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Drive Like Hell: A Novel Hardcover – February 8, 2005

4.7 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sixteen-year-old Luke Fulmer gets an education in misbehaving in Hudgens's raucous, Southern-fried bildungsroman. Luke hasn't had the greatest role models: his gorgeous mom, Claudia, needs her soaps like a wino needs his Thunderbird; his deadbeat dad, Lyndell, gets Luke involved in a B and E within 24 hours of seeing him for the first time in a decade; and his older brother, Nick, has done time twice for dealing drugs. It's Georgia in 1979, where Luke steals his brother's nickel bags for pocket money and his neighbor's car for errands—that is, until he smashes it into a tree. He loses his license, is forced to take a job as a busboy at the Holiday Inn, and has to move in with his brother—after all, isn't Nick walking the straight-and-narrow these days? Not hardly: he may have a landscaping business, a decent golf game and a band, Puss N' Booze, but he's also got a nice cocaine trade. Then Luke falls for a kleptomaniac, Nick lands in jail, and Luke has to play pick-up man in a drug drop. Hudgens's sharp dialogue sparkles throughout, and the cat-and-mouse confrontations between Luke, Nick and the local lawmen are particularly funny. Hudgens's takes on car racing, Claudia's dating, Luke's first love and Nick's attempts to teach Luke his dubious keys to success also shine in this shaggy but thoroughly enjoyable debut.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

When Luke Fulmer was just 10 years old, his father--an amateur stock-car driver--taught him to drive, saying, "It's best to learn young." Luke turns 16 in 1979 and finally gets his much-anticipated driver's license, but he immediately steals his neighbor's car and smashes it, so the local magistrate suspends his license. His overwhelmed mother, Claudia, has had enough: her oldest son, Nick, is already a two-time felon. She decides to spend the summer elsewhere, and she sends Luke to live with his brother Nick, hoping he'll learn from Nick's mistakes. So begins an endless summer during which Luke works pit crew for a stock car driver, dates a kleptomaniac, meets Jack Nicklaus (the golfer), and retrieves a duffel bag of cocaine for his brother. He also does a lot of illegal driving and learns that there is nowhere in the world he feels more in control than behind the wheel of a car. It's a good thing, too, because young Luke must keep it together while his family, his girlfriend, and maybe even his future are all taking a dive. Jerry Eberle
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition first Printing edition (February 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743251636
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743251631
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,036,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Dallas Hudgens has pulled off quite a coup: for once we can read about a dysfunctional family with enjoyment and not depression. Because the characters are so well developed, their particular eccentricities and challenges are understandable and poignant. Luke, a 16 year old, is at the cusp of true manhood, being shaped by his mother and brother, and although his father has left the family, he has cast a long shadow of influence over Luke as well.

All these forces pull Luke in different directions as he copes with one of the most important (from a teenager's perspective) events in his life -- getting his first license. Hudgens does a great job of picking an event and process (the driving test, the responsibility that comes with driving, the fear of losing the license, etc.) that mirrors the entry into adulthood.

Luke is a study in contrasts, often somewhat older than his years and at other times the impetuous teenager, thinking only of the moment. Hudgens has marvelously captured the feeling of growing up. His style reminds me of Carl Hiassen, with the same quality of characterization, but without the zaniness. The prose is compelling and beautifully captures the essence and spirit of the time and place. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. I read it while on Spring Break with my kids and I enjoyed every minute of it. Hudgens is a great first time author with a real talent for (i) being funny, and (ii) slowly building compelling characters. There is even a little action and love interest thrown in for good measure. He also has a great ear for dialogue -- particularly Southern-inspired dialogue. However, you don't have to come from the South to enjoy it (I am from PA). I look forward to a sequel where Luke follows his dream and becomes a bail bondsman!
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Format: Hardcover
Wow. I could not put this book down. From the first page to the last, I couldn't believe the twists, turns and fast-paced action. it's the seventies, man, in all its polyester and hardrock glory. it is more than that. this book has soul, sass and all the longing of a GREAT country music ballad. yes, it's funny but when you're laughing along with the wonderful characters you're also nodding in recognition. AS i told my friends: Buy it, Read it, Love it like hell.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dallas Hudgens captures every bit of what it was to come up in the 70s. The cars, the pot, the petty theft, the young pretty mom that dates too much, the live fast die young-barely ever there dad...Its all in here. Plus a liberal peppering of the songs on the radio, the gas prices, the legal system's way of dealing with these mop topped, mustachioed teens. And as if thats not enough...he places our story in the slow hot southern part of our country. A place I myself am not from and is therefore that much more magical to me. A page turner, pulpy feeling novel that doesn't show one sign that it isn't a great piece of Literature.
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Format: Hardcover
Journalist Dallas Hudgens's debut novel "Drive Like Hell" is a paean to the best and worst aspects of "redneck" culture. Immediately down-to-earth and pleasantly honest, this undertone never fades throughout the 322 pages, and the characters' interplay is almost ensemble.

The protagonist is a teenager in early 1980's Georgia named Luke Fulmer. The story is at heart a coming-of-age for Luke, as he struggles to deal with, understand and protect the lifestyle and people he loves. Throughout the novel, driving and cars are a major undercurrent to Luke's life. Luke was hooked on racing and classic cars from the moment his errant dad came back into his life at age 10 and introduced him to the finer points of street racing (in addition to petty larceny and boozing). The loss of Luke's license after an auto theft near the beginning of the story never really goes away, and it is his anxiety over this loss and burning desire to get it back that pervade and define Luke's mood and actions in many ways. Cars are ubiquitous in this story, from the speedway to a series of unfortunate and interesting events along the way.

The characters that populate the heady landscape of the story are often over-the-top, though never pretentious or fake. From Luke's struggling mother to his punk older brother, the smart and mysterious girlfriend, the chef at the hotel where he works and the country cops and everyone in between, it is a pleasure to read about these people and many others, and the positive and negative effects they have on Luke. There are even well-woven cameos by real-life celebrities Jack Nicklaus and Paul Newmann!

The book is full of everything that defines daily country life for many: racing, wrestling, and many other things.
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Format: Hardcover
This novel had me in laughing fits before the end of the first page. I am not an English professor, but I love to read the likes of Christopher Moore, Bill Fitzhugh, etc. Dallas Hudgens fits well with this group, the difference being that he uses the South as a backdrop instead of a punchline. I lived in Georgia for eight years, and this book has jarred loose a lot of memories for me. The comedy is nicely contrasted with raw aggression around every turn, and it is hard to put this book down. Even if you have nothing to do with the South, this is an interesting story with many suprises. The charachters are distinct and vivid, and not hard to remember. If you are from Atlanta or the surrounding area, you'll be able to smell some of the scenes from this book. I can't wait to see what this guy writes next.
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