When a long-running television series ends, the creator can be eager to try something different. Hart Hanson followed up 12 seasons of “Bones,” based on novels by Kathy Reichs, with a novel of his own, and it’s a very good one.
In “The Driver,” Michael Skellig is an ex-soldier who runs a Los Angeles limousine company employing some of the military’s misfits.
Skellig has a war-tested instinct for danger, and in the opening, a voice in the wind leads him into a nightclub just in time to save his client, a celebrity skateboarder named Bismarck Avila, from a chaotic and confusing attack.
Conscripted as Avila’s full-time driver, Skellig realizes his real job will be saving Avila from the powerful thug who’s out to get him, and staying alive in the process.
“The Driver” is much more complicated than that simple summary, but it’s so tightly plotted that giving almost anything away is too much.
Beyond the plot, though, are the characters, sharply drawn and sympathetic (the heroes) or scary (the villains). Good or bad, they all come alive on the page.
Skellig himself is often hilarious, employing dry wit and wordplay as weapons. Avila and his girlfriend, Nina, are characters we haven’t seen before, and their interactions with Skellig are unfailingly entertaining.
The three employees of Skellig’s Oasis Limos are unique and intriguing, including Ripple, a legless veteran, and Tinkertoy, who suffers such bad PTSD that she speaks haltingly and can interact comfortably only with machinery. Lucky, Skellig’s Afghan interpreter, speaks in a delightfully quirky way reproduced on the page with capital letters.
Hanson also puts two women in Skellig’s life: the lawyer who is the love of his life and the cop he’d surely be dating if she weren’t the lawyer’s best friend. It’s an awkwardly sexy triangle.
“The Driver” is packed with action, including a breathtaking chase sequence that ends on the Fox lot where Hanson spent so many years. In fact, there’s a lot of Hanson himself here; Skellig shares the author’s sense of humor, as frequently demonstrated in interviews and on Twitter.
Even though a novel is something different for Hanson, this one isn’t, not really. Just try reading it without casting all the parts in what would make a terrific TV series.
A novel by Hart Hanson
Published by Dutton, 336 pages, $26