Steve McQueen in ‘Bullitt’/Still © 1968 Warner Bros
Editor’s Note: Carsten Stroud is the author of the New York Times bestseller Close Pursuit, and the award-winning Sniper’s Moon, both set in the New York City Police Department. His latest book, The Homecoming, is available now. He lives and writes in Thunder Beach. We asked him to share with us what makes for a good, entertaining (fictional, of course) car chase. Here’s what he shared.
Rule 1: MAP THE ROUTE
Map the route – from Start to Finish.
Rule 2: KNOW YOUR CARS
Respect the Reader’s knowledge. If you’re going to run a chase between two cars, you have to KNOW what each car can actually do.
Rule 2 part 2: THE OTHER CAR
You have to KNOW what the other car can do, too.
Rule 3: DO THE MATH: THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT RULE!
My cop driver is about to engage a Dodge Viper Chipa Edition. This is essentially a street-legal race car that tops out at 200 MPH. Reed is driving a Ford Police Interceptor that was designed and built for precisely this job. Reed’s had it on the track and taken it to 190 when his instructor called him off … but he knows it has a little more … so what counts here is THE MATH of the chase.
RULE 4: HIT ALL SIX SENSES
If you remember the classic chase scene in “Bullit,” the Second Unit guys gave us multiple shots and sounds – inside the car from McQueen’s POV, reaction shots from the two mob guys in the target car, street shots as they powered past … and he also gave us that SOUND, the rumble and whine and howl of McQueen’s Shelby Cobra Mustang, and the G-forces as the cars squealed around corners or slammed over hill-crests. Any good chase scene has to make you FEEL the car under you as it accelerates, HEAR the roar and howl, SEE the terrain flashing past, TASTE the gasoline in the air, SMELL the tires scorching and, finally SENSE what’s coming
RULE 5: HONOR ALL THE OTHER RULES
Cop chases are often To The Death, and the driver who makes that decision is usually The Guy Being Chased. Stay true to the terrain, the map, and the cars, and then stand back. Well back.