The Driver

The level to which I am grateful and relieved to read something that can be described as fluffy directly corresponds to the number of depressing and horrifying news headlines I have consumed on any given morning. And the fact that so far all the books I’ve consumed from the Vancouver Writers Festival list have been intense. And heavy.

Enter The Driver by Hart Hanson (writer of the TV show Bones, in case the name was jarringly familiar and you couldn’t place it.).

Yes, people die, there is racism, torture, drought references, war vets and corrupt cops. But at the same time, The Driver doesn’t contain the brutal edge of realism. This a fiction. An often comedic fiction (okay, a dark comedic fiction) that forces you to suspend a little bit of your critical thinking. Mine operates when it wants anyway, so I’m fine with this.

I saw Hanson at one of the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival events. He was on a panel with Asuma Zehanat Khan and Ruth Ware, who also have new thrillers out this year. Hart got the most laughs (for his ability to poke fun at his intelligence and talent when compared to the two women), and communicated the most accessible message at Thriller Three Ways: Yes, men can and should read thrillers by women writers. I’m paraphrasing, but he was cheered for this overall sentiment.

It’s possible to see Hart’s public personality in The Driver, a sort of irreverent-ness that sees the world as scary, is scared, and jokes about it anyway. Main character Michael Skellig does this too. The stakes are a heck of a lot higher for him, since he killed a man (self defence?), he’s got people he loves on the line and he’s in a bad situation. Skellig is a war vet who employs other vets in his limo business. His latest client is Bismark Avila, a skateboarding empire mogul, who nearly gets killed and Skellig manages to save. Doing this unravels Skellig’s life at a speed that is alarming. The book moves quickly, aided and abetted by the fact that Skellig’s narration talks right to you and you have to pay attention.

You know what we don’t see enough of in fiction? Families that aren’t total messes. Skellig’s family celebrates diversity and doesn’t worry about everyone turning out the same way. There’s room to just be.

How much has fiction done to normalize weird/bad/broken/manipulative/cruel families? I didn’t even think about it until I was confronted with this genuine, enviable family. Then again, maybe Skellig’s family is the real fiction. Skellig’s family, both his family by blood and the family he has created for himself, stand by him and help him through the mess he’s made for himself. Consequences be damned.

Hart Hanson appeared at Events 28 (Thrillers Three Ways) and 32 (Screen Gems) at the 2017 Vancouver Writers Fest.

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