Hudgens, Dallas 1964-

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Hudgens, Dallas 1964-

PERSONAL:

Born February 12, 1964; married; children: two sons. Education: George Mason University, M.F.A., 1992.

ADDRESSES:

Home—VA. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Freelance writer.

WRITINGS:

Drive Like Hell (novel), Scribner (New York, NY), 2004.

Season of Gene (novel), Scribner (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributor to the Washington Post and the online Fanzine.

SIDELIGHTS:

After earning a master of fine arts degree from George Mason University in 1992, Dallas Hudgens put his fiction-writing aspirations aside for a while so he could support his family, including a wife and two children. His main income came as a freelance contributor to the Washington Post. This work, along with reading he was doing for pleasure, helped inspire him to write his first novel, Drive Like Hell. "When he took [writing] … up again, in the late '90s," according to a writer for the Washington City Paper, "he had recently read a Lewis Nordan short story about a late-night father-and-son drive. Around the same time, he was writing Post pieces about NASCAR and the Richard Petty Driving Experience at Charlotte Motor Speedway. ‘It just seemed like I was reading and writing about cars at the time,’ Hudgens says, ‘and that's how it sort of worked its way into the book.’"

In writing his first novel, Hudgens did not draft a detailed plot outline. Instead, he first composed a series of short stories featuring what would become his main protagonist, Luke, then went back and reworked them, connecting them into a coherent novel. In an interview with Wes Freed, quoted on the Largehearted Boy blog, Hudgens further commented: "I always have problems seeing the larger picture, like a story's structure, or a plot, so I don't use an outline. I usually start with a couple of characters and a situation. I place the characters in the situation and try to write a scene. From there, I simply write scene-to-scene and hope that I can see a structure or plot take shape as things move along. The first sorts of stories I tried to write were comics when I was a kid. I couldn't draw very well at all, but I always liked having a visual aspect of story telling, especially in terms of being able to see a character clearly in your head."

Drive Like Hell, is set in 1970s Georgia, though the author remarked in his Washington City Paper interview that the setting is fairly unimportant, taking a back seat to the characters and the feel of the book, which was encouraged in part by the music of the Drive-By Truckers. After visiting the group's Web site, which featured art by his friend Wes Freed, he believed that there would be an audience for his whacky book about a good-hearted teenager who gets himself into lots of trouble, mostly because of the people he meets in life.

In Drive Like Hell sixteen-year-old Luke has a mother addicted to soap operas, an absent father, and an older brother who has been jailed repeatedly for drug dealing. The crazy situations come quickly, beginning with Luke trying to beat his father, whom he does not recognize when the older man is caught burglarizing a home. His father convinces Luke to help him break into another place, and along the way the father, an amateur stock car racer, teaches Luke how to drive. After earning his driver's license, Luke "borrows" a neighbor's car, wrecks it, and finds himself on six-months' probation. His mother tells him to move in with older brother Nick, who appears to be running a legitimate business but who is actually still dealing. Luke works various odd jobs and falls in love with a girl who obsessively steals chewing gum. When Nick is caught by the police and jailed again, Luke suddenly finds himself in charge of a drug drop. Throughout all the turmoil in his life, Luke finds most satisfaction in driving, where his life seems most in control. Library Journal contributor Thomas L. Kilpatrick described the novel as a "compelling coming-of-age story" that is sure to "touch a nerve" for readers who have lived in dysfunctional families. A Kirkus Reviews writer enjoyed the "wonderful scenes of incompetent mayhem" in a tale that is a "giddy homage to testosterone-induced blindness."

While car racing is the background motif for Drive Like Hell, in Hudgens's second novel, Season of Gene, it is baseball. Joe Rice is a thirty-something nice guy who owns a car-detailing company called the Whip Spa; he is also the manager of the company's baseball team, the Whip Spa Yankees. Rice has had a troubled past and the business and sports keep him grounded. When he was a boy, his mother was imprisoned for committing a stabbing and for embezzlement; young Rice then went to live with his uncle, who got him involved with a numbers-running racket until mobsters killed him. Rice seems to have his life back together, but his friendship with Gene puts that in jeopardy. While playing a game of baseball, Gene dies of a heart attack. It is not long before the Mafia shows up, looking for a rare and valuable baseball bat that once belonged to Babe Ruth. Rice finds out that the bat has fallen into the hands of the mobster who put the hit on his uncle, and the situation then becomes personal. He schemes to get the bat back, and a series of chases and run-ins ensue; interestingly, the characters all know a lot about baseball, and the language of the sport permeates the dialogue in Season of Gene.

In a Publishers Weekly review of Season of Gene, the critic felt that this second novel is "lacking the hyperactive dramatic punch of Hudgens's debut," yet the "amusing novel [still goes] chugging along." Booklist contributor Thomas Gaughan felt that Hudgens provides readers with a look into a peculiar, "but no doubt real, world of arrested development" and "has scored again" with his follow-up effort. A Kirkus Reviews writer declared Season of Gene to be "just as good as Hudgens's wild debut."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 15, 2004, Jerry Eberle, review of Drive Like Hell, p. 553; August 1, 2007, Thomas Gaughan, review of Season of Gene, p. 39.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2004, review of Drive Like Hell, p. 1108; July 15, 2007, review of Season of Gene.

Library Journal, December 1, 2004, Thomas L. Kilpatrick, review of Drive Like Hell, p. 100.

Publishers Weekly, November 1, 2004, review of Drive Like Hell, p. 40; July 9, 2007, review of Season of Gene, p. 31.

Washington City Paper, March 11, 2005, Joe Dempsey, profile of Dallas Hudgens.

ONLINE

Drive Like Hell Web site,http://www.DriveLikeHell.com (April 17, 2008).

Emerging Writers Forum,http://www.breaktech.net/EmergingWritersForum/ (September 20, 2005), "First Time Authors, and Publicity—A Live Panel."

Largehearted Boy,http://www.largeheartedboy.com/ (September 1, 2007), Wes Freed, author interview.

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