IT'S THAT TIME of YEAR, FOLKS!

In about 8 minutes, I'll have Practice 3 for the storied, stylish, A-List and fabulous (but no way to pass anybody these days) Monaco Grand Prix playing in the background whilst I pound away here on my keyboard. And then, when I get back from tabata (translation: old people getting sweaty while trying to exercise like middle-aged folks), I'll do more while I watch Qualifying. Come tomorrow (hope I'm done by then), we'll have both the Grand Prix itself--and it's shaping up to be a pretty interesting season...especially for Ferrari fans and doubters--AND the iconic, once-a-year/one-of-a-kind INDIANAPOLIS 500 to watch and marvel over. Although I must say it puts a knot in my gut when I see one of those 230+mph winged projectiles get airborne (as happened to Colton Herta yesterday) and blow over like a blessed leaf in a heavy wind. Yeah, he walked away and seemed none the worse for wear, but you worry about what could happen in traffic at those speeds. I mean, the fastest airplane from WWI (believe it was the SE 5) maxed out at 100mph LESS than what they're doing at Indy these days.
Still, as in all forms of racing, nobody forced any of those drivers to climb behind the wheel of their cars. Hell, they were all begging, scrounging and chomping at the bit to have the chance. And, as has been made stunningly obvious many times over, the modern Indy and F1 cars are wonderfully engineered and beautifully and conscientiously built and the improvements to track barriers have made the sport MUCH safer and more survivable than it ever was before...in spite of the mind-boggling speeds and incredibly close competition.
You can bet I'll be watching.
Probably with breath held from time to time...

Although Carol & I will have to record the GP and watch it later on tomorrow as we have a lovely Sunday morning planned hawking books at the enjoyable, eclectic and occasionally exotic Fuelfed Cars and Coffee event in my old home town of Winnetka, IL. We'll be set up in front of the Balloons and Paper store at 550 Lincoln Avenue from 8:30-11:00 and the weather forecast looks to be sublime. Do stop by...

THE BIG NEWS!!!

Okay, I've been hinting around about this for some time and we've finally--FINALLY!--got all the eyes crossed, tees dotted, ducks in a row, gremlins beheaded and maddening little details organized or swept under the carpet so that ALL of my books (including and most especially the downloadable e-books and the award-winning THE LAST OPEN ROAD audio book) will be, as of June 1, available WORLD-WIDE from virtually ALL MAJOR STORES and ONLINE RETAILERS!
OK, and some you never heard of, too...
Thanks to some people who pointed us in the right direction, we were able to make and sign a deal a few months ago with mega-distributor IPG (which, BTW, allows us to continue selling as before through our own website and our motorsports/collector-car "specialty" dealers). But it's taken a lot longer to get the wheels on the tarmac than we ever envisioned. Then again, my brain is chiefly wired through the right (creative/iconoclastic) side of my cranium, and it occurs to me more vividly and agonizingly every day that most facets of the modern world (and particularly Dubbayew Bush's "INTERWEBS") are organized and overseen by folks whose brains are damn near oozing forth out of their left ears.
Systems people, you know?
Fortunately, the fine folks at IPG get all this stuff and are helpful in explaining things (often for the fourth or fifth time) and we finally got it all buttoned up. There's a long-winded (what else?) press release at the very bottom of this E-Blast giving all the facts, flummox*, hype, hyperbole, salient facts and itemized details. Plus a hefty heaping helping of both "soft" and "hard" sell.
You can read it or ignore it as you wish...

*Is it okay to use "flummox" as a noun? Inquiring minds want to know...

BURT'S OFT-REPETITIVE RACING & BOOK NEWS!
Went down to the HSR's excellent Mitty Challenge at Road Atlanta a couple weeks back to hawk books on the midway and co-drive great friend/serial ride-mooch enabler "SuperDave" Bondon's Morgan, and it was a mixed bag of fun for sure. Sold LOTS of book copies (in fact, we sold out of THE LAST OPEN ROAD and the new STEAMROLLER III...maybe I should have shipped more?) and it was great to see all my old--and I do mean "old"--racing friends again. Discovered after knowing him for something like 40 years that current Sebring Sprite/past Lotus Eleven Club vintage racer Jim Williams is not only great company and a sly, funny, charming little guy, but that he's also one hell of a singer, guitar plucker and songwriter. Who knew? If you can find a copy of his CD with "The Lesson of the Tree" on it, give it a listen. You will be enriched and enraptured. I promise.

