I bought this in anticipation of the release of the film, starring Ryan Gosling. If it's anywhere near as good on screen, then we'll have a cinematic classic on our hands. Certainly as American noir fiction goes, this is among the most sophisticated and poetic that I've come across.
The main character, Driver, is an engagingly complex creation, with an opaque personal morality that never alienates the reader. In fact, throughout the book, Sallis maintains sympathy for Driver, without compromising on his unflinching descriptions of the character's actions. It is not only, however, the principal character, but also the supporting cast who make this such an incredible book. The fractured time-span of the novel means that characters are introduced, returned to, killed off or left behind in a seemingly random order that one comes to realise is reflecting Driver's thought process. The reader experiences Driver's reality, whether he is in it or remembering it, alongside him.
What really sets this apart is the prose style. 'Gritty' thrillers are ten-a-penny, it takes something of quite another order to to be able to write a book with this sort of content in such a lyrical style, romancing the seedy underbelly of LA, the backdrop to the movies that never makes it to the movies. Hopefully, when this does make it to the movies, it won't be sacrificed for glamour. Something tells me, from the buzz already surrounding the film, that it won't be.