Cover image for Driving lessons
Driving lessons
McBain, Ed, 1926-2005.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Carroll & Graf, 2000.

Physical Description:
72 pages ; 20 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Mystery
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Clarence Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Grand Island Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Hamburg Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Kenmore Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Lackawanna Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Riverside Branch Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense

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This tragic tale of adolescent obsession from the bestselling author of the 87th Precinct novels and the creator of the Matthew Hope detective series turns a sunny, quiet, perfectly ordinary autumnal school day suddenly dark when the sixteen-year-old Rebecca Patton runs down and kills a pedestrian during a driving lesson. It all happens so quickly, so inexplicably, like an accident. The victim -- a woman carrying a red handbag -- had been stepping off the curb at the corner, and then she was lying in the street, in critical condition.

On her arrival at the station house, detective Katie Logan finds a distraught but cooperative Rebecca. Her driving instructor, Andrew Newell, is totally out of it, however. He appears to be drunk. Or on drugs. He's obviously incompetent, and certainly, what has now become a case of negligent homicide warrants his arrest. The situation grows far more sinister, though, when Logan learns that the victim's handbag has been retrieved. It identifies the dead woman asNewell's wife.

With the narrative drive of such popular McBain novels as Romance, Kiss, and The Last Best Hope, as well as such classics as Bl

Author Notes

Ed McBain is a pen name for Evan Hunter who was born in 1926 in East Harlem, New York on October 15, 1926. Hunter was born with the name Salvatore Albert Lombino, and he legally adopted the name Evan Hunter in 1952. During World War II, Hunter joined the Navy and served aboard a destroyer in the Pacific. He graduated from Hunter College, were he majored in English and psychology, with minors in dramatics and education.

He was a prolific writer who also wrote under the names of Ed McBain, Curt Cannon, Hunt Collins, Ezra Hannon, and Richard Marsten. His first major success came in 1954 with the publication of The Blackboard Jungle, which was later adapted as a film. He published the first three books in the 87th Precinct series in 1956 under the name of Ed McBain. He also wrote juvenile books, plays, television scripts, and stories and articles for magazines. He won the Mystery Writers of America Award in 1957 and the Grand Master Award in 1986 for lifetime achievement. He died of laryngeal cancer on July 6, 2005 at the age of 78.

(Bowker Author Biography) Ed McBain is the only American to receive the Diamond Dagger, the British Crime Writers Association's highest award. He also holds the Mystery Writers of America's coveted Grand Master Award. His books have sold over one hundred million copies, ranging from his most recent, "The Last Dance", to the bestselling "The Blackboard Jungle", the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" & the bestselling "Privileged Conversation", written under his own name, Evan Hunter. He lives in Connecticut.

(Publisher Provided) Ed McBain, aka Evan Hunter, wrote the screenplay for Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and has written many novels. He is the only American to be awarded Britain's coveted Diamond Dagger Award, the highest honor a suspense writer can achieve. He lives in Connecticut.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

While taking a driving lesson, Rebecca Patton has struck and badly injured a female pedestrian. Cops on the scene are shocked to find her instructor, Andrew Newell, apparently drunk and incoherent. The case that confronts Detective Katie Logan is more complex than it first appears. The victim, who dies from her injuries shortly after the accident, turns out to be the wife of the driving instructor. Should Newell be charged with vehicular homicide--the instructor is, by law, responsible for the vehicle--or perhaps murder one? But was he too drunk to plan, let alone execute, a complex hit-and-run scheme? As Logan pieces together the lives of the three principals, she begins to draw some surprising conclusions. McBain, who needs no introduction to mystery fans, once again showcases his extraordinary skills. He provides all the clues available to Detective Logan, but very few readers will have the insight to solve the case along with her. This compelling novella is the first to be published under the new imprint of longtime genre expert Otto Penzler. --Wes Lukowsky

