Today I would like to welcome Andrew Hudson to my blog, whose first novel Drift is now available in e-book format.
Drift is about a man who is trying to fix past mistakes in his life but ends up getting more than he bargained for. When Hudson asked me to review Drift, he mentioned that Stephen King is one of his biggest influences, which is one reason I agreed to read his book. I am happy to say I saw many shades of King throughout the story, which combines elements of mystery and horror.
Travis Benson is working for a communications company when he gets the urge to drive to a small town in Colorado to look up his estranged wife and son. After several chapters in the present, the story starts to jump back and forth in time as we learn about Travis’ past, how he met Eileen, his wife, and how they came to be separated. As Travis makes the long drive from Connecticut to the town of Greenwood, he reflects on his life’s mistakes and wonders if he’s doing the right thing. Along the way he suffers nightmares that may or may not be prescient, and the bad feelings that made him up and leave in the first place make his journey to Colorado all the more urgent. Interspersed with these chapters, we learn that there is indeed something dangerous lurking at the end of the road, and before long Travis’ homecoming and the dangerous elements in Greenwood collide in a very Stephen King-esque sort of way.
The story itself has much to offer: suspense, flawed characters that are trying to do the right thing, and an overall feeling of unease that hovers just below the surface. But, as I’ve found with other self-published novels, this reads as more of a first draft than a finished, polished piece. In many cases, I felt Hudson was going for shock value over carefully crafted suspense. The three elements that push stories into the adult category – strong language, sex and violence – burst out of nowhere in Drift, and yes, they shocked me. Not because I haven’t seen them all before, but because there was no warning. A more experienced writer would integrate these elements consistently in order to establish the tone of the writing. But throwing in a graphic sex scene that doesn’t have any reason for being in the story just feels desperate. The violence too is overdone to the point of coming off as silly. In one scene near the end, our killer attacks two men in the woods with a knife, and begins “…puncturing hole after hole into Mike’s intestines, lungs, and gut. Blood, bile, and fluids stained both of their clothing.” As a reader, I want the writer to earn these gratuitous moments by putting in the work necessary to pull them off.
I also found many puzzling instances of word usage and phrasing that actually made me laugh, and I’m pretty sure that is not what the author intended. One of Hudson’s biggest mistakes was trying to write about children when he clearly isn’t a father himself. (Please don’t misunderstand: it is certainly possible to write convincingly about children if you don’t have them. You just have to have the foresight to do your research first.) Travis refers to his three-year-old son as a “baby” (and indeed, they are feeding poor Kurt baby food), and at one point mother Eileen says “I just need to put Kurt away” when she clearly intends to put him down for a nap. These are the kinds of rookie errors that pull the reader out of the story and stop the narrative flow.
Overall, I found Drift to have potential as a successful and suspenseful thriller, but I wanted more: more rewrites, more editing, and more attention to the details of life. Hudson has the gift of storytelling, now he just needs to work on the mechanics.