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Kevin Lynn Helmick
Billy Keyhoe is a loser whose luck just ran out. After beating his girlfriend to a bloody pulp and being shot at by the clerk of the convenience store he was trying to rob, Billy takes off in his daddy’s beat-up 66 Caddy on a road trip from Waycross, GA toward West Texas. On the way, he picks up a beautiful hitchhiker, Feather, who seems to know more about him than he knows himself. As they drive, he slowly realizes his life is being judged and that he has to finally face up to his past. The farther they go, the more Billy is drawn to Feather until he realizes he “had fallen in love somewhere out there in the night, with something or someone, or just an idea, it wasn’t clear.” But what was clear was that Billy had never been in love before, that he didn’t understand what love could do to a man, and that he’d never “done one fuckin thing right” in his entire life until he’d picked up Feather. Unfortunately for Billy, he discovers that even true love cannot save him.
Driving Alone is a gritty, Southern Gothic morality tale that reveals that the high cost of hard living is brutally hard dying.
PRAISE FOR DRIVING ALONE:
“Finished reading Driving Alone by Kevin Lynn Helmick. Driving Alone recasts the manic pixie dream girl as a noir, bruised angel of judgment wandering the back roads of the American South, waiting at the crossroads to be picked up by desperate drivers running from themselves. Highly recommended.”
- Spinetingler magazine
“Driving Alone is gorgeously grim new take on redemption and romance. It is unsettling and provocative; combining the classic romance of the open road with the claustrophobia of a morality play. If Hell is other people, Driving Alone has the Devil riding shotgun.”
- Jared Shurin, reviewer for Pornokitsch, director and literary judge for The Kitschies
“An intense nightmare that shimmers with beauty and darkness. Helmick broils these characters in southern humidity and human tragedy until the reader is left sweating, breathless and amazed.”
- Fred Venturini, author of The Samaritan
“A journey into darkness and painful self-discovery … a brilliantly lyrical and richly painted hybrid of noir and magic realism. Superb.”
- Paul D. Brazill- The Gumshoe, Guns Of Brixton, Drunk On The Moon.
“Hardboiled, hardbitten and haunting as well as lyrically libidinous and lovingly lascivious, Kevin Lynn Helmick tackles sex and death along the lost highway the way the damned do—alone.”
- Jedidiah Ayres, author of A F*ckload of Shorts
“Who is Feather? She knows Billy and has the power to manipulate him yet he can’t remember when or where he met her. Revealing much more about this tightly woven Southern Gothic would ruin the story for the reader. This is the point at which the plot takes off and the tension and suspense begins to build into a mind-bending psychological tale.
The characters are nicely developed and at times I was tempted to sympathize with Billy as the layers of his life were peeled away, exposing his humanity. This was fast-paced and compelling with vivid, descriptive prose. The gritty language and slang gave the story an authentic feel. The foreshadowing and symbolism revealed gives the astute reader hints of what is to come.
The shorter format of the novella was the perfect length for this dark, engrossing tale. Recommended, especially for fans of the genre.”“When the read is over, the Cadillac and Billy are still driving the back roads and lonely black top of your imagination. The book is fast paced, and the suspense dangles there, resolution always just out-of-reach as the pulse quickens and the page turns. It is sexy, violent, introspective and dark – a classic.”Written in rural Southern language, Driving Alone is harsh, difficult, and sorrowful, much as Billy’s life is. This is not a happy story and readers should not expect a happy ending; rather, it is a story focusing on the gritty realities of life and how people get caught up in them. While difficult subject material frequently came up, I thoroughly enjoyed this book for its honest portrayal of how life takes unpleasant turns at times. I kept wondering what Feather’s story was, and at the end, I learned, although it was nothing like what I expected. It was so much better! In addition, I was impressed with how much of a moving story could be packed into less than one hundred pages. The language is easy to understand (although rough in places) and the story moves quickly. Driving Alone is a quick and moving story.- Jennifer Roman, Fiction AddictThis skinny novella packs a punch and drowns you in the sticky, gritty, depressing ambiance of south Georgia, small towns, and one angry man…I zipped through this book in a matter of hours, sucked into the sticky, hot world of south Georgia, unable to look away from Billy and his very bad business. Billy is an unlikeable character — he’s done horrible things — but he’s experienced equally horrible things, and Helmick shares both without apology or emotion. Gorgeous Feather, unreasonably sexy and able to tease out the things that bother Billy the most, is a foil or a reflection of everything Billy fails at, giving the reader a chance to see into Billy and his psyche. It’s up to the reader to decide if he can be saved; Helmick doesn’t make it easy for one to fall into sympathy with Billy. There’s an allegorical feel to the book, a kind of cinematic twist that approaches steadily, and I found myself unsure if I wanted a ‘happy’ end for Billy. But like all good noir, it left me feeling a bit uneasy, unsettled, and that made me happy.- Audra, Unabridged Chick
“Nothing much happens to protagonist Billy Keyhoe in Driving Alone. Then again, everything happens to Billy Keyhoe in Driving Alone. Helmick’s slim novella is a relatively short tale, but has all the suspense and significance of a much larger volume…Driving Alone begins in the wake of a crime, and carries on into another. But Helmick’s novella is masterful in its stretching the meaning of crime fiction. The crimes are a catalyst for Billy Keyhoe’s surreal self-discovery, aided by the mysteriously perceptive Feather…It is the interactions between Billy and Feather that endow Driving Alone with a mournful beauty…Helmick limns the most basic quandaries of humanity with a melancholy elegance…Helmick displays human nature in its many glorious and inglorious facets… At 91 pages, it may not take very long to finish. But the book will stick with you long past the final page….”
