Book Review: The Driver

By Hart Hanson; reviewed by Jeannette Hartman

You wouldn’t think that being a limousine driver would require Special Forces training, but it’s all in a day’s work for Army veteran Michael Skellig – especially when he blocks an attempt to assassinate his client, skateboarding hip-hop mogul Avila Bismarck.

After that, Avila wants to hire him full-time. Skelling is reluctant. He doesn’t want the job but what Bismarck’s bodyguards told the police about Skelling’s role in the assassination attempt makes the difference between the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) eyeing him as a person of interest or a hero.

Skelling soon learns Avila is a “person of interest” to many, including a sadistic sheriff’s deputy and a psychotic criminal and his gang (which includes the two teen skateboarders who tried to kill Avila in the first place).

Avila’s enemies are now Skelling’s enemies – and that puts his loyal team at Oasis Limo Services in danger as well.

This is a book of many pleasures. It’s filled with eccentric characters: Skellig’s employees Tinkertoy, Ripple and Lucky; the unrequited love of his life, attorney Constanta “Connie” Candide; and her best friend, LAPD Detective Delilah Groopman, who is more than half in love with Skellig.

Skellig is tough. An emergency room doctor observes that he’s “been blown up, savaged by a dog, stabbed and shot three times.  And those are only the injuries visible to the naked eye. Your X-rays are a horror show.”

Skellig and his team have brushed up against evil and cruelty, but they haven’t turned sour or cynical. Their love and loyalty to each other shine like candles in the dark. The story is hard-boiled and brutally violent in places, but the primary characters are all ones you’d want to hang out with. Their bantering dialog is a joy to read.

The tragedy of Skellig’s life is falling in love with Connie, an ambitious Latina woman who worked her way from nothing into the Navy and law school, and a career in a top-flight Century City firm.

She has her sights set on politics now. She’s blunt about telling Skellig that their relationship has no future: as a Latina woman with political ambitions, she can’t marry a gringo.

His second tragedy is not being able to see how much Delilah cares for him and has to offer.

Delilah tries to explain to him that there are two kinds of people in the world: those who work on the surface of the earth and those who “fly above us all and change history.” Connie is a high-flyer; Skellig and Delilah are not.

Delilah adds, “The flying people spend their lives fixing big problems, and to do that they mostly ignore, or never see, smaller problems, like the people around them or their families. Then there’s the people who walk on the ground, take care of their families and the people they love, and let history take care of itself.”

The city of Los Angeles has more than a cameo role in this story, which adds to the pleasure of this book. Hanson, who lives in Los Angeles, does an excellent job of drawing the various places where the story happens. This includes an abandoned shopping mall (most likely Hawthorne Plaza) that is taken over in the story by gangs of teenage skateboarders, bikers and runaways.

Hanson was a television script writer in Canada before moving to Los Angeles. He created the series “Bones,” a crime procedural drama that aired from 2005 to 2017 and is loosely based on the books by author Kathy Reichs. He lives in Venice with his wife.

Jeannette Hartman is the creator and chief book reviewer at Book-Reviews-By-Jeannette.com and Jewish-Books-Reviewed.com.

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