catches up with Driver seven years after he left Bernie Rose for dead. Even though a lot of time has passed in between the two book's timelines, the opening words of Driven are directly related to events in Drive.

They came for him just after 11:00 on a Saturday morning, two of them. It was hot going hotter; sunlight caught in the fine sheen of sweat on Elsa's forehead. A hint of movement in the side of his eye as they passed a short side street -- and the first one was there. He spun, slamming his foot and the whole of his body weight against the outside of the man's right knee, and heard it give. By the time the man was down, that same foot hit his throat. ...

The two men have come for Driver because of what he did seven years ago. Driver thought he had escaped his past but unfortunately for him, and his fiancee, his past manages to crash his new life and identity. Driver now goes by the name of Paul West but despite a new name, some things have not changed in his life, such as his love for Mexican food and eating at reasonably priced restaurants. Many of Driver's conversations take place in such restaurants or diners serving thick black coffee and a good old fashioned piece of pie. The violence is also present in ample doses because Driver has to protect himself and seek revenge. His love of cars wins new admirers and opens new doors for him as he seeks to outrun his past.

Driven is a brisk read at 147 pages and even though it leaves one wanting more when it ends, the book is a tad disappointing and not a stellar work like Drive. A lot of the weaker moments in Driven are related to conversations of free will, purpose in life or attempts to examine Driver’s "sense of belonging". For example, the following words on page 18 take place before it is revealed that Driver met Elsa at the mall.

Back early on, back before the house, before the job, before Paul west, he had a fascination for malls. In ways he never understood, they drew him. Bright colors, lush displays in windows, the sense and sound of all those bodies moving separately and together, music, the cries of children, friendly banter. Malls were a country in miniature. He visited them, stepped into them, as though just off the ship. As though if only he sat in them long enough, put in enough miles along those arcades and scuffed floors, ate enough food court specials, something – some understanding, some sense of belonging – might solidify around him.

Such words give the impression that the book is just idling, buying some time with empty words, before the relevant material kicks in. This is because Drive was perfect in outlining the character and persona of Driver so the added descriptions in Driven are not required and come off as mere padding. Thankfully, these idle moments are few given the short length of the book and it is not too long before the juicy material of cars and thugs kicks in. The filthy characters and their shady backgrounds are the true meat of both books and any attempt to examine questions of self and the universe appear forced within the book’s framework. Perhaps, a future book might put things right as Driven feels like unfinished business especially because the ending is a wide open road that could lead to new adventures. And if there is another book in the series, it will likely be called Drove.

1 comment:

Sam Juliano said...

"And if there is another book in the series, it will likely be called Drove."

hahaha Sachin! Indeed, I certainly would expect as much! Well I appreciate this cogent analysis of the book that follows DRIVE, and am thinking that movie companies probably have their eye on at right now. I see your point about the prior framing that might make some of the passages in this new book come off as "padding." I haven't read neither, but appreciate your wonderful insights. I do hope a film is being planning.