Thriller chases murder and mayhem through Bartlett, Memphis

Team Driven
TEAM DRIVEN: Narrator and editor Rodney L. Rastall, at left, and author Rick Jacobs published electronic and audiobook versions of “Driven” in December and are now working on a print version.


Driven, by Rick Jacobs and Rodney L. RastallBOOK SYNOPSIS

The victim of a traumatic childhood event, Angela Harwell’s life is forever changed. As she grows up, she trains relentlessly and becomes a Domestic Violence Detective for the Memphis Police Department.

A disturbing case of abuse puts Harwell on the trail of Tyrone “T-Bone” Reed, the ruthless head of a powerful gang called The Family. Rich, smart, and connected, the cunning gangster proves no easy target.

A heartbreaking night of bloodshed, however, turns things personal for Harwell. Having lost everything she cares about, she becomes driven by revenge, vowing to crush Tyrone and The Family.”

More than two years of brainstorming, writing in his spare time, and working through edits with his best friend brought Bartlett resident Rick Jacobs to his first novel’s publication date in December.

He and his long-time friend, Rodney Rastall, published “Driven” on iTunes, and (To find the book on iTunes, search for “Driven: An Angela Harwell Novel.”)

The book is a fast-paced thriller about a powerful Memphis gang leader, a recovering meth user who defied him, and a tough policewoman who puts everything on the line to bring the gangster down.

Memphis residents will recognize the scenery — from lazy baseball afternoons at AutoZone Park to B.B. King’s Blues Club on Beale Street — and the characters are gritty and down to earth.

Jacobs and Rastall aren’t afraid to kill or wound major characters, so there are moments that arrest the reader’s heartbeat. While not for young children because of the nature of the story, it was designed to have vivid imagery, action and a compelling “hook” in each chapter for adult readers.

“I tried to insert something in every chapter that was cool,” Jacobs said.

To create the book, he gave up television and wrote all day on Sundays.

He credited his sister, Becky, for being his major incentive to complete “Driven.” She was diagnosed with cancer about two and a half years ago, and Jacobs was determined she would read his first book. He delivered an early draft to her just before she died in August.

Writing the novel was a long process, he said. In a typical week, he wrote on Sundays, edited back and forth with Rastall during the week, and sat with Rastall through the recording sessions.

Jacobs spent long hours staring down a blank screen as he tossed around ideas, and a dream gave him the idea for how to end the story.

“I think the hardest thing was wrapping it up, to make it climactic, believeable, edge of your seat — because that’s what I wanted,” Jacobs said.

He also made time for necessary research, looking up arcane facts such as how fast a bullet travels, the cost of cocaine, whether an airplane window easily shatters, and just how high a woman can jump. All of that new knowledge went into the book.

Friends first

Collaboration between Jacobs and Rastall collaboration grew out of a decades-long friendship. At first, Jacobs intended to send just the prologue for his friend to read, but he accidentally forwarded the whole book. Rastall was immediately enthusiastic.

“I helped with the editing,” Rastall said. “Just did a bit of sanding here and there.”

Too modest, Jacobs said. His old friend looked at a pretty good book, trimmed the fat and improved it.

“He took a 20-word sentence and made it seven words,” Jacobs said. “And he kept the flow of the book going.”

They both would do it again in a minute.

“It was an amazing cooperation,” Jacobs said. “Nobody ever got mad. Nobody ever said, ‘Man, that’s stupid.’ We listened. We both wanted to have as near-perfect a book as we could make it.”

It was Rastall’s idea to create the audiobook, using his experience as a narrator and his own audio editing equipment. They both liked the immediacy of releasing the book in digital and audio versions, Jacobs said.

“It’s just weird that we knew each other when we were 14 and 15, and I grew up and wrote a book, and he grew up and had all the technology that it takes to record a book.”

The collaboration took discipline and time, but the work was a joy, both agreed.

Rastall said, “This is the most fun and creative thing I’ve ever done.”

Jacobs said it was a checkoff on his bucket list, something he has wanted to do since his 30s. “It was just a blast. It was so much fun, inventing people that don’t live — coming up with a story that never happened. But by the time you’ve finished it, you’ve lived it. It’s almost like they are real and this really did happen. So much fun.”

Real life in fiction

Some bits of the author’s real world emerged in the book: One of the main characters is a process server. That same character stopped running half marathons to protect his back, just as Jacobs did. A major female character works at a dry cleaners like the one Jacobs owned. His wife’s recovery from a heart attack even inspired some medical scenes.

Rastall also appreciated the book’s details, such as an ex-smoker’s anxiety while cooped up in a car with an intimidating gang member who was a heavy smoker. “Just little subtleties that create natural tension versus being contrived.”

What’s next

They are working on the print edition now and then will tackle the second book in the series. For now, they are both pleased to cross the finish line with “Driven.”

“It was bittersweet to read, ‘The End,’” Rastall said.

Jacobs agreed. “But it sure was a fun project. And we pulled it off.”

AUTHOR’S BIO: Jacobs, 58, has been married for more than 34 years and has four children and six grandchildren. He is a Bartlett resident and a Kingsbury graduate. Three of his children graduated from Bartlett High School and one son graduated from Christian Brothers High School. He and his wife owned Simply The Best Cleaners in Bartlett until his wife’s heart attack in 2001, and since then Jacobs has driven a school bus, sold insurance, written for a regional magazine, provided columns and award-winning editorials for The Bartlett Express and served civil papers for Shelby County Court. He wrote two cathartic self-published books about his wife’s illness and then took up novel writing.

Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to