On the other hand, my co-drive in SuperDave's Morgan was, shall we say, inconclusive. At best. Hadn't been out on a racetrack in an actual racecar (albeit a decidedly vintage one) since the Pandemic set in, and to say I was rusty doesn't really do the experience justice. See, you want everything to flow--serenely and brilliantly, if possible--out there on the racetrack. But it felt all rough edges and odd angles initially. It's frustrating--hell, infuriating!--when you know what you should be doing and feeling but it just isn't coming together the way you want it to. The way you NEED it to...
And then, after about four laps, I could feel it starting to come together. Started to feel the flow and fluid grace of the wonderful Road Atlanta racetrack. And a half lap after that is when one of the damn valve retainers broke and allowed its valve to ding lightly off the top of the piston immediately below. Although I didn't know that at the time. From the driver's seat, it felt like a plug wire had fallen off and the motor'd dropped down to 3 cylinders. I immediately backed off and checked the gauges--temps OK/oil pressure OK--, trundled my way into the pits and parked it.
We were through for the weekend.
SuperDave kindly allowed as how he hadn't gone through the motor like he usually does over the winter months and, in the end, the damage turned out to be relatively mild. Surely a lot less cataclysmic than it could have been. But the bottom line is that neither one of us got to race and I'll have to look for/wait for another opportunity to see how it feels to drive a blessed racing car again...

But there was Joy in Mudville (I mean, in the Bondon paddock bivouac), as daughter Stacey Schepens drove the OTHER Bondon Morgan (the one with the Lotus Twincam in it) all the way to the third step of the feature-race podium. Huzzah!

On the other hand, my co-drive in SuperDave's Morgan was, shall we say, inconclusive. At best. Hadn't been out on a racetrack in an actual racecar (albeit a decidedly vintage one) since the Pandemic set in, and to say I was rusty doesn't really do the experience justice. See, you want everything to flow--serenely and brilliantly, if possible--out there on the racetrack. But it felt all rough edges and odd angles initially. It's frustrating--hell, infuriating!--when you know what you should be doing and feeling but it just isn't coming together the way you want it to. The way you NEED it to...
And then, after about four laps, I could feel it starting to come together. Started to feel the flow and fluid grace of the wonderful Road Atlanta racetrack. And a half lap after that is when one of the damn valve retainers broke and allowed its valve to ding lightly off the top of the piston immediately below. Although I didn't know that at the time. From the driver's seat, it felt like a plug wire had fallen off and the motor'd dropped down to 3 cylinders. I immediately backed off and checked the gauges--temps OK/oil pressure OK--, trundled my way into the pits and parked it.
We were through for the weekend.
SuperDave kindly allowed as how he hadn't gone through the motor like he usually does over the winter months and, in the end, the damage turned out to be relatively mild. Surely a lot less cataclysmic than it could have been. But the bottom line is that neither one of us got to race and I'll have to look for/wait for another opportunity to see how it feels to drive a blessed racing car again...
But there was Joy in Mudville (I mean, in the Bondon paddock bivouac), as daughter Stacey Schepens drove the living crap out of the OTHER Bondon Morgan (the speedy one with the Lotus Twincam in it!) all the way to the third step of the feature-race podium. Huzzah!

Now Stacey has won races before, but this was The Mitty and the competition was more than robust. I should add about Stacey (and it is endemic to the entire Bondon clan, and hopefully to camp-followers and hangers-on like me) that she is an unusually interesting, engaging and accomplished human being. In spite of being, as she would put it, "a girl." In fact, there is a little sticker on the back of her Morgan, just big enough to see as she carves her way by, that says:
YOU HAVE JUST BEEN PASSED BY A GIRL!
She also, I think in deference to my late, great, gifted and even more accomplished friend, hero, racer and writer Denise McCluggage, wears a helmet with a polka dot motif. Just to rub it in, I think. See pic below.
Did I mention that she's also an educator, a PhD, the vice-principal of a local Atlanta-area middle school and moonlights as an instructor at the rightly renowned Porsche Experience near the Atlanta Airport? Kind of ironic, actually, since SuperDave's mission from the day he first put the cream-and-green, Twink-powered Morgan on track was to, in his words, "Beat the Porkies!" [Translation: "Porsche 356s"].

