Thursday, August 30, 2012

Kevin Lynn Helmick's Driving Alone - a great noir novel

Kevin Lynn Helmick is the author of works such as Heartland Gothic, Sebastian Cross, Clovis Point, and The Lost Creek Journal. His latest work, Driving Alone, is due out in November through Blank Slate Press. Like Heartland Gothic, Driving Alone is essentially a story of redemption - or at least one's attempt to find a way to redeem the past and one's self. Helmick has an excellent style in the tradition of some of the best noir writers like James M. Cain and Cornell Woolrich and draws a reader completely into the world of the story. He's definitely a writer worth exploring and, no doubt, if you enjoy noir fiction, you'll love Helmick.

The following excerpt is from Driving Alone:

And then there was the heat. That’s the least that can be said about that. The most was said in secret whispers with a wink of an eye that the devil himself stayed clear of the Deep South in those desperate dog days of summer. The poor souls down there had already been tortured past their use anyway, so he did his hunting north of the Mason Dixon. It wasn’t true of course, but that’s what they said.
Another saying goes, he was seen in the park, near the local cemetery sitting under shade trees and wiping his brow and praying for a little rain, or at least a cool breeze. That one might have been true, either way it was the better of the two tales and the one Billy liked the most growing up. Anybody he’d see in the park or on the street during that time of year, wiping their brow or sitting under a shade tree for a little relief, Billy knew was him. Hot, tired and beaten by the south, and Billy was safe, at least until the summer was gone.
I’ll be fine, just fine, Billy thought. Fuck it … don’t really matter now, anyhow.
He walked fast and tripped twice down the sidewalk like a drunken, stumbling clown as he dinged the silver tip of his dirty Mexican boot against the broken slabs of heaved up sidewalk. Something he could have avoided by changing his pace just a little, but he didn’t. The weight of the late morning heat and the hangover got in the way of such a simple decision. He didn’t look back either, that wasn’t his style he liked to think; even though it was. The rag top Cadillac waited at the curb and almost seemed to fidget with anticipation, for Detroit steel was built for just short of flying. The car, the Caddy, was a hand me down burden, so to speak, from the dead daddy inheritance program. A dirty white and rust colored 65 two door lovingly referred to by what few friends he had left as, “the welfare wagon.” That car and one acre of swamp land with a two bedroom tin roof shack down along the Suwanee River, which he had no intentions of ever living in or even claiming. And that was all.
The old man’s four-pack-a-day Lucky Strike addiction caught up with him awhile back. The big C. Or maybe it was the whisky, the women, the Navy, or the fighting, or any number of similar combinations of habits used to measure the strength of a man—when they’re young, anyway. But once past a certain age if a man hasn’t conquered his vices or slain his demons, they sure as shit and the rivers gonna rise will conquer him.
Billy threw an arm full of jeans and t-shirt rags in the back seat. The whole collection made up a vagabond’s bed. Sliding over the passenger’s door and climbing behind the wheel, he checked his cheap sunglasses in the mirror and the scratches on his face. “Bitch,” he said and turned the key, dropped the lever down to drive and pulled away, leaving a cloud of fuel and exhaust in his wake. “I’m fine. I’ll be fine,” he said turning the first corner. “Don’t matter none.”
The Caddy floated down the boulevard like the lead car in a fool’s parade, but he couldn’t float past the worry. “Shiiit,” he finally yelled out, slapped the wheel and shoved a cassette in the dash and pushed on the gas. Grayson Capps wailed and moaned from the speakers. The empty buildings and sidewalks swept by until they gave way to a few tattered and paint-chipped dwellings that tried hard but with little success to make up a town. An old black man with a cane and a straw hat watched him speed by from the shade of a porch, and then the community surrendered all at once to a winding two lane black top through the lush backwoods and ancient swamp trees that smothered most of the sky.

The Blank Slate Press page is here:

Kevin Lynn Helmick's blog page, The Write Room, is here:

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