Publisher's Weekly Review

When 16-year-old student driver Rebecca Patton hits a woman who steps off the curb into her path one afternoon in the town of River Close, Rebecca's driving instructor, Andrew Newell, is in big trouble. Though Newell passes a Breathalyzer test, he can barely stand on his feet and doesn't know his nameÄhe's obviously high on something. So begins this riveting novella from one of America's finest crime writers. When the police question Newell, he denies taking any drugs and demands to see a lawyer. Will the authorities be able to test him for drugs before the evidence leaves his bloodstream? Meanwhile, the victim lies unidentified in critical condition at the local hospital. Then a witness returns to the accident scene and finds the woman's purse hanging in a tree. Just as the police learn from the victim's driver's license that she's Mary Beth Newell, the driving instructor's wife, word comes from the hospital that she's dead. McBain takes a fairly simple scenarioÄwhat appears to be a case of vehicular manslaughterÄand develops it into a complex tale of human frailty, with nary a wasted word. Detective Katie Logan later discovers that Mary Beth had just left the Roman Catholic church on the street where the car struck her. Father McDowell won't betray the confidences of the confessional, but his inadvertant admission that Mary Beth had problems is enough to put Logan on the guilty party's trail. The truth is as shocking as it is unexpected. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Drivers fumbling with cassettes will certainly appreciate unabridged stories by the best mystery authors, excellently read, two hours long, on a single cassette. Selected and edited by Edgar Award-winner Otto Penzler, the first six of these adult stories (the others are June Thompson's The Case of the Scottish Tragedy, read by Simon Jones; Stephen Solomita's The Poster Boy, read by Jason Culp; and Peter Lovesey's The Sedgemoor Strangler, read by Barbara Rosenblatt) deal with real-life situations in mature language. In A Tale About a Tiger, excellently read by Patricia Kalember, PI Lydia Chin is asked to infiltrate the illegal trade in animal parts that supports some pharmaceutical concoctions used in traditional Chinese medicine. Listeners learn interesting bits about Chinese American culture, traditional Asian medicine, and the black market in illegal animal parts. Besides all that, it's amusing and reasonably suspenseful. Driving Lessons, read by Barbara Rosenblatt, is a police story that uses careful investigative work and interrogation by Detective Karen Logan to establish responsibility for a vehicular homicide. This tightly crafted story will hold the listener's interest throughout. Clean American Fun, excellently read by Darrell Larson, puts two secret service agents investigating a rape/murder near Branson, MO, in conflict with the county sheriff and the community. There are some sharp physical confrontations in a parking lot battle and some awfully good chase scenes for an audio, as well as some nice comments on the concepts of entertainment, religion, theme parks, and society. Overall, this series appears to fit an appealing niche between the sometimes choppy abridged work and the lengthy unabridged novel; highly recommended.‘Cliff Glaviano, Bowling Green State Univ. Libs., Ohio Felix in the Underworld by John Mortimer 6 cassettes. unabridged. 61/2 hrs. Chivers Audiobks. 1998. ISBN 0-7540-0127-X. $54.95.F Narrator Martin Jarvis turns in a fine performance of this engaging tale of a man who must learn the hard way that life is for living. Poor Felix Morsom. Once a Booker Prize candidate, the low-key, cerebral author no longer receives rave reviews or garners large sales. In fact, the only frisson of excitement in his dull existence is a slowly developing relationship with his publicist. When Felix is slapped with a paternity suit from a woman he doesn't even know, he disputes the claim but finds himself a murder suspect when the man handling the claim is killed. Mortimer, better known for his popular "Rumpole" series (e.g., Rumpole and the Angel of Death, Audio Reviews, LJ 11/1/96), artfully lampoons the publishing business and the legal profession, while Jarvis skillfully differentiates among characters, making the most of the author's dry humor. Part detective-fiction, part psychological drama, this is recommended for public libraries.‘Sister M. Anna Falbo, Villa Maria Coll. Lib., Buffalo, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One The girl looked sixteen and blonde, and the man looked thirty-two and dazed. The responding blues were questioning the girl and trying to question the man who'd been in the vehicle. They weren't expecting much from the man, not in his condition.     They thought at first he was drunk even though he didn't smell of alcohol. The girl was cold sober. Hysterical because she'd just run somebody over, but cold sober nonetheless. She was the one who'd been driving the car.     `What's your name, miss?' one of the blues asked.     `Rebecca Patton. Is she all right?'     `May I see your license, please?'     `I don't have a license. I'm just learning to drive. I have a learner's permit. Is the woman all right?'     `May I see the permit, please?'     The officer should have known, but didn't, that in this state, within many sections of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, a learner's permit was deemed a license to drive. All he knew was that here was a sobbing sixteen-year-old kid who'd just run over a woman who looked like she was maybe twenty-eight, twenty-nine years old.     They were standing outside the vehicle that had knocked her down, a blue Ford Escort with dual brake pedals and oversized yellow and black STUDENT DRIVER plates on the front and rear bumpers. The impact had sent the woman flying some five feet into the air, tossing her onto a pile of burning leaves stacked on the sidewalk near the curb. One of the witnesses had dragged her off the smoldering fire, onto the lawn, and had immediately called the police. Other blues at the scene were still searching for the handbag the witness said she'd been carrying. But the stricken woman was wearing red, and the leaves on the ground were thick this fall.     They kept scuffing through the fallen leaves, searching for the camouflaged bag, hoping to find a driver's license, a business card, a phone bill with a name and address on it -- anything that would tell them who she was. Anonymous, she lay in the gutter some twenty feet from where a highway patrol car was just pulling in behind the Ford. Red coat open over a blue skirt and jacket, white blouse with a stock tie. Eyes closed. Hands at her sides, palms upward, fingers twitching.     The blues took the highway patrolmen aside and informed them that they'd tested the guy's skills and he'd failed with flying colors and seemed to be high on something. Nobody smelt alcohol but they gave him a breathalyzer test, anyway, and discovered no trace whatever of methyl alcohol in his system, the guy blew much lower than point-one-oh. One of them asked him his name, which the blues had already done. He still didn't know. Shook his head and almost fell off his feet. They opened the door on the passenger side of the Ford and let him sit.     `He's Mr Newell,' the girl said. `He's been giving me driving lessons. I don't know how this happened, she just stepped off the curb. Oh my God, is she all right?'     `Can you tell us his first name?'     `Andrew. Will she be all right?'     The ambulance arrived along about then. It was almost three thirty. Paramedics lifted the woman onto a stretcher and hoisted her inside. The ambulance pulled away from the curb. Nobody yet knew who the woman was. The street seemed suddenly very still. A fresh wind sent withering leaves rattling along the curb.     `I think you'll both have to come along with us,' one of the blues said to the young blonde girl and the man who seemed stoned.     The girl nodded.     `Will you call my father, please?' she asked. The phone was ringing when Katie got back to the apartment that afternoon. She put the two bags of groceries on the table just inside the door and went swiftly to the kitchen counter, sitting on one of the stools there and yanking the phone from its wall hook at the same time.     `Logan,' she said.     `Katie, it's Carl.'     `Yes, Carl.'     `Can you get down here right away? Lieutenant needs you to question a female juve.'     `Sure,' she said. `Give me ten minutes.'     `See you,' Carl said, and hung up.     Katie sighed and put the phone back on its hook. This was supposed to be her day off. But she was the only woman detective in the department and whenever they got a young girl in, the job went to her. She was wearing, on this bright fall afternoon, a tan plaid skirt with low heels, opaque brown pantyhose and a matching brown sweater. The skirt was on the short side; she'd have to change before driving downtown. She'd also have to call Max again to see if there was any further word from her dear departed husband. Worst thing about a detective squadroom in a small town was the lack of privacy. River Close claimed a mere 50,000 inhabitants -- well, some fifty-five during July and August, but all the summer renters were gone now.     She went to the kitchen window and cranked it open. A gust of cool air rushed into the apartment, carrying with it the aroma of woodsmoke. From the junior high school across the street, she could hear the sounds of football practice. Today was the sixteenth of October, a clear brisk day during one of the most glorious falls Katie could recall. Spoiled, of course. Autumn spoiled forever. Stephen had left her on the twelfth of September. Easy come, easy go, she thought. She'd only known him since she was sixteen.     Until now, she'd always thought of autumn as her time of year. Sometimes felt she even looked like autumn, the reddish-brown hair and freckled cheeks echoing the season's colors, her eyes as blue as any September sky. She'd hated the freckles when she was a little girl, but at thirty-three she felt they added character to her face. Made her look a bit more Irish, too, as if she needed any help with a name like Katherine Byrne Logan.     