Henry Gregor Felsen
What an awesome find from a thrift store bookshelf. This book was originally published in 1950. My copy was from 1963. I picked it up for a quarter. You can't lose for only a quarter.
I have been using PaperBackSwap.com a lot to trade books I have for other books I want. I would recommend that site to anyone looking for something they are having trouble finding. Anyway, I added this book to my To Be Read pile and found that there were a lot of folks wishing for this particular book. Then I did an online search for the title and found that it has been selling for 90-100 dollars. Wow! I might try to sell this one rather than swap it. :-)
As for the book...Bud Crayne is a 17 year old phenom driver. He loves speed. He loves to control his car through what others could never handle. He is a legend and the town's big man that everyone looks up to.
He takes a bet that he can run from his home town of Avondale to Trenton in under 30 minutes. If he does it he wins ten dollars! But, the high school driver's education teacher and a state highway patrolman get wind of it and try to convince Bud to pass on the bet.
Needless to say, the ribbing from the guys and the encouragement of his hot girlfriend are too much for Bud. After all, his reputation is far more important than a future or facing jail time, aren't they? He makes the run in 29 minutes. The cops chase him all over the place. They fail to catch him. He has broken so many laws that he knows he will lose his license. He is a hero, for all of about an hour. The teacher and the cop show up while he is prepping to pick up his girlfriend so they can high-tail it to California, a real hot rod place where she can pursue acting dreams. They convince Bud that running is a bad idea. He stays and agrees to take part in a Roadeeo they plan to use to teach kids how to drive. Bud is supposed to be the sacrificial lamb who will do it his way. They want to prove speed and recklessness are no match for safety and defensive driving.
So, while waiting for the Roadeeo to take place some little kids that envy Bud take a joy ride in a car and try to drive like Bud says to do it. They end up crashing and die. Booo! Killing little kids to make a point?
Bud loses the Roadeeo to the driver's ed teacher's prodigy who has only had a license for six months. The lesson? It is easier to teach kids how to drive than it is to teach people that already have bad habits and instincts to change the way they drive.
Bud is now devastated. He goes into a overly dramatic tailspin where his entire life is falling apart and he can no longer even drive a car because he is not the best. He is second best. Even the tires of his car as they touch the stripes in the road are yelling at him..."second best"..."second best". Bud has no reason to live. Please!
After some time goes by and Bud is just a lump, a lot of kids show up at the garage where he works. They decide to go out Rat Racing. It is kind of like a 30 minute game of hide and seek with cars. All his friends go. They end up in a head on collision with each other in the middle of "ninety-mile curve". A high speed wreck with bodies strewn all over the highway.
The highway patrolman is visiting Bud at the time and convinces Bud to give him a ride in his hot rod. They head for the accident and both guys are the first on the scene. Bud is told to go get the doctor because one person (the one who beat him in the Roadeeo) is still barely alive. He also needs to trade the hot rod for the police cruiser. Bud does it. The ambulance is too far away. The boy has less than an hour to live according to the doctor. The patrolman jumps in the back of the cruiser to help the injured boy and makes Bud drive.
Where are they going? The hospital in Trenton! They are in Avondale. The Trenton run reenactment! Of course! How convenient. But Bud is now afraid to drive. The patrolman explains how it is OK now because he is in a police cruiser. Turn on the lights and siren. Go Bud, GO!
Bud makes it to Trenton in 27 minutes! He even ran into a teen driver along the way who was driving like Bud used to. Stupid teens driving aggressively and much too fast! Arrghhhh, they made Bud so mad. Golly, it is so much better and faster to do things the right way!
The book is total cheese. It is utterly preachy about safe driving. This could have been used in a driver's education course back in the 1950s. It probably was. The crash scenes had descriptions of how the bodies were mangled that reminded me of the old "Blood on the Highway" driver's ed movies. Films like this.
But, ya know what? I liked it. A lot.
The author's kids are selling a 60th anniversary version of this book on their website. It says they can be autographed. I am not sure who would be autographing them since the author died in 1995, but you can get someones autograph. :-)
I also just learned that the driver's education course theory is exactly right. In fact, this book was contracted to the author by the Des Moines Safety Council specifically for that purpose after a fatal crash involving teenagers.