"IT STARTED WITH A CANOE TRIP...": AN INTERVIEW WITH SCOTT VON DOVIAK
Low Down Road hits the top of my list as the most fun summer read. it's tale of two cousins driving their way from Austin to Evel Knievel's Snake River Canyon jump to sell a load of stolen pot, pursued by a redneck sheriff and the the dealer they robbed. The book pulls from seventies exploitation films like Raiders Of The Lost Ark did with the matinee serials. I had a blast on this Q&A with Scott about the book and the films that inspired it.
SCOTT MONTGOMERY: What drew you to seventies exploitation?
SCOTT VON DOVIAK: It started with a canoe trip hosted by the Alamo Drafthouse about 20
years ago. There was a screening of Deliverance at the end, and before the movie they showed a bunch of 70s hixploitation trailers. This inspired me to write my first nonfiction book, Hick Flicks: The Rise and Fall of Redneck Cinema. Lowdown Road is my own take on those drive-in movies full of good ol' boys, redneck sheriffs, muscle cars, moonshine and plenty of mayhem.
S.M: What did the road trip allow you to do as a writer?
S.V.D.: It gave me a loose structure- a literal road map. Basically Act I is set in Central Texas, Act II is on the road, and Act III is in Twin Falls, Idaho, where Evel Knievel is preparing to jump the Snake River Canyon. I'm not much of an outliner, but this structure kept me on the rails and let me detour into real roadside attractions like the Cadillac Ranch and more opportunities for my protagonists to get into trouble.
S.M.: Which character was the most fun for you to write?
S.V.D.: Antoine Lynch, the pot kingpin who gets ripped off and drives halfway across the country to recover his stolen weed. Most of the characters aren't too bright, and Antoine provided a break from that. And he has facets that are revealed along the way that were surprising even to me.
S.M.: Did you cast certain actors from the era for the characters?
S.V.D.: Well, cousins Dean and Chuck Melville are meant to be a Burt Reynolds/Jerry Reed pairing, although when I do readings from the book, Dean's voice comes out as Matthew McConaughey. I saw Clarence Williams III as Antoine (and cover artist Tony Stella evidently pictured the same) and maybe Brian Dennehy as the psycho sheriff Giddings. As for what contemporary actors would play them, I hope to find out when the strikes are over.
S.M.: Was there something from the seventies or seventies films you tried to get into the book, but couldn't?
S.V.D.: I was going to say Bigfoot, but I actually did manage to work him in there - at least a statue of him. My original draft had a really over-the-top Texas Chainsaw Massacre-inspired sequence, but cooler heads (namely Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai) prevailed).
S.M.: What would be your three best movies that would sum up Low Down Road?
S.V.D.: Vanishing Point, which provided the 1970 Dodge Challenger that becomes a point of contention between Chuck and Dean. White Lightning, featuring Ned Beatty's chilling redneck sheriff. And of course Smokey and the Bandit.
We will be back with Scott next week as he lists five movies that inspired Lowdown Road.