MORE NOTES & COMING ATTRACTIONS:
It's 5:30 ayem tomorrow tomorrow already, and yesterday afternoon was friend, neighbor and fellow Alfisti Steve Crowley's re-born (but hopefully not regurgitated) SPAMFEST, which is an amazing & thoroughly entertaining summer-party gathering featuring lots of interesting, mostly-Alfa people and a sumptuous and truly amazing & occasionally delicious, pot-luck smorgasbord of SPAM-based dishes.
Full report (with pix) next time.
Also next time we'll have my impressions of the MAMA Spring Rallye at Road America/Elkhart Lake, which took place in rather damp, wet, cold and generally miserable weather this past Tuesday-Thursday. But the off-roading was fun thanks to LOTS of mud (deep, too!) but I will tell you I was shopping mentally for Carol's next car and the one I liked most for her, in spite of knowing in my head (if not my heart) that ELECTRIFICATION IS THE WAY OF THE FUTURE, was the new Mazda CX-50. It's basically a slightly lengthened, widened (but still reasonably sized) and evolved CX-5. Our kids (not really "car people") have had a CX-5 for several years and love it, and I appreciated both the driving experience, Swiss Army Knife utilitarianism and lack of overpowering dash/features/infotainment system technology that seems to be The Thing these days. Here's a pic of it spattered mud I gleefully applied running through the off-road course. Although the tires, while perfect for most real-world driving situations, weren't really knobby enough for the deepest of the mud-swamp stuff. But neither will they make a baritone humming noise during normal freeway driving (except in LA, where you rarely get much over 20mph anyway...)

UPCOMING EVENTS OF PARTICULAR NOTE:
Saturday, June 4 (tentative...gotta get our packing done!): Instructing/Hawking books at the AROC/Lotus Corps track day at Blackhawk Farms. Fun event always and all sorts of strange cars are welcomed. But you need to enter ahead of time as groups fill up. Here's a link:


THE CALIFORNY CAMPAIGN:

Saturday, June 11: Book Signing at the marvelous and totally unique AUTOBOOKS/AEROBOOKS store at 2900 W. Magnolia Blvd. in beautiful, not-quite-downtown Burbank (quick: what's the reference here?). Strange and wonderful people with even stranger and more wonderful cars (hey, it's L.A., right?) usually stop by. Here's a link to their website for more info:

Monday, June 13: Filling in as sage schmoozer & ad-hoc driving instructor at the Alfa Romeo Owners' Club National Convention track day at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, CA. Should be fun. For me, anyway...

Saturday, June 18: Selecting a winner (I'm 5th-generation Chicago and CAN be bribed!) and presenting the Buddy Palumbo Award at the AROC National Convention concours at Tideland Park on Coronado Island, followed by (most likely after a few stiff belts) serving as guest speaker at the AROC National Convention banquet at the host hotel. Been working hard on the presentation and, if my roadies and mental condition are in proper order, should be a good one. I hope...

More anon. Long-playing edition of the aforementioned Press Release below, followed by TRIVIA.
MOTOR-MOVIE TRIVIA ANSWERS:

OK, car-keen cinema buffs: please identify:
1) In what movie did a barrel-rolling C1 Corvette roadster turn into a Henry J two-door coupe in mid-roll?
Really. It happened. In "The Green Helmet." At Sebring, I think.
2) What movie opened with a drunk-driving Robert Stack being terrifically irresponsible at the wheel of a bright yellow & fast-moving Allard J2X?
"Reap the Wild Wind." Also featured a Woodill Wildfire.
3) Did "BS" Levy REALLY stunt drive one of the cop cars in The Blues Brothers movie?
YES! Honest.
4) In what movie did "Norman Bates" drive a Triumph TR3A (so there, Bob Allen!) with wire wheels?
"Goodbye Again"
5) In what movie did the same actor commit suicide by driving an Aston Martin off a cliff?
"Phaedra."
6) What famous music-movie star raced an Elva Mk. VI? OK, smartypants, what number did it wear?
Elvis in "Viva Las Vegas". Car wore #7
7) Who won the very last Australian Grand Prix?
Trick question: It was Fred Astaire as Julian Osborn in the movie version of Neville Shute's "On The Beach."
8) What make and model car did James Dean drive over that cliff in Rebel Without a Cause?
Trick question: James Dean bailed out at the last second and DIDN'T go over the cliff!
9) What kind of car did Terry Thomas drive in School for Scoundrels? What was it really?
A "Bellini," which was actually an Aston Martin DB3S with a hunchback "mound" added to the rear deck.
10) What was the first-ever James Bond sports car?
A Sunbeam Alpine in "Dr. No." And for those who answered "Bentley Continental," that's from the BOOKS, not the MOVIES, and this was supposed to be "Movie Car Trivia," remember?

PRESS RELEASE:

World’s Fastest Novelist “BS” Levy Announces New, World-Wide Distribution Agreement
 
Thanks to a new contract with mainstream mega-distributor IPG and as of June 1st, 2022, author/racer Burt “BS” Levy’s acclaimed The Last Open Road series will be available as hard copies and as downloadable E-books through major book stores and web retailers world-wide. Also newly available for download will be Levy’s highly original and terrifically entertaining audio book version of The Last Open Road. Re-written and produced in the style of a 1950s radio play, The Last Open Road audio book features professional voice actors, authentic sound effects, period early-fifties music and Mystery Celebrity Guest Voices from the automotive and motorsports world in many of the supporting roles (see next page for details). Winner of a pair of “best motoring book of the year” awards from the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association and the Automotive Heritage Foundation (in both cases, first time ever for either an audio book or a work of fiction) and a full 20 hours long, it’s the perfect traveling companion for those long cross-country drives, tows and summer vacations.
 
