by Kevin Lynn Helmick
paper bound, 91 pages
Blank Slate Press
When I first held Driving Alone in my hand I wondered...where was the rest of this book? Driving Alone is about the size of a poetry chapbook, and as a design object it is quite beautifully done. It's a novella, of course, and once I got over my anxiety over not being able to define a novella in word count or pages (I just know it is longer than a short story and shorter than a novel) I found I quite liked the idea. In fact, I think this is one of my favorite book ideas ever, and I'd like to see more nicely designed novellas, or even long short stories...especially if they are as good as Driving Alone.
Kevin Lynn Helmick's novella can easily be read in one sitting, and it is a work that relies on voice, images, and adrenaline. The main character of Driving Alone is Billy Keyhoe, and he is frankly no good. We first meet Billy in Waycross, Georgia, as he is driving his deceased father's white '65 Cadillac, driving away from a life where he has messed up in every way possible. A small-town Romeo, Billy is violent, and he suspects the most recent beating he gave his girlfriend Wendy might have been worse that usual. When he stops at Earl's 66 just outside of town, things go even more wrong for Billy, and he heads out of town with a vague plan of maybe driving to Texas.
Then, in the middle of a crossroad, Billy meets a girl called Feather....a girl with heart-shaped sunglasses who reminds him of someone, a girl who seems to know everything about him.
If you like short fiction that is gritty and noir (think James M. Cain) and really dark, then Driving Alone is for you. The novella moves quickly, with some twists I don't want to give away, but I can say that I really enjoyed this book, and I think the author has a highly original voice. The book is attractive, and well-produced, although I think it could have used some copy-editing (it's the English teacher in me). But still, Driving Alone had me so enthralled and charmed by its dark tale that I was willing to overlook some minor editing issues. And I do think this idea of publishing fine novellas is one that more publishers should take up--there's something so satisfying about a little book you can read in one sitting. Driving Alone uses vivid images and powerful language to deliver a surprising and powerful story; this novella will be stuck in my brain for awhile.
For more about Driving Alone:
The publisher's website: http://blankslatepress.com
The author's website: http://kevinlynnhelmick.blogspot.com