Gee, it seems like only yesterday that I was sort of lamenting the fact that nobody was publishing books the length of Gil Brewer's Three-Way Split, which clocks in at 128 pages. Turns out it wasn't only yesterday, it was the day before. And along comes the Poisoned Pen Press with James Sallis's Drive to prove me wrong. What we have here is 158 lean, mean pages of hardboiled story-telling, a Gold Medal novel for the new millenium. (Okay, I know the millenium is five years old now, but that's still new in terms of millenia.)
Not that this is really a Gold Medal book. Gold Medal writers went in for linear story-telling, and Sallis doesn't, not here. His style is a bit different, but it's just as rewarding, and the book is full of references to movies, books, even opera.
Drive is the story of a man called Driver. He says that's all he does. His day job is doing stunt driving in the movies. He moonlights as a getaway driver for robbers. He's very good at both jobs, and, as we discover in the course of the book, he's good at a few other things as well. The plot is a classic one: after a job, Driver is stuck with a pile of money that isn't his. Somebody wants it back. In this case, Driver wants that somebody to have the money, and it's returned. Things don't end there, however. That's just the beginning. We learn about all of this in bits and pieces, and not in chronological order. Mixed in with that story are other stories, about Driver's job in the movies, about his early life, about some of the people he knows. There's even a cat. It's all very fine stuff, indeed.
Apparently the Big Name publishers wouldn't touch this book because of its length. Poisoned Pen took a chance, and it's paid off with rave reviews and even some Hollywood interest. I hope the book sells as well as it deserves to because it proves what we Gold Medal readers already knew: a book doesn't have to be 400 pages long to be awfully damned good.