I’ve been particularly excited lately by a book and movie titled DRIVE. It’s even more intriguing because I have a local connection–its author, James Sallis, is the husband of one of my P.E.O. sisters, and they live here in Phoenix. I got to see their house and meet Jim in person. He’s such a lovely, soft-spoken, mild-mannered 66-year-old, I had to wonder, “Where did all that crime and violence come from?” The answer is that he loves pulp novels and got the impetus from them.
The novel has such beautiful writing, it’s almost like poetry. The main character (appropriately unnamed) is a sweet-faced “kid,” but he’s the best at what he does–driving cars in stunts for Hollywood films. Unfortunately, he also moonlights as a get-away driver for criminals, and he turns out to be much more violent than he appears. What irony–a driver who is internally lost. Here’s an example of the writing when his mother dies:
In the parking lot he leaned against the Chevy, stood looking off towards the mountain ranges ringing Tucson. Catalinas to the north, Santa Rita to the south, Rincon east, Tucson west. The whole city was a compass. How could anyone ever have gotten so hopelessly lost here?
The book’s publishing history is inspiring. It got turned down by traditional major publishers, but Jim’s friends, the owners of The Poisoned Pen Press here in Phoenix, said, “We’ll publish it!” By word of mouth, it got noticed in Hollywood and picked up. What was to be an inexpensive “art film” has caught on. I absolutely loved it, and Jim said he thought they did an “astonishingly good” job of transferring his novel to film. Ryan Gosling was awesome.
Since the film came out, Jim and his wife, Karyn, have been able to re-model their home near downtown Phoenix, and I’m so happy for them. They also got to meet the “Hollywood types” when the film came out, but it hasn’t turned their heads.
This “noir” novel set in the Southwest is a success story that I’m thrilled with–on all levels!