- DISPATCHESFROMNOIR, Crime Fiction Lover
“Author Kevin Lynn Helmick packs more into the hard-hitting 91 pages of Driving Alone than many writers manage in works several times as long. Along the way, Helmick plays with both Billy and the reader’s minds, causing both to question what exactly is happening between Billy and Feather as they verbally and physically spar with one another. Billy’s crude, blunt personality seems to have met a match of sorts in Feather’s (somewhat) more refined and circumspect one, and it’s a wonderful juxtaposition which Helmick deftly explores. His decision to present the dialog with a distinctive cadence which incorporates a rural slang only adds to the gritty, undeniably Southern feel of the story. Driving Alone is a magical mix of crime fiction, romance, and Southern Gothic, and I highly recommend you join Billy on his enlightening journey of self-discovery…where it ends may surprise you.”
“When I first held Driving Alone in my hand I wondered…where was the rest of this book? Driving Alone is about the size of a poetry chapbook, and as a design object it is quite beautifully done. It’s a novella, of course, and once I got over my anxiety over not being able to define a novella in word count or pages (I just know it is longer than a short story and shorter than a novel) I found I quite liked the idea. In fact, I think this is one of my favorite book ideas ever, and I’d like to see more nicely designed novellas, or even long short stories…especially if they are as good as Driving Alone…If you like short fiction that is gritty and noir (think James M. Cain) and really dark, then Driving Alone is for you. The novella moves quickly, with some twists I don’t want to give away, but I can say that I really enjoyed this book, and I think the author has a highly original voice. The book is attractive, and well-produced… And I do think this idea of publishing fine novellas is one that more publishers should take up–there’s something so satisfying about a little book you can read in one sitting. Driving Alone uses vivid images and powerful language to deliver a surprising and powerful story; this novella will be stuck in my brain for awhile.”
“As I put Driving Alone down after finishing it, I couldn’t decide if the ending was as inevitable as it seemed or the most disappointing ending to the story I could imagine. I was not ready for it to be over and would gladly have read hundreds of pages more if they had been there. Driving Alone was an amazing read – short, to the point, and wasted no time reeling me into the story. I read it cover to cover within hours of it arriving in the mailbox and was left wanting more. I will definitely search out more from Kevin Lynn Helmick and if his other books are even a fraction as good as Driving Alone, I will have a new section of “favorites” on my bookshelves.”
Kevin Lynn Helmick, born 1963, Fort Madison IA, is the author of The Lost Creek Journal, selective poems and flash fiction, Clovis Point, a rural noir thriller, Sebastian Cross, a literary adventure novel, Heartland Gothic, a literary black comedy, and Driving Alone, a dark southern Gothic romance novella. Growing up seven years younger than the youngest of four brothers, his views of the world were largely shaped by 60′s and 70′s pop culture, by Elvis Presley, James Bond, Andy Warhol, comic books and of course the music of The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Doors.
Kevin has had several short stories published including “Allison,” in Manarchy Magazine, “My Muse Plays Hard to Get” in Pulp Metal Magazine, and ”No 7 Valentine” in Noir at the Bar II. All proceeds from Noir at the Bar II go to support independent bookseller Subterranean Books of St. Louis. All Kevin’s books and full bio are available at Amazon Books.
Kevin keeps a blog with other short stories, commentaries and guest writers at The Write Room Cafe. http://kevinlynnhelmick.blogspot.com/