Drive by James Sallis

Drive, James Sallis, Poisoned Pen Press, 1995

1 Star

Rating: 1 out of 5.

The Book – Drive

When the best thing about a book is that at least I can say I’ve read it, that’s sort of like saying: “Oh, chicken pox, I had that once! Root canal with Novocain wearing off, yup, I know the feeling! Hemorrhoids and explosive diarrhea, I hear you!”

Well, you get my drift…

Writer James Sallis’ so-called neo-noir crime-thriller novella, Drive, reads like something that would be assigned in a freshman English college course. It’s a terrible, post-modern action tale with tons of characters, ever-changing POVs, and a time-line all skewed so that important events happen in the middle instead of at the end, therefore losing any impact on the reader, and you don’t care when the story’s over.

It’s also one of the most boring books I’ve read. Director Nicolas Winding Refn has directed three of the most boring movies I’ve seen: “Valhalla Rising,” “Bronson,” and “Only God Forgives.” So how did these two artists combine together to make a movie I loved?

The film and book are so different; this is one of those rare cases where the movie excelled and the novella fell flat. Ryan Gosling played Driver as a man of few words who forms intense attachments to a select few. The Driver of this book is verbose and has lots of friends. It had to be the retro 80’s style and awesome soundtrack that fooled me into thinking the book would be just as slick and enjoyable as the film.

This book belongs in the ninth level of literary Hell, consigned to those who commit treachery, as I was duped into thinking this would be a masterpiece. I purchased this book thinking it was going to be an intense crime-noir; instead it ended being a crime that made me snore.

Rock Chick Regret by Kristen Ashley

Rock Chick Regret, Kristen Ashley, 2011

1 Star DNF

Rating: 1 out of 5.

I’ve not kept up with Romance genre trends, so I don’t know who the popular authors in the Current Year are. A few years back, everybody was gushing about Kristen Ashley. For all I know, they still are. Optimistically, I purchased about a half dozen of her e-books and gave her a shot. First, I read Lacybourne Manor although I didn’t really care for the writing style, nor the screwball, immature-in-mind-but-not-in-years heroine. But you all know what they say about falling off a horse. Plus, if I don’t like something the first time, I’ll give it a second just to make sure the dissatisfaction wasn’t a one-off thing. 

It wasn’t.

I Couldn’t Even Finish It!

In vain I attempted to complete Kristen Ashley’s Rock Chick Regret. I read as much as I could tolerate, then noped out of that book at 50%. Kristen Ashley is just not my cuppa. I don’t rate DNF books unless I get at least halfway through. Since I passed that mark, I can with a clear conscience give this book a big thumbs down.

I cannot relate to the people and world Ashley creates. Her characters are vapid, shallow, and immature at best, and cardboard cutouts and stereotypes at worst. 

To any Ashley fans, I mean no offense with my words. Everybody has different tastes and that has no bearing on the kind of person one is. There are people who genuinely like Anisette liqueur and black licorice and I will never understand why.

Then again, I despise mayonnaise, ketchup, and tomatoes. That’s pretty weird.

I have low standards when it comes to entertainment. All I ask is that it provides me with some form of enjoyment. It need not be highbrow, popular with audiences, or critically lauded. My 2nd favorite Star Wars film is unironically Attack of the Clones.

The Book – Rock Chick Regret

There’s no handling this with kid gloves; I hated Rock Chick Regret. I know it’s kind of stupid to jump into book 7 of a series, but I’d gotten the impression from reviews that this was the best of the bunch. If you’ve read the novel, you know the plot. Briefly, the daughter of a crime boss is raped and goes to the “Hot Bunch” (a security team) for protection, especially seeking out “the guy-who-could-have-been” Hector. Hector used to work for Sadie’s dad and now is fiercely protective of her after her tragedy. 

Yada, yada, yada, Sadie and Hector’s romance unfolds as “The Hot Bunch,” Hector, and Sadie plan to get the bad guys.

These people are in their thirties and forties and refer to themselves as the “Rock Chicks” and “Hot Bunch.” I know 30 is the new 21, and even I at the decrepit age of 43, still enjoy a bit of the bohemian life. However, these adults in their 30s carry on like teenagers, posing like “cool kids,” partying, and being overall vapid as can be. All they care about are clothes, and not just any clothes, but designer brands, described in painstaking detail that would have GRR Martin or Bertrice Small (RIP) say: “Hold on, there, don’t you think that’s a bit too much clothes porn?” 

Mean Girls and Stale Clichés 

The Rock Chicks are utter cows, the catty, cliquey types who make me happy that, other than my many sisters, my relationships with female friends are on a one-on-one basis. First, they’re bitchy to Sadie, then after they find out about her tragic rape, they turn around and are suddenly BFFs for life, shouting to all and sundry about Sadie’s violation.  

The characters are just reduced down to superficial basics: Hector, the Hispanic hottie who calls Sadie his Mamacita (look, I’m Latina and I know that Mami & Papi are used as terms of affection between lovers, but that’s always been a no-no in my family. My man is my man, not my Daddy); the gay cuddly BFFs that are used as “purse puppies” to show how open and cool Sadie is (hat-tip to Ya Boi Zack for that term); cut-out villains that are evil because good is dumb; Sadie, the icy cold blonde princess, who’s really not icy at all, no matter how many times we’re told that; the super, awesome girlfriends; and their uber-alpha, buff, ultra-possessive men.

There’s a scene where Sadie’s friend Buddy introduces her to his “lesbian friend, Bex.” Who does that?

“Hi, this is my bi-polar friend Sal, my vegan friend Polly, and my Indigenous Peoples friend Joaquin.” People aren’t people in this book, they’re distilled to traits.

My Opinion

This book was so bad, it made me question myself. Was I that much of a hoity-toity snob that I couldn’t appreciate a little bit of check-your-brains-at-the-door-fun-&-just-enjoy-the-ride romance? Me, hoity-toity about reading tastes? Me, the anti-censorship stalwart, the staunch defender of un-PC 70s-80s bodice rippers, a reader of really crappy Zebra, Pinnacle, and Playboy Press pulps?

Reading this book made me feel like Homer Simpson, the iconic cartoon schlub, in that episode where he moves to the boonies and the local yokels accuse him of putting on airs:

Farmer 1: Well, well. Look at the city slicker pulling up in his fancy German car.
Homer: This car was made in Guatemala.
Farmer 2: Well, pardon us, Mr. Gucci loafers.
Homer: I bought these shoes from a hobo.
Farmer 1: Well, la-de-da, Mr. Park Avenue manicure.
Homer: I’m sorry, I believe in good grooming.

THE SIMPSONS

There’s a lot of popular stuff out there I don’t like. Fortunately, those authors have legions of fans to buy their books and provide adulation, so a peon like me writing a bad review is no biggie. It’s a big world with plenty of stories, and hopefully, we can all agree that while not everything is for everybody, there are some things out there for everyone.