The Great Schism of 2021!!!

Before you get any goofy ideas (and, if you're reading this, you're probably susceptible to such things!) Carol and I are still quite happily married. Or, to be more accurate, I'm still happily quite married and she's, well, still putting up with me even though it amounts to hanging on by her frickin' fingernails some of the time. But it's lasted and endured for the past 47 years and we still seem to enjoy each other's character, company and comedy, so hopefully we'll never, ever wind up like Ol' Blue Eyes in the picture below (quick: what movie is it from?):

But there is a BIG CHANGE plus a lot of lesser crapola to tell you about. Let's get to the big one first (hey, never bury your lead, right?). As all of you are painfully aware (mostly on account of I keep telling you about it in these e-blasts), I've been slaving away mightily, diligently and even now-and-then mercilessly on the new book, and I've been bragging/making excuses for a few years now about how this one will be THE VERY LAST in my The Last Open Road-cum-200mph Steamroller series...

Well, you can call me a liar and a fake right now if you want to.

See, the original concept for this "final" book was to cover the entire period from the end of the last book (Steamroller II fades to black in April/May of 1963) right on through to my long-envisioned Grand Finale finish sometime around the middle of June (I ain't sayin' exactly where or when just yet, but think about it) of 1966.

It was, in all honesty, a really big chunk to bite off. And masticate. And I hope I spelled that right.

I mean, if you look back at the other books, most of them cover a span of a single long spring, summer and fall racing season. Or maybe a couple of years, tops. The idea of telling a story that covers three-plus years (not to mention using the point-of-view of BOTH of my established narrators!), well, let's just say that it was going pretty good, but the damn thing was getting thicker and thicker with more and more pages and it slowly began to dawn on me that the only way you could take such a weighty tome on an airplane with you would be as checked baggage!
A re-think was in order. Sparked, like so many of my better ideas and decisions, by my ever-loving wife, Carol.
"You should break this up into TWO books," she told me as much as a year-and-a-half ago.
"No, no, NO!" I argued back repeatedly. "I know what the hell I'm doing."
Only I didn't.

But as I kept working at it and kept working at it, it seemed that the further along I got, the further there was to go. You know that wonderful Robert Frost poem about how "Two roads diverged in a wood"? Well, I was stuck going past a damn "CLOSED FOR CONSTRUCTION" tollway exit and couldn't even get to where those two roads diverged. And it was all about having blinders on and being too damn set in my ways and opinions to see any other possibilities. And so on I slogged, rolling an ever-bigger stone up an ever-steeper hill. It was reminding me of the incredibly bleak, dull, boring and inscrutable existentialist play a certain statuesque Nordic girl with a mountain-range of a chest and an even more impressive IQ talked me into taking her to back in college. It was stupid and futile and made no sense, but I didn't dare say anything...

"You should break this into TWO books," Carol advised for maybe the forty-fourth or forty-fifth time (over several months, mind you, not just a day or two, as sometimes happens).
But I was blinded by my incessant vision of how things had to be. And also catching a wee whiff of the euphoria that would surely await when I finally wrapped up The Last Open Road/200mph Steamroller series and could move on to the three other novels--none of which have anything to do with cars or racing--that have been trying to burn and bust their way out of my skull for something like a decade. Maybe more.
Now part of it is surely the lure of doing something different, part of it is a desire to break free from all the characters, situations, happenstance and history I've already created and set down (and that I sure as hell better remember correctly or my beloved readers will let me know about it in no uncertain terms!). There was also a writer's desire to demonstrate that I wasn't just a one-trick pony and could write about other things as well, and a huge chunk of it was the simple wish for a fresh, empty canvas to paint my words and thoughts on. And I WILL get to that. Honest I will. All I have to do is live long enough, stay active and engaged enough and somehow manage not to lose my marbles.
Although that last one could be tricky...

In any case, I have reviewed and revised my Plan of Action thusly:

1) The current book (Steamroller III), now becomes TWO books (Steamroller III and Steamroller IV), and I PROMISE that Steamroller IV will get us to the long-anticipated final curtain.

2) If things keep going as they are, Steamroller III will be finished and hopefully even published this very summer. It's even within the realm of possibility that it could launch at Road America in July as originally planned. And I mean July of THIS year. Really.

3) Steamroller IV will take at least another year. Maybe a year-and-a-half. Maybe even two? I've got a lot of it already done, but it's like that hoary old saw about restoration projects: "It's the first 90% of the job that takes the first 90% of the time, and it's the last 10% of the job that takes the other 90% of the time..."

