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Evel: The High-Flying Life of Evel Knievel: American Showman, Daredevil, and Legend Paperback – May 1, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

An Esquire Best Book of the Year
A Boston Globe Best Sports Book of the Year
 
“Slick, pulpy, eye-filling, exhaust-belching. . . . Smart, rowdy fun. . . . [Montville writes] as if pulling a wheelie across every page. . . . Evel is never dull.”
The New York Times
 
“[Evel] goes beyond the action-figure image, painting Knievel in all his contradictions. . . . In Montville’s capable hands, Knievel soars again in all his profane, self-deluded glory.”
Sports Illustrated
 
“In the late 1960s and early 1970s . . . the coolest man on earth was Evel Knievel. . . . Montville brings him vividly back in an outlandishly entertaining new biography.”
New York Post
 
“Engrossing. . . . A wild ride on the back of Knievel’s cycle.”
Los Angeles Times
 
“Awesome. . . . A rollicking good tale. . . . Montville nails it just right.”
The Hollywood Reporter
 
“If Knievel lived ‘as if his pants were on fire,’ then his biographer writes like a house on fire. . . . In describing the complex, contradictory stuntman’s battles with the demons that would ultimately destroy him, [Montville] pulls out all the stops.”
The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg)
 
“The best biographies not only tell you what people did, they capture their personalities as well, making readers feel as if they are sitting down at a long, well-lubricated dinner with the subject. Mark Twain: A Life by Ron Powers is one such bio, and another is Leigh Montville's brilliant recent biography of Evel Knievel: Evel.”
—Jim Caple, ESPN.com
 
“Fresh and exciting. . . . A fast-paced thrill ride through a life of success, sex and excess that is sure to leave you winded.”
The Montana Standard
 
“Montville has been doing big time things with his clever writing mind and his flying keyboard fingers for decades. . . . The job he did on [Evel] tops the others, good as they are. The outrageousness of his subject and Montville's matchless ability to entertain and report make it so.”
Hartford Courant
 
“Greatly entertaining. . . . A biography as sensationalist and superior as the daredevil himself.”
Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Three-time New York Times bestselling author Leigh Montville is a former columnist at the Boston Globe and former senior writer at Sports Illustrated. He is the author of The Mysterious Montague, The Big Bam, Ted Williams, At the Altar of Speed, Manute, and Why Not Us? He lives in Boston.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767930525
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767930529
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,235,135 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Anyone who lived through the heyday of Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel, knows of the excitement this self-invented daredevil created on the world's stage. I remember that people loved him or hated him and some simply disregarded him. Besides the absurdity of his proposed acts... some of which he attempted and succeeded... some of which... he attempted and failed... and many of which... he talked and bragged about Ad Nauseam... and never attempted. The public at large knew he was bombastic... and not too high on "class"... from the rough and tumble mining town of Butte, Montana. The author, Leigh Montville does a masterful job of unveiling the real "Evel" Knievel... with more "warts and all" than the average citizen or fan may have known about during his heyday.

I found it tremendously educational as to the inherent lifestyle of the average families in the mining town of Butte in the 1800's and 1900's. The accepted outlook of a short life expectancy in unsafe and unhealthy mines... described in such detail... that at times the reader would be excused if he gasps for breath. The life outside the mines which included bar after bar after bar... and prostitute after prostitute after prostitute... and the daily conclusion that your husband or brother would not see another day as they went off to work. It was from this rough hewn world that Evel became what can only be described as a despicable individual... despite his "Captain America" uniform and his million dollar payments for the seemingly never ending list of toys in his image that became a staple of youth at the height of his popularity.

The author's in depth research paints a picture of a womanizing, alcoholic, lying, thieving, braggart. Part of Knievel's mantra was what a great wife he had in Linda, and how he loved her so much.
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Format: Hardcover
Evel Knievel was a man on everyone's lips in the 1970's. Along with other sports icons like Muhammud Ali, Hank Aaron, Joe Namath, and Wilt Chamberlain, Knievel evoked a strong image. A man soaring through the air. A man cheating death. A man who was put back together. A man who laughed at pain.

As with most of the stars of that era (Ali and Aaron being exceptions), the image did not really fit the reality. In Knievel's case, this was a story begging to be told. Knievel was so outrageous, and such an ugly human being, that although his self promotion can be admired, there is little redeeming about the man himself. Beyond naked ambition, and the drive which took him to the heights of celebrity, there is little to admire about him.

In sum, this is what makes his story so interesting. Although he made millions of dollars, he spent it so foolishly, and wastefully, that his canniness comes off as rubishnness. He had little integrity, was an amoral philanderer, a drunk, a cheat and a disloyal offensive lout. He offended almost everyone he came in contact with.

And yet, like the sociopaths of The Soprano's, he was capable of charm, at times. This is what won some people over. And yet, when his act grew tired, and his celebrity began to wane, his fan base decided he was not worth the bother, and his business associates did not care to be around him.

Knievel discovered the concept of "Branding" before it became popular, and he rode it to the top of the sports world.

For the most part, this is a well written book. The writer uses a seldom seen device that makes the writing seem a little choppy. The narration will be flowing, and he will all the sudden announce "A Story".
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Format: Hardcover
Man, I loved this book. Not only did it take me back to my childhood but it filled in all the gaps that I missed about Evel's real life. Add to the fact that Leigh Montville is a great writer, and obviously researched Evel's life more than anyone else would've bothered!

What's so great about this book are the stories. Montville sometimes simply adds "A Story", related to whatever subject he's writing on, it's very effective and more like an in depth, in depth scoop of what's going on.

There's a lot of material here, a lot of it is pretty sobering. Truth to tell, we all know what a con man is like and that's what Evel simply was, a con man. What separated Evel from other's like him is that he was crazy enough to truly, actually, really, incredibly, be an actual daredevil! I mean, devil is in this word right? Montville talks about Evel's inner voice, or lack thereof, an innervoice that just says "do it, DO IT!". Evel had everything to lose and EVERYTHING to gain. Just think, famous people would come up to him and say "Hi Evel, it's me Richard Burton and I just want to let you know I'm a fan". Can you imagine what that does to an already narcisstic, self-centered, egomaniac, CON MAN like Evel Knievel?!! God, if the guy wasn't already a bonifide self-made, homegrown, terrorist on society then the admiration from MOVIE STARS sealed the deal!!

So, what was Evel? Was he just a con man? Was he crazy? Was he smarter than everyone else in the room? This book really seems to answer it all, Montville doesn't leave ANY stone unturned. The short answer is that Evel was basically a sleazebag con man who finally figured out that jumping motorcycles was the ultimate con. Yep, it gave a con man access to what he believes is his birthright.
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