She wondered all at once if she should go back to her maiden name after the divorce. She was so used to being Katie Logan, so used to being Detective Logan, so used to being just plain Logan that ...     Call Max, she thought.     She looked at the wall clock. Ten minutes to four. Better get cracking.     First the frozen stuff, she thought, and began unpacking the groceries. Max Binder had been recommended to Katie by a lawyer she knew in the State Attorney's Office. A portly, avuncular man with white hair and chubby cheeks, he seemed uncommonly well-suited to the task of consoling forlorn women seeking divorces. Katie supposed she fell into this category. A forlorn woman. Deserted, desolate and forsaken. If she were any more Irish, she'd be keening. Instead, she was dialing the three B's and hoping Max wasn't in court.     `Binder, Benson and Byrd,' said a woman's voice.     `Ellie, it's Katie Logan,' she said. `Is he in?'     `Second.'     Max came on the phone a moment later.     `Hi, Katie, what's new?' he asked.     Same question every time. What's new is my husband left me and is living with a twenty-two-year-old waitress is what's new.     `Have you heard from him?' she asked.     `Not yet.'     `What's taking him so long?'     `He only got our counter-proposal a week ago. You're being eminently fair, Katie. I can't imagine him refusing at this point.'     `Then call Schiffman and light a fire under him.'     `Schiffman's trying a big case this week.'     `Shall I call him myself?'     `Schiffman? No, no. No. No, Katie.'     `How about Stephen then? My alleged husband.'     `No. Certainly not.'     `I want a divorce, Max.'     `Of course you do. But be patient just a little longer, Katie. Please. I'm handling it. Please.'     `OK, Max.'     `OK, Katie? Please.'     `Sure,' she said. `Let me know.'     She hung up and looked at the clock.     `On my way,' she said aloud. Rebecca Patton's dark-brown eyes were shining with tears. Behind her, the high windows of the room framed trees bursting with leaves of red, orange, yellow and brown. They were sitting in what the local precinct had labeled the `interrogation room', after those in big-city police departments, though normally the cops at Raleigh Station didn't put on airs. Katie hadn't yet told her that the woman she'd hit was in a critical condition at Gardner General Hospital. She hadn't yet told her that so far the woman hadn't been able to speak to anyone. Still anonymous, the hospital had admitted her as Jane Doe.     `Rebecca,' Katie said, `your father just got here. If you'd like him to come in while we talk ...'     `Yes, I would, please,' Rebecca said.     `And if your mother would like to join us ...'     `My mother's in California.'     A sudden sharpness of voice which startled Katie.     `They're divorced.'     `I see.'     `I hope no one called her.'     `I really don't know. I'm assuming the--'     She almost said `arresting officers'.     She caught herself.     `--responding officers called whoever ...'     `I didn't give them her name. I don't want her to know about this.'     `If that's your wish.'     `It's my wish.'     `Let me get your father, then.' Dr Ralph Patton was sitting on a bench in the corridor just outside the squadroom. He got to his feet the moment he saw Katie approaching. A tall spare man wearing blue jeans, a denim shirt, loafers and a suede vest, he looked more like a wrangler than a physician -- but Wednesday was his day off. His dark-brown eyes were the color of his daughter's. They checked out the ID tag clipped to the pocket of Katie's gray tailored suit, and immediately clouded with suspicion.     `Where's Rebecca?' he asked.     `Waiting for us,' Katie said. `She's fine, would you come with me, please?'     `What's she doing in a police station?'     `I thought you'd been informed ...'     `Yes, the officer who called told me Rebecca was involved in an automobile accident. I repeat. What's she doing here?'     `Well, there are questions we have to ask, Dr Patton, I'm sure you realize that. About the incident.'     `Why? Since when is an accident a crime?'     `We haven't charged her with any crime,' Katie said.     Which was true.     But a young woman lay critically injured in the hospital, knocked down by the automobile Rebecca Patton had been driving. And the only licensed driver in the subject vehicle had been under the influence of something, they still didn't know what. If the woman died, Katie figured Andrew Newell was looking at either vehicular homicide or reckless manslaughter. But whereas the law considered the licensed driver to be primary, if the learner behind the wheel knew that he wasn't in complete control of all his faculties, they might both be culpable.     `Are we going to need a lawyer here?' Dr Patton asked, brown eyes narrowing suspiciously again.     `That's entirely up to you,' Katie said.     `Yes, I want one,' he said. Technically, the girl was in police custody.     And in keeping with the guidelines, as a juvenile she was being questioned separately and apart from any criminals who might be on the premises, of whom there were none, at the moment, unless Andrew Newell in the lieutenant's office down the hall could be considered a criminal for having abused whatever substance was in his body when he'd climbed into that Ford.     