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Hiding Behind Thunder Paperback – June 11, 2011
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About the Author
Don Falloon was born and raised in Sacramento, CA, admittedly not quite a hotbed of NASCAR. But Sacramento once hosted NASCAR-sanctioned events at the old state fairgrounds as part of the Grand National tour, and on the day before Don was born, the legendary Parnelli Jones won the NASCAR 100-mile feature event at the fairgrounds track. Growing up, he followed the NASCAR Grand National – later known as Winston Cup – circuit as best he could, usually in the form of movies of the races shown in the Sacramento Autorama theater whenever he and his father attended the annual car show. There he fueled his racing imagination with such names as Richard Petty, David Pearson, Little Joe Weatherly, Curtis Turner, Darel Dierenger, Lee Roy Yarbrough, Fred Lorenzen, and Holman-Moody. But he also got a kick out of hearing names like Speedy Thompson, Smokey Yunick, Tiger Tom, Cotton Owens, Shorty Rollins, Tiny Lund, Jocko Flocko, Buck Baker, Coo-Coo Marlin, and Fireball Roberts. Something about that last name would always remain in the back of his mind. In 1999, being an old-school NASCAR fan and enthusiast got him involved with the San Jose-based Historic Stock Car Racing Series (HSCRS), a group of enthusiasts who locate, restore, and race retired Winston Cup stock cars. That connection would eventually lead to stints as the color commentator on behalf of the group for the three years they ran as a support race to the CHAMP cars at the San Jose Grand Prix (2005-2007), and other events they participated in at the famed Laguna Seca Raceway. Also an avid builder of car models since the age of six, Don turned that little talent into eventually building a full-scale replica of one of Fireball Roberts' last 1964 Ford Galaxies, itself one of the things that led him to penning his novel. Today, he drives the purple, barely street-legal race car replica to various car shows near his home, attending along with his father, an amazing automotive craftsman who has built a number of classic hot rods over the years. Don has also been a radio and nightclub DJ, an historic guide at the Leland Stanford Mansion and, most recently, at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, and appeared (very) briefly in the movie Dare to Dream: The Alan Kulwicki Story after assisting in the re-creation of a key car for the film. Don still resides near Sacramento with his wife, Patti, their blended family, his Fireball Roberts tribute car, and Midget the Flatulent Cat.
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Having gone to my first NASCAR "Cup" race in 1963 (World 600) I was interested in how one of the first Superstars of the sport, 'Fireball' Roberts was depicted in the book "Hiding Behind Thunder."
Of course, the character of Fireball (I say "character" as this is, after all, a fiction book) comes well into the story. The story itself has moved well along before any sort of racing is introduced.
By the time some of the racing stars of the era are depicted, the reader has followed along and is well involved in the story and wondering how this story will turn next. The reader does not have to know anything at all about any form of racing to enjoy the story. In fact, a non-race fan might just might be inspired to read some more about these actual persons who are so well depicted in this book.
The main character, Davey Sutherland finds himself as far away from home as the money in his pocket can get him by bus. Davey finds himself in a place that is definitely not California, and instead of midget cars, like his grandpa had raced before Davey was born, they race big bulky street cars: "stock car racing" they call it. Davey has stumbled into a new world trying to escape his old life.
Davey finds a world that will accept him for what he does, and not what his name is or who his family was. And while forging his new life, he finds, by accident, a true passion: racing stock cars. This wasn't the same as the retired midget car his grandpa had kept under a tarp, letting Davey peek in from time to time, but he was able to actually revive a childhood fantasy: racing.
Fireball Roberts and other stars of the era eventually encounter Davey, and they further his education in this new way of life that was begun by his benefactor, who becomes his race car owner. Davey continues to learn that who you are is more important that just your name. This becomes critical when his enemies from California track him down, quite by accident.
Personally I attended the 1964 World 600, the race where the great Fireball Roberts was to receive his ultimately fatal injuries. I was still a young fan, and years later, as my knowledge grew of the sport, I recognized the greatness that I had missed. I became acquainted with the author through my Facebook page where I had posted my collection of photos of Fireball Roberts. Don Fallon had become a fan of Fireball Roberts long after Roberts' passing and when he contacted me, I shared some of my knowledge (although he had completed his book at that point) and I directed him to a two-part story I had published on-line at BleacherReport.com about the 1964 racing season (under my nom de plume "crabber1967"), and the many drivers lost during that year. [Joe Weatherly, 1964, and NASCAR's Not-so-Good "Good Old Days." - [...]]
The author has done a fine job in developing his main characters as well as depicting the racing of the era accurately. The reader will become involved in the life of Davey and his new friends as well finding out how some of the stock car racers of the era actually were. Fireball Roberts and "Big" Bill France are just two of the racing pioneers encountered in the story.
First and foremost a narrative story must be engaging and entertaining, and the author has succeeded in this effort. I feel my writing skills are best limited to non-fiction and I can appreciate the effort it takes to write an engaging novel. Don Fallon has succeeded in this task. Enjoy!