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Drive Like Hell: A Novel Hardcover – February 8, 2005
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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.
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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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. Unfortunately, what the book seems to lack is any kind of arc. Certainly we see Luke develop somewhat in the year or so that it spans, but there is little to no climax, and at the end, though I was far from disappointed, I took stock for a second and realized that the story was really more a series of interesting events than a plot with a conflict, climax and resolution for Luke. Having said that, the events of the novel, often Tarantinian in their raw power and aggression, are quite enjoyable to read and we can't help but feel like we are a little keener on what exactly it means to be a "redneck."
Four stars for great characters and events, minus the one for lack of climax in the story. This novel is a pleasure and many will rightfully look forward to future contributions by Dallas Hudgens.
I'm not a Southerner, but I was charmed by these just-to-the-side-of-the-law rednecks and car lovers. Let's hope Hudgens treats us to a second story about Luke's career as a bail bondsman.
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.