The Patton lawyer was here now, straight out of Charles Dickens, wearing mutton chops and a tweedy jacket and a bow tie and gold-rimmed spectacles and sporting a checkered vest and a little pot belly and calling himself Alexander Wickett.     `How long have you been driving?' Katie asked.     `Since the beginning of August,' Rebecca said.     `Does she have to answer these questions?' her father asked.     Wickett cleared his throat and looked startled.     `Why, no,' he said. `Not if she doesn't wish to. You heard Miss Logan repeating Miranda in my presence.'     `Then why don't you advise her to remain silent?'     `Well, do you wish to remain silent, Miss Patton?'     `Did I hurt that woman?' Rebecca asked.     `Yes, you hurt her,' Katie said. `Very badly.'     `Oh God.'     `She's in critical condition at Gardner General.'     `God, dear God.'     `Do you want to answer questions or don't you?' Dr Patton said.     `I want to help.'     `Answering questions won't--'     `However I can help, I want to. I didn't mean to hit her. She stepped right off the curb. There was no way I could avoid her. I saw this flash of red and ... and ...'     `Becky, I think you should--'     `No. I want to help. Please.' She turned to Katie and said, `Ask whatever you like, Miss Logan.'     Katie nodded.     `Do you consider yourself a good driver, Rebecca?'     `Yes. I was planning to take my test next week, in fact.'     `How fast were you going at the time of the accident?'     `Thirty miles an hour. That's the speed limit in that area.'     `You've been there before?'     `Yes. Many times. We drive all over the city. Main roads, back roads, all over. Mr Newell's a very good teacher. He exposes his students to all sorts of conditions. His theory is that good driving is knowing how to react instantly to any given circumstance.'     `So you've been on that street before?'     `Yes.'     `When did you first see the woman?'     `I told you. She stepped off the curb just as I was approaching the corner.'     `Did you slow down at the corner?'     `No. There are full stop signs on the cross street. Both sides of Grove. But Third is the through street. I wasn't supposed to slow down.'     `Did Mr Newell advise you to use caution at that particular corner?'     `No. Why would he?'     `Did he see the woman before you did?'     `I don't think so.'     `Well, did he say anything in warning?'     `No. What his system is, he asks his students to tell him everything they see. He'll say, "What do you see?" And you'll answer, "A milk truck pulling in," or "A girl on a bike," or "A red light," or "A car passing on my left," like that. He doesn't comment unless you don't see something. Then he'll say again, "What do you see now ?" Emphasizing it. This way he knows everything going through our heads.'     `When you approached that corner, did he ask you what you were seeing?'     `No. In fact, he'd been very quiet. I thought I must have been driving exceptionally well. But it was a pretty quiet afternoon, anyway. No video games.'     `No what?'     `Video games. That's what he called unexpected situations. When everything erupts as if you're driving one of those cars in a video arcade? Six nuns on bicycles, a truck spinning out of control, a drunk staggering across the road. Video games.'     `Did you at any time suspect that Mr Newell might be drunk? Or under the influence of drugs?'     `Not until he got out of the car. After the accident.'     `What happened then?'     `Well, first off, he almost fell down. He grabbed the car for support and then started to walk towards the police officer, but he was weaving and ... and stumbling ... acting just like a drunk, you know, but I knew he couldn't be drunk.'     `How'd you know that?'     `Well, he wasn't drunk when we started the lesson, and he didn't have anything to drink while we were driving, so how could he be drunk?'     `But he couldn't even give the police his name, isn't that right?'     `Well, he could hardly talk at all. Just ... you know ... his speech was slurred, you could hardly understand him.'     `Was this the case while you were driving? During the lesson?'     `No.'     `He spoke clearly during the lesson?'     `Well, as I said, he didn't make very many comments. I think there were one or two times he asked me what I saw, and then he was quiet for the most part.'     `Was this unusual?'     `Well, no, actually. He never commented unless I was doing something wrong. Then he'd say, "What do you see?" Or sometimes, to test me, he'd let me go through a stop sign, for example, and then tell me about it afterward.'     `But this afternoon, there weren't many comments?'     `No.'     `He just sat there.'     `Well, yes.'     `Before the woman stepped off the curb, did he ask you what you saw?'     `No.'     `Did he hit the brake on his side of the car?'     `No.' (Continues...) Copyright © 1999 Ed McBain. All rights reserved.

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