4) We had a lot of takers on the 100 special, numbered, suede-bound, waffle-finish aluminum carrying case with cloisonee emblem, unique historical color section "25th Anniversary Collectors' Edition" of The Last Open Road. And "thank you so much" to all the smart folks, style influencers, supporters and suckers who plunked down a hunnert bucks Ca$h American to order one. It has by now dawned on all of them, even those too polite to bring it up, that I haven't quite gotten around to making them yet (and that they should really be, by all rights, "27th Anniversary Numbered, Suede-Bound Collectors' Editions" by now...although it really doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?).
In any case, I will be getting around to finishing that project as soon as I'm done proofing and sending off the very last page of Steamroller III to the printer. Sorry for letting you all down. But the wait will be worth it, I promise. And for those of you who haven't spent all of your government Coronavirus Cash yet...we still have some fine numbers available! For details, just email thinkfast@mindspring.com and I'll be more than happy to try to hustle you into one.

5) As long as I'm pitching, let me remind you that there is still time to become either a valued sponsor or, if you have a club, team or business to promote, to buy a long-lasting display advertisement in the new novel. You'll reach a great and responsive market, and the shelf life is equal to or greater than the freeze-dried beef jerky you see in the supermarket checkout lines and which is most likely made from Mastodon meat. Or maybe Triceratops?

Again, if you want more details on this fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I urge you to call the Think Fast Ink office at (708) 383-7203 or email thinkfast@mindspring.com and we'll put a sleazy and unscrupulous ex-used car salesman on you like jam on toast.

Watched a cracking good (for a change!) first F1 race of the year and, fingers crossed, it actually looks like we may have an exciting, entertaining, compelling and competitive season in the offing. Hurrah!
The IMSA races at both Daytona and Sebring were even better (wheel-to-wheel closer and with far more cars in the mix after 12 and even 24 hours than F1 can usually manage in an hour and a half. Think about that. And if you're a purist snob and prefer open-wheelers, Indycar is in a real renaissance these days, with lots of competitive teams at every race (yeah, I know it's a "spec chassis" deal) and, better yet, they're not always the same effing teams! So this should be a banner year for race fans everywhere! And do go out and catch one live if you get the chance.

Somewhat the other side of the coin are the Hoover-audible "E" series for electric cars. The F.I.A.'s "Formula E" series is providing some good, unbelievably competitive racing with excellent, well-funded, manufacturer-supported teams and one-notch-down-from F1 drivers, and they've gotten the production values brought 'round so you can really see and feel the speed. Well done on that point. But the venues--all tight, tortuous street circuits--and the look of the cars makes me think of your local K1 or whatever rental track. And the sound (or lack of it) doesn't help. Would love to see these same cars out on, let's say, Mid-Ohio, and have them play Wagners "Ride of the Valkyries" real loud over the P.A. to cover up the sound of the vacuum cleaners.
Even less of a spectacle was the much-ballyhooed, extravagantly produced and electrically powered premiere event of Extreme E series, which obviously has an awful lot of money and marketing muscle behind it. Ironically brought to you from Saudi Arabia, home of huge, lucrative oil reserves and murdering crown princes, the three-car race-to-victory was held on an incredibly scenic and dramatic desert-cum-huge-rock-formation "race course" that tried very hard--along with high-level production tweaks, tricks and animated overlays--to look like a George Lucas-produced video game. And therein lies the rub, because in spite of the cool, futuristic, "where-do-I-get-the-model-Daddy" cars and the interesting (if somewhat "arranged-marriage") male/female driving teams and some really famous and fabulous talent and stupendous, even stupefying terrain and track features (and of course the "Green" aspect, which is all the race these days and should be)...it was kind of, umm, well, "underwhelming." In spite of being only a few laps, the race wasn't close at all, and there was way too much dust to see much of what was going on. Oh, and the highly photogenic and enthusiastic TV commentators were all dialed up to eleven even though it was a pretty dull procession. As my friend, hero racer and truly great TV race commentator David Hobbs has often said: "If you start out at the bloody redline, then you've got no place to go if it really DOES get exciting..."
But I hardly want to be the guy hurling brickbats at a new (and possibly more benign?) form of motorsport when the entire racing community is under scrutiny and/or fire for being "un-woke" and "non-PC" these days. So let me offer, instead, a suggestion. Perhaps try the same cars/teams/drivers, as part of their series, on the same sort of track layout/event format as the late (and quite exciting) RALLYCROSS series, featuring very short sprints based, generally speaking, on British Speedway motorcycle racing. This would include short tracks with all sorts of turns, jumps and pavement (or non-pavement) surfaces, a "joker turn" shortcut that could be used once per heat and a series of heats that would have ALL drivers on each team--male and female--racing against all the other drivers at least once.
You can take my soapbox now, son. I'm through ranting...

