It's 1976. Bud Salem, 18-years-old, is fleeing his mother's TV church and meets a woman pitching oranges in the Mojave. She's Sylvia Cushman, a 45 year-old housewife, who loves driving alone through the desert. They traverse through western motels ...
and Apache gas stations where Sylvia gives long lectures about Emily Dickinson and drags Bud up into the mesas to search for petroglyphs. After continuing adventures in Detroit, New York, and Amherst, the travelers part... In many ways Let the Dog Drive is an askew detective novel - when a character dies under strange circumstances in Texas, Bud goes to the Panhandle to uncover what happened. His strange narration does contain pleasures of the genre: a shootout inside an aquarium; a faked death; another shootout on a chicken farm in Texas . . . But Let the Dog Drive is also a freewheeling merging of many other genres and concerns - Hollywood, hardboiled novels of the 1930's, Emily Dickinson's white dress, hallucinatory cacti, the Book of Luke... And dogs. Sylvia is married to an auto engineer in Detroit, and this man studies auto accidents by letting dogs drive the cars. Literally. The drivers are often Dalmatians . .