Speed Week Plus: A Classic Gearhead Novel, Reviewed

I first read this book even before the speed bug bit me, and enjoyed it then. As I did become obsessed with horsepower, my affection and appreciation only grew.

Larry Cook is, superficially speaking, a stereotypical high school nerd–glasses, braces, and a talent for playing the piano. (But even before his epiphany, he shows signs of a rebellious, independent spirit via secret jam sessions covering jazz numbers by Fats Waller and other niche legends.)

Then one day Larry sees a photo of a street rod on the cover of a magazine, and his inner rebel blossoms. With the help of a teacher (an exceptionally cool teacher the likes of which I never had) he rebuilds an old Ford (a Model A, I think) into a decent performer. Then, after graduating high school (and losing the braces), he is hired as the dining hall pianist at a snooty resort hotel (kinda’ like the resort in Dirty Dancing).

Larry’s summer promises interesting developments when he meets the spoiled, gorgeous debutante Barbara Wells, her filthy-rich grandfather, and her would-be suitor: Roger the Rednecked Romeo.

But the story really takes off when Larry becomes friends with the local mechanic and drag racer Finnegan. Finnegan’s 392 Hemi-powered Green Ghost is the title vehicle. When Finnegan breaks his leg packing chutes for the Ghost, Larry must step in to drive in the upcoming drags, but without letting his hoity-toity employer…or any of the resort guests…catch wise to it.

The character interaction between Finnegan and just about everyone else is priceless (he’s an incurable wiseacre), and Williams generates a feeling that something important is at stake concerning Larry and Barbara, without ever getting even close to mushy.

BTW: Internet research has led me to believe that “Patrick Williams” is a pseudonym of none other than W.E.B. Griffin–the author of all those bulky military potboilers.

This was written for a YA audience, but I would recommend it for anyone of any age who likes street rods and drag racing. It was written in the ’60s and out of print now, but if you find it used somewhere, do pick it up!

Fantastic book for a teenage boy, especially one with an interest in fast cars, and a highly enjoyable book for men of any age, in fact.

Speed Week Plus is visiting another hemisphere next time. Wanna hint?

“Two dyes ago I sar a vehicle that could haul that tankah. You wanna get outa’ heh? You tawk ta me.”

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