Smokey got the idea for writing a history of stock car racing after
giving a talk to explain racing to a group of kids at Lowe's
Motorspeedway, around 1995. He realized that all the people who
were a part of the early days were dying and most of the ones who
were still alive were too involved with racing to be able to tell
the real stories. He started writing this book as a history of
stock car racing and ended up with look at American history of the
past 60 years through a very unique set of eyes.
The first volume, Walkin' Under a Snake's Belly, covers Smokey's
life outside racing, beginning with growing up in Neshaminy,
Pennsylvania on a farm, dropping out of high school to take care of
the family and going off to World War II as a B-17 pilot. The war
stories are told through the eyes of a young man who believed all
that the Army Air Corps taught him, but he had a mind of his own
and was also hell-bent on having fun at all costs. (If that meant
irritating a few generals, then that was just par for the
After the racing years, Smokey ended spending most of his time
working on his inventions and working in the oil and gold fields of
Ecuador. Along the way, Smokey had a knack for finding fun and
adventure everywhere he went. Alcohol, women and speed were his
main addictions - he eventually gave up alcohol, but never did give
up the other two.
The second volume, All Right You Sons-a-Bitches, Let's Have a
Race, chronicles the stock car racing years in living color. The
warning on these books, that they are not to be read by those under
18 unless they are with a grandparent who can translate the social
and moral implications of the stories, is not to be taken lightly.
(Smokeyeven includes his own dictionary to explain the terms that
racers used in the early days to the uninformed.) Smokey and his
band of merry compatriots were racers and there were only two
things on their mind when the sun went down -- women and booze.
Smokey had his share of both during 15 years of racing, when racers
were looked down on as the dregs of society. Nothing could stop his
dream of being the fastest at the sport he loved, no matter what
happened along the way -- the sign of a true racer.
During his years in stock car racing, Smokey fell in love with a
mistress that he would visit every May for over 20 years -- The
Indianapolis 500. The first half of the third volume, Li'l Skinny
Rule Book, covers his love of this famed event and the wonderful
stories of the days before the big corporate sponsors; when it was
just men and their machines, sleeping on the floor in the garage
and most times coming home with nothing. As the title implies,
Smokey loved Indy because the rules were so simple. His inventive
mind and knack for thinking way outside the box were at their best
when Indy was involved.
The second half of the third volume, Eatin' an Elephant, covers
his years of inventing inside and outside of racing. Smokey's 10
patents don't begin to cover the breadth and depth of his
inventing. His work with the car companies and on the racetrack led
to a host of developments that have improved surface transportation
for everyone. The value of some of his ideas and inventions, like
his famous hot vapor engine, were never fully realized.
Many books have been written about the last 50 years of American
history, but few are this entertaining, revealing and introspective
all at the sametime. Real stories from World War II, stock cars,
the automotive industry and the Mexican Road Race are just a few of
the elements in Smokey's autobiography. They combine to make Best
Damn Garage in Town... The World According to Smokey one of the
most interesting books in a long time.
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