First time hefting The Speed Kings, you’d be forgiven for assuming it is just a coffee-table book to add to your motorsports library. The Speed Kings, at 375 pages and a whopping 4.6 pounds, is so much more than a coffee-table book. The Speed Kings is actually three books in one that presents the reader with an in-depth, well-researched and visually-stunning history of America’s Motordrome Racing.
THE BICYCLE BOOK
The first book inside The Speed Kings deals with the history of bicycle velodrome racing when motorcycles were introduced to “motor pace” bicycle racers. The author wisely includes this bicycle-racing background because it was bicycle velodrome racing that led to the birth of Motordrome Racing. This section could stand alone as its own book.
THE COFFEE-TABLE BOOK
The second book is what I’ll call the coffee-table edition. The book is structured so that the reader can turn the pages reading only the photo captions and sidebars. I strongly recommend resisting the urge to read the book this way on your first pass (and believe me, you will read this book a few times). The book stands on its own as a photo and caption book, but the most enjoyment and reward comes from investing the time to thoroughly read what I feel is the third book in The Speed Kings.
THE HISTORICAL NONFICTION BOOK
The third book is an in-depth historical retelling of the relatively short, controversial and tragic history of Motordrome Racing. I didn’t expect to get sucked into a sport that ended 50 years before I was born. Wrong! Events happen quickly and unexpected twists and turns occur in every chapter. This non-fiction book is more surprising, interesting and entertaining than any fiction I’ve read this year with its cast of great characters and shocking events that will have you shaking your head in disbelief (like the track “safety improvement” that turns out to be anything but). “Truth is stranger than fiction” proves to be more than a cliche throughout The Speed Kings and holds the reader’s interest.
The Motordrome saga includes descriptions of the sport’s heroes, woefully-inadequate equipment (especially tires), insanely-fast speeds, bitter rivalries, espionage, crooked promoters, arrogant officials, deep friendships and, unfortunately, heart-breaking tragedies.
The three-books-in-one Speed Kings is a worthy addition to any motorsports library. While not a cheap read ($75), I found it worth every penny. The book can be ordered directly from the publisher by clicking here.