Drive, by James Sallis | Review


James Sallis mixes hard-boiled noir with literary fiction in Drive, a lean and intriguing read.

When we first meet “Driver” – the only name he’s given – there’s blood everywhere.

The story then rewinds to explain Driver’s backstory before returning to a heist gone wrong.

Driver is a movie stunt driver by day. The rest of the time he drives getaway cars for small-time crooks.

He’s young, reticent and smart. He’s a drifter and pretty aloof with it, but he’s good to the people he cares about and can get himself out of a tight spot – all of which makes him pretty likeable.

The plot weaves heist, mafia, revenge and noir elements with stunt driving and action sequences. The language isn’t challenging, but it is very neat – staccato, like Hemingway’s – and often surprisingly poetic.

“Walking away from Benito’s, Driver stepped into a world transformed. Like most cities, L.A. became a different beast by night. Final washes of pink and orange lay low on the horizon now, breaking up, fading, as though the sun let go its hold and the city’s lights, a hundred thousand impatient understudies, stepped in.”


This is a short book – at 191 pages and plenty of white space, it’s more a novella. The length is just right for the story, though with Sallis’s prose, it would be just as readable if it were longer.

Drive, by James Sallis

Quoted edition published by No Exit Press, 2011

What to read or watch next
  • Fight Club (life on the edge, charismatic criminals)
  • The Big Sleep (noir, crime)
  • Casino (mafia)

Picture credit: Osman Rana