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Book Review - Mickey Thompson The Fast Life And Tragic Death Of A Racing Legend

Book Review - Mickey Thompson The Fast Life And Tragic Death Of A Racing Legend


Mickey Thompson
The Fast Life And Tragic Death
Of A Racing Legend

by Erik Arneson

Book review by Richard Parks, Photographic consultant Roger Rohrdanz

Revised March 15, 2018, by Parks & Rohrdanz

Front Cover

Back Cover


The book cover jacket lists some accolades by famous racing personalities; Dave Despain, Don Prudhomme and Dan Gurney; you can’t go wrong by following their advice. The value of a book cover jacket entices you to pick up the book and skim through it.  I always emphasize the importance of the book cover jackets and why you need to keep them in good repair; it adds value to the book. The jacket has another important purpose and that is to get you to read a little further and buy the book and add it to your library. Mickey Thompson; The fast life and tragic death of a racing legend, by Erik Arneson is an interesting book. The picture of Mickey Thompson is eye catching; he was a charismatic racing figure for our times. The publisher is Motorbooks, located in Minneapolis, Minnesota and they have a reputation for making quality books. Mickey Thompson; The fast life and tragic death of a racing legend is a hard-bound book measuring 6¼ by 9¼ inches in size. The pages are bound to the spine by a quality cloth binding with an additional gluing for long term wear. The size and style of the book shows that it wasn’t intended to be displayed as a coffee table book, but one where the story is what is important. The photographs are clear and crisp. There are 304 pages, with 77 black and white photographs and 2 drawings. The issue date is 2008 and the ISBN # is 978-07603-3178-1.

    Arneson dedicates the book to Shav Glick, the Los Angeles Times sports writer and editor, who has since passed away. There is a four page preface written by the author, who also wrote a two page acknowledgement to the people that inspired him. The contents of the book are found in 11 chapters. At the end of the book is a two page addendum referring to the sources that Arneson used. The author includes a 5 page index. There was also a drawing of the men who were said to have murdered Mickey and Trudy Thompson and have never been caught. The text reads well and keeps our interest going. The text is double spaced and it is easy to read each chapter quickly, but the photographs grab our attention and cause the reader to slow down and think about the merits of the life of a monumental man and his life of racing exploits. Chapter One took up the subject of Mickey and Trudy’s murder. The author stated that this horrific event overshadowed the achievements that Mickey accomplished in his life. Chapter Two delves into Mickey’s early life; it tells the story of how Mickey and Judy met and is quite touching and romantic. Mickey had a romantic side.  

     Thompson broke records set by the Auto Union drivers and other German car racers of the 1930’s. They were records sanctioned and recorded by the FIA. Mickey was hired in as a pressman for the Los Angeles Times. Mickey would race on the weekends and write recaps for the newspaper during the week.   

      Mickey was just twenty when the SCTA promoted the Hot Rod Exposition Show in 1948. The prize that year for the lucky winner was a roadster assembled during the show in front of the crowds from parts donated by racers and speed equipment manufacturers; through Mickey’s efforts.

       Arneson gives an honest look at Mickey Thompson. For years we have guessed at the reason why Mickey failed to back up his record at Bonneville when he exceeded 400 mph. The author spoke to those in the know and calculates that it was an engine malfunction and Mickey did not want to embarrass his sponsor. I was also impressed that the author stressed Mickey’s private life and his love for his family. So often these sentiments are completely overlooked. There was a richer and more complex man, who acted simply and direct when challenged. 

     The man who took Mickey’s life may have hated him, but he also knew that both of them could not exist in the same time and space. Thompson’s murderer was never the man that Mickey was, but I can understand how a murderer can feel overwhelmed by a man of mythic proportions. In the end that is how every great story ends. The hero isn’t perfect in myths and legends; he is simply a man above all other men. According to Arneson great men are concentrating so much on the problem that they face that they simply don’t see us at all. Mickey simply didn’t think in terms of flaws and perfection.  That’s what we think about, because we are normal human beings trying to comprehend a legend like Mickey Thompson. We cast our negative and positive virtues on a man who simply wasn’t interested in the mundane.  There was only one thing that Mickey lived for and that was to win at everything that he tried. That he succeeded so often puts him into the company of great men. Mickey Thompson; The fast life and tragic death of a racing legend, is an engrossing book and worth adding to your library.



Gone Racin’ is at [email protected].

I rate this book a 6 out of 8 sparkplugs.