Lowdown Road By Scott Von Doviak, 287 pgs.

Jul 21, 2023

If Scott Von Doviak’s new novel Lowdown Road were a song, it’d be Motörhead’s cover of “The* Train Kept A-Rollin’.”

Two cousins in Texas in 1974—one pure trouble, one somewhat less pure—steal a lot of marijuana and head to Idaho, where they know that thousands of people will be gathering to watch Evel Knievel leap across the Snake River Canyon on a specially designed motorcycle. Pursuers include a crazy sheriff and the Black guy whose marijuana they took. We spend time with all of them individually, and all are compellingly drawn, even the Black guy—there’s always the risk that white writers, to secure a safe space, will allow their Black characters to be stoic and nothing else.

Von Doviak has written much film journalism, and the influence of film is out in the open, as it is with any number of writers who write more difficult literary novels, but the question is, does Lowdown Road seem like it was written to court movie studios? And no, not at all. Though now that we’re on the topic of movies: the novel’s sensibility is a perfect blend of Smokey and the Bandit’s and Blood Simple’s.

Fast read with truly memorable characters. Always tethered to our world, and most of the deaths actually sting a little, if not more than a little. But my aloud-laugh/page ratio was about one per seventy, which is quite good for fiction, and is why I nominate Lowdown Road for Pulp Read of the Summer. (*The title is “The Train Kept A-Rollin’,” not “Train Kept A-Rollin’,” which is what I always thought it was.) –Jim Woster (Hard Case Crime, hardcasecrime.com)