The Last Open Road is a classic coming-of-age story following the adventures and misadventures of 19-year-old, blue-collar New Jersey gas-station mechanic Buddy Palumbo as he’s swept up in the glamorous, dangerous, upper-crust and occasionally decadent world of open-road sports car racing during the Eisenhower fifties. All the history, events, characters and ambience of the era are presented very much as they were, and the author’s painstaking research, keen sense of humor and personal experiences as a successful amateur racing driver, racing instructor, mechanic, shop owner, ad-hoc stunt driver when The Blues Brothers movie was shooting in Chicago and upscale used-car salesman (he once had a used Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow convertible taken from him at gunpoint on a test drive!) lend accuracy, insight and authenticity to the story.
 
Turned down by major publishers who felt there was “no market for ‘racecar’ fiction” and told him “THOSE people don’t read,” Burt and wife Carol had to take out a second mortgage, form their own publishing company and publish The Last Open Road themselves in July of 1994. Thanks to exceptional reviews in both the mainstream and motoring press (see excerpts below) and incredibly enthusiastic word-of-mouth support, The Last Open Road is now heading into its eleventh hardcover printing with over 50,000 copies sold, has spawned six successful sequels plus a short-story anthology and the award-winning new audio version mentioned above.
 
Burt’s books have become genuine cult classics on the motorsports and collector-car scenes, and many racers, collectors and enthusiasts proudly display “The Last Open Road” decals on their favorite machines. The Last Open Road has also been used in several high school and college-level English classes and is on the recommended reading lists at many libraries, schools and book clubs.
 
“The books have become amazingly popular and successful with racers, race fans, car collectors and gear-head enthusiasts—those ‘people who don’t read,’ right?—but our market niche is something like a mile deep and five inches wide,” Levy explains. “This new distribution contract will give us access, visibility and opportunity we’ve never had before through mainstream book stores and online retailers.”
 
For additional information, to request a review copy or to schedule an author interview, email thinkfast@mindspring.com or contact Carol or Karen at (708) 383-7203
 
Selected review excerpts:
 
“Recalls to mind ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and Holden Caulfield.” Road & Track
 
“The characters weave in and out of a story that features classism, racism and elitism; that is about triumph and tragedy and right and wrong.” Fort Worth Star Telegram
 
“Levy is a marvelous storyteller, as adept at explaining the intricacies of a Jaguar’s engine as he is at recounting the bewildering family dynamics at a Thanksgiving dinner.” Publishers’ Weekly
 
“The best motorsports fiction ever encountered.” Autosport F1
 
England’s Classic & Sports Car picked The Last Open Road as one of the top 20 motoring books of all time. It was the only novel on the list.
 
On the audio book: “My girlfriend Lisa [visually impaired] went crazy over it. She’s read (listened to) thousands of audio books, and says this is the absolute best she’s ever experienced. Loves the sound effects, the different voices and learning about all the cars from that era. Seriously, she is ecstatic, and listening to it for the second time already. Quite an endorsement from a non-car junkie! She is exposed to classic cars a bit through me (not much), but just loving learning about them through your book. ‘That era and those cars come alive!’” Sharon Spurlin, Editor/Publisher of Automobilia magazine
 
Mystery Celebrity Guest Voices on the audio book include champion British-American racer/hall-of-fame motorsports, NASCAR and F1 TV commentator David Hobbs, NASCAR Hall-of-Fame crew chief Ray Evernham, international racing champion Brian Redman, American road-racing luminaries Tommy Kendall, Patrick Long, Marino Franchitti, John Morton, P.D. Cunningham and Spencer Pumpelly, famous racer, track owner and seminal racing-school founder Skip Barber, longtime racer and Amelia Island Concours founder and chairman emeritus Bill Warner, current International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) president John Doonan and his son, Alex, and many others.
 
The E-books and audio book will now be available through all major digital retailers, including Amazon, Audible, Apple, Itunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Libro, Scribd, OverDrive, etc.
 
Links:
25 years of The Last Open Road: https://studio.youtube.com/video/wvjdHvNz6Oc/edit
 Burt driving other people’s race cars: https://studio.youtube.com/video/Bc6U-7A4kms/edit
Burt driving an authentic, race-winning, 427 cubic-inch Ford GT40 Mk. IIB from the Revs Institute collection: https://studio.youtube.com/video/zvB1xGMeQfc/edit

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: