Hollywood loves the getaway driver. Any opportunity to put a car chase on the big screen. From The Italian Job through to Drive and Baby Driver, it is a tradition that has even metastasized into the Fast and Furious franchise. Based heavily on the thrills and sounds of the big screen there are fewer novels with getaway drivers as their protagonists (Drive was based on a novel by James Sallis). But SA Crosby takes this tradition and puts a new spin on it in his scorching debut Blacktop Wasteland.
When Blacktop Wasteland opens Beauregard “Bug” Montage is attending an illegal street race. A former wheelman, Bug has now gone straight, with a wife and two children and is running a car repair shop. But the opening of a competitor in town and the loss of a major servicing contract has put Bug under some financial pressure. And so he finds himself using his skills again to try and make some money on the side. When things go from bad to worse financially, Bug finds himself back in league with a couple of pathetic, small time crims who tempt him to help with them with one final big score. But it is more than the money tempting Bug, he hankers for the adrenaline rush of a well executed heist.
Bug is a fascinating and complex character. He almost has two personalities – Beauregard the upstanding family man and Bug the criminal planning mastermind and getaway driver. And while the plot could easily be seen as falling into the “one last job” trope, Bug has enough self-awareness to not see it this way. He is more like an addict trying to stay away from temptation. But when things start to go wrong he is sinks more into his element, or at least into his Bug persona. But as he does so he also has to deal with the attendant violence and tragedy, and come to terms with the ways in which he idolised his father who lived a similar life.
And then there is the action. Right from the first scene he effectively captures the feel of being behind the wheel of a souped-up muscle car. Cosby sets up some intricate schemes and plays them out cinematically, the reader never in doubt as to what is going on or who is doing what to who.
Blacktop Wasteland puts a complex, conflicted character in the middle of a dark and violent crime tale. Cosby uses a bunch of common tropes and character types in ways that make them feel fresh. This is likely to be one of the crime debuts of the year and it can not be long before we see the inevitable movie.