Wednesday, September 16, 2009

James Sallis's Kylmä kyyti (aka Drive) out in Finnish!

James Sallis's Kylmä kyyti (Drive) is the latest book in the paperback series I edit for the Finnish publisher, Arktinen Banaani. The book is just fresh from the printers and I'm not sure if it's available in bookshops as yet, but it will be soon. The book tells about a Hollywood stunt driver who's engaged into criminal activity on the side. He's fallen into a trap and the book follows both his past and his future almost at the same time, in vivid non-chronological narration. The Finnish title means literally "Cold Ride".

I asked some questions from James Sallis, who's been writing from the late sixties on and has been getting more widely-known, perhaps mainly due to the fact that Drive is just an excellent novel, one that combines hard-hitting violence and ballad-like beauty. I'll translate the interview in Finnish later on.

The excellent cover is again by Ossi Hiekkala, who's done the cover art for the earlier Banaani paperbacks as well.

Drive is a very lean book - the Finnish edition is only 208 pages, with a loose layout. Why did you want to write such a short book?

My intention from the first was to write a contemporary equivalent of the old original paperback novels that came from Fawcett Gold Medal and such: short, hard-hitting, muscular, with great momentum.

Have you always been interested in the world of stunt car drivers? What interests you in them?

Actually, I knew very little about the subject. Drive began with the character, with Driver; to write him, and to know him, I had to learn about driving. Some of it is from books, and some of it is from a friend who test drives cars for a living.

Drive is also a very beautiful book. In the end, just in the last lines, it transforms into a ballad. Was this something you set out to do?

Thank you. I had no idea, and in fact was concerned all along with how I’d be able to bring the book to a suitable end. The end came to me in a rush – the character had to take on a greater presence, become mythlike. Those final lines dropped into my head as I was out for one of many walks, and I hurried home to get them down.

Drive has a very difficult narrative technique, speeding back and forth in time. Were you influenced by Quentin Tarantino or was this something you've been doing for a long time?

From the first. If you look at a Lew Griffin novels, you may find one chapter detailing what happened today, the next chapter skipping ahead three days, the chapter after that returning to “tomorrow.” The most blatant example of this would be the conclusion of the second Turner novel, Cripple Creek, where I skip ahead to the aftermath and then, in the final chapter, return to what occasioned the aftermath. Let me emphasize, though, that this is by no means trickery; these are solutions I’ve found to my desire to tell the story as fully as possible. In our minds, we do not live in straight lines.

What were some of your other influences? Walter Hill's film The Driver, perhaps? You also name some European, more artful writers, like Celan. What's behind that? It's not usual for a crime writer to drop names like that.

Incredible as it seems, I didn’t know the Walter Hill film until after Drive was written; I’ve still not seen it. As for European writers, I’ve a long, long engagement with them, beginning when I lived in London in the late Sixties – and especially with French writers. I did, for instance, the sole English-language translation of Raymond Queneau’s novel Saint Glinglin. I’ve translated poetry by Cendrars, Yves Bonnefoy, Neruda, Jacques Dupin, Pasternak, and many others. I am also profoundly influenced by science fiction, which is what I first wrote professionally; most of my oldest friends are science fiction writers.

You are better known for your longer and more complex novels, for example those featuring PI Lew Griffin. Will you be writing more in the vein of Drive?

Drive was meant (like Death Will Have Your Eyes before it) primarily as homage, and as a gift to myself. None of us had any suspicion that it would prove so popular. The novel I’m finishing up now began as – I thought – another muscular, fast-moving novel, but it promptly changed course. And at this point I’m just kind of following it along, seeing where it wants to go.

There are rumours of a movie based on Drive, with Hugh Jackman in the lead. Do you know anything about what state is that in?

The option has just been renewed. They have what I’m told is quite an outstanding script. We’ll see. The six Lew Griffin novels, by the way, are also in development.

Thank you for your time, Jim!


Frank Loose said...

Nice looking cover, Juri. And a nice interview, too, with James Sallis. I have not read Drive, but am going to go look for a copy now. The "homage" aspect to the Gold Medal style of short and straight-atcha is too appealing to pass up. Cheers ...

Juri said...

It really is an excellent book, Frank, you'll love it.

Paul D Brazill said...

Like the interview. Great cover.

Duane Spurlock said...

Excellent novel, like all of Sallis' work. I think this was a great choice for the line of Crime books you're working on, Juri.

Juri said...

Thanks, Duane - I hope Sallis's elliptic style finds readers also in Finland!