So the great, dark, ground-hugging cloud of The Pandemic is finally beginning to lift, and the first thing I want to do is encourage EVERYONE to get your blessed shots (it's not an evil plot to put you under the control of Bill Gates and his minions) and also to mind your masks and social distancing for a wee bit longer. Trust me, you don't want to be "The Last Person to Die of COVID."
That said, I hear the distant rumble of racing engines and the smell of wonderful pollutants in the air (exhaust fumes, burning rubber, scorched clutch linings, brake pad dust and the unmistakable aroma of a seriously blown motor) and I know that racing/book-signing season is once again upon us. Hallelujah. You can look for me and my wares at:

APRIL 23-25: HSR Walter Mitty Challenge at Road Atlanta. I'll be covering it for Vintage Motorsport magazine, signing books/audiobooks, etc. during lunchtime and quiet time (and maybe some other times?) out of the HSR Merchandise tent in the racing paddock and maybe even driving something. We'll see on that last one.

APRIL 30-MAY 1st: VSCDA Spring Break Drivers' School at Gingerman. It's a case of the blind leading the blind, as I'll be instructing neophyte drivers ("here, let me show you") on the ins and outs of race driving, learning how to behave on track and hopefully not doing anything stupid. May stay over for the balance of the weekend, but will probably head home to thrash away on finishing the new book.

MAY 14-16: SVRA at ROAD AMERICA. I'll be in my usual spot inside the impressive and spotless Road America Paddock Shop. Maybe get to drive something, too? We'll see.

MAY 21-23: The [re-scheduled] AMELIA ISLAND CONCOURS. This is still a bit tentative while the organizers/host hotel decides what they need to do about book signings and social distancing. Whatever happens, this year's Buddy Palumbo Award (done by my friend and brilliant artist/caricaturist Roger Warrick of "The Last Open Bar" fame) will be presented. Watch this space for more info.

JUNE 4-6: SCCA June Sprints at Road America. In the paddock shop. Blah-blah-blah.

More anon.

On the literary front, if any of you are Hemingway fans (as I am...but don't even start about the big-game hunting or the cruelty of bullfighting or the fascination/obsession with death or the back-stabbing of friends or his manipulative and selfish taxi-dance succession of wives), may I HEARTILY recommend the recent P.B.S. Ken Burns documentary on the great--if flawed--writer. It's nothing less than brilliant. As was Hemingway. If you read and paid a bit of attention, there's a section in Steamroller I where my race-reporter narrator and his rich-racer pal Cal Carrington, for lack of anything better to do, make a sort-of pilgrimage down to Key West between Daytona and Sebring so that the writer character can take a look at Hemingway's house & see if there is any magic to be found. He's a big Hemingway fan, but the iconic writer had blown his brains out the previous July in Ketchum, Idaho, following alcohol, mental and memory issues and electric shock therapy that I don't think much helped.
In any case, the Ken Burns/P.B.S. documentary is amazing and brutal and beautiful and terrible and touching and, if you like great writing and larger-than-life characters who find it's a hard job trying to be larger-than-life...you need to see it. End of plug.
Below you will find an ad for our now AWARD-WINNING (ahem) radio-play version of The Last Open Road, and I want to encourage you (particularly if you haven't yet listened to it) to check out a few things about it, me, and the book it's based on via YouTube. Just click as indicated and it will (or should, at least) take you there:
1) THE STORY BEHIND THE AUDIOBOOK(a semi-stirring video on how it came to be and why you need to listen to it)
2) THE LAST OPEN ROAD AT 25 YEARS. Sure, it's shameless self-promotion (and it's more like 27 years these days) but I put the work in to make the damn thing, so you could at least watch a little bit of it. Just to make me happy.

4) RIDE WITH BURT! See some of the cars I can't afford that I got to drive anyway and some of the dumb stuff I did with them.





We had, amazingly enough, a gent named Robbin Atherly who got ALL THREE of the oddball machines below, and moreover got it done before our serial-offender Scourge of Trivia Bob Allen even got his computer warmed up. Can you believe it? The cars are:

ABOVE: Borgward 1500 Rennsport. These little screamers actually evolved into a significant threat to Porsche in the 1500cc class back in the early and even mid-1950s. Proper front-engined car, too!

BELOW: A 1949 Edwards R-26, built by and for wealthy San Francisco racer/enthusiast Sterling Edwards. This one (I believe) was powered by a hot-rodded Ford Flathead and raced by Edwards. It was also the cover car for a very early issue of Road & Track. Think Edwards built something like 8 cars all told (the last ones with Rocket Olds power).

Filed under "WHAT THE HELL IS THAT THING???", I found the pic above someplace and, to be honest, didn't think ANYONE would know what it was. I know I didn't. But damn if Robbin Atherly didn't ID it as, and I quote, "1937 Submarine car built by Michel Andre. It worked!" I have no idea if any of that is true. But who's going to fact-check him?

And Robbin, thanks so much for playing "If you know what this is, you need to get out more..."

NEW (etceterini) TRIVIA:
OK, whazzit? And the other one, too.

Catch the latest poop & pictures, the Jay Leno interview, Last Open Road swag & highly inappropriate attire from Finzio's Store and the lurid & occasionally embarrassing "ride with Burt" in-car racing videos on the hopefully now fully operational website at: