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Drunk Drivers

by Mathias M. Lindgaard

Rating: ****

Drunk Drivers takes the reader into the mind and daily shenanigans of a young, functioning alcoholic in Los Angeles. We follow the unnamed narrator as he navigates girlfriends, parties and the search for self-identity.

The opening of Drunk Drivers is blisteringly good; raw, funny and full of driving emotion. Written in first person, the narrator immediately takes the reader into their confidence as if they were an old friend. It’s engaging and makes him likeable even if, as a reader, you do not actually like him and the choices he makes. Books documenting the tormented psychography of addicts is nothing new but there is a directness to the writing in Drunk Drivers which makes it feel quite fresh. Also, on the whole, there is very little wallowing self-indulgence which is can always be a pitfall of this type of novel.

The narrator lurches from one bizarre, drunken, debauched incident to another. There are highs, lows and an awful lot of whisky and sex. The party at Vincent’s is a grotesque carnival of excess and Vincent Blake, as ringmaster, was brilliantly realised. A cross between Jay Gatsby and the Wolf of Wall Street, he was absolutely compelling without becoming a cliché and personally, I would like to see him in his own novel. The character of Glory, I found a little harder to warm to. In fact, part of me wondered if she actually existed or was a figment of the narrator’s whisky sodden mind. There just seemed something too perfect and a little detached about her. It would have been good to have had a chapter or so from her perspective; helping the reader add visual depth to the narrator, which is lacking, and additional dimension to both of them.

What struck me from the opening pages was the level of sophistication to the prose. Mr Lindgaard is in his early twenties and Drunk Drivers could easily be pretentious, pseudo world-weary druggie platitudinous rambling, but instead is measured and astute despite the antics. In general, the prose contains the type of insight that is normally achieved with both age and experience. The narrator has a profound understanding of the nature of addiction and mental illness but also the technical quality of the prose. There were some achingly lovely similes, ‘quiet as a cornfield in summer’ was beautifully simple yet so evocative.

Nonetheless, the first half/three-quarters of the novel is definitely the stronger. There is a slight loss of momentum and maturity toward the end. Although the contents of Drunk Drivers are inspired by real events, it is essentially a fiction and a subtle twist or reveal of some description was required in the last quarter. There is an episode with Vincent but I did not feel this was strong enough and, frankly, was expected. I also felt the narrative became too subjective and the ending slightly anti-climactic.

Notwithstanding, Drunk Drivers is an exciting read by a promising young author. Well worth a look.

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