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Mickey Thompson: The Fast Life and Tragic Death of a Racing Legend Paperback – March 11, 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 62 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“His life was one of racing adventures.” - Dan Davis, Victory Lane

Thompson was a highly influential driver and promoter in the drag-racing field of motor sports. A hard charger and innovator, he lived life at 200 miles per hour and in the process developed a legion of fans and not a few enemies. Still, it was shocking when he and his wife were murdered in 1988, even more shocking when it took the authorities 15 years to solve the case, and surreal when a business associate was convicted of the crime nearly 20 years after it happened. Arneson (John Force: The Straight Story of Drag Racing’s 300-MPH Superstar) relays the tale in a stark narrative that highlights Thompson’s accomplishments, the facts surrounding his death, and the heroic fight of his family to keep the case in the spotlight until justice was served. Recommended for public and all motor sports collections.” - Library Journal.


“The author, head of public relations for Speed Channel, offers a strongly researched recap of Thompson’s remarkable life story in this 304-page hardcover. Arneson enjoyed the family’s cooperation on the book, with added help from countless interviewees and court records from the determined police investigation that finally resolved the slayings and brought the Thompson’s killer to justice. On a bittersweet anniversary, this book arrives as very overdue and very welcome.” - Hemmings Muscle

“Well researched, Erik talked to most if not all of the main players in Mickey's life. Performing the job of bringing all of these facts, stories and remembrances together is no small job. It's done beautifully in Mickey Thompson: The Fast Life and Tragic Death of a Racing Legend. It's a good book and deserves your serious attention, if you want to learn more about a true racing legend. I highly recommend it.” - Ed Justice Jr., edjusticejr.com


“This compelling book is a can’t miss book for racing fans, and everyone, actually. Arneson’s style of writing will pull you in to this interesting story of one of racing’s true “marathon man” heroes. Mickey could do it all. He was heralded as a great racer, builder and promoter until his untimely murder. Your emotions will be on a roller coaster with this book, so get ready when you start reading. You won’t be able to put it down.” - carreraslotcar.net



“Rarely out of the headlines, Thompson’s life is entertainingly presented by Arneson with co-operation from family and friends.” - Classic & Sports Car

“…it is an excellent book and I recommend it to anyone who is involved in racing. Mickey touched so many people and his life story is simply amazing. Erik, who also wrote the book about Darrell Gwynn and one on John Force, does a great job of capturing the spirit of a man who was involved in so many forms of motorsports.” - Bob Frey, dragracecentral.com



SPEEDTV.com, September 2008 (views per month: 604,122).
“Mickey Thompson:  The Fast Life and Tragic Death of a Racing Legend grabbed me from the second I saw the cover photograph. I would label the image “A couple of Mavericks.” The photo shows Mickey with a bandaged hand posing in front of a Ford Maverick dragster. How appropriate. Mickey was the ultimate “Maverick.” He did things one way-HIS way! Mickey Thompson: The Fast Life and Tragic Death of a Racing Legend documents the triumphs and tragedy of this motorsports legend. The book rates four out of five lug nuts. ” - Gregg Leary, SpeedTV.com

“This 304-page hardcover book, which includes 75 black-and-white photographs, reacquaints readers with Thompson, who he was and what he accomplished.” – National Speed Sport News

“Author Erik Arneson, through close cooperation with the Thompson family, has written a full accounting…” - Ventura County Star

“It’s a compelling book which is hard to put down.” – Drag Racing Action

“Despite the overtone of the couple's murder and the length of time it took for an arrest and conviction, the book is a celebration of the life of the person who, Arneson writes, would "influence more kinds of racing in a wider variety of ways than any other single person, making him the true center of the high-performance era in American history." In addition to reciting the amazing chronology of Thompson's life in motorsports, Arneson includes some delightful anecdotes: how, at age 12, Thompson and his father built a soapbox derby racer and how Mickey equipped the "car" with batteries so he could drive it back up to the top of the derby hill; how a high-school aged Thompson could do math problems in his head but couldn't duplicate his calculations on paper; how, to keep Thompson in the racecar so the crew could fix it without his input, Thompson's partner and crew chief Fritz Voigt had the crew tip the car onto its side, trapping Thompson in the driver's seat, while a leak was fixed by soldering a penny over a hole in the radiator.” - Larry Edsall, IZoom.com



“Arneson has a great and rare gift among biographers; the ability to know when to let his subject’s story tell itself. And he has an even rarer gift: a subject whose life was interesting enough to stand on its own. Of course, Mickey’s friends and family are along for the ride too. Arneson performed extensive interviews with the people who knew Mickey, his family, his friends, his co-workers, his employees, even his rivals, and the result is a picture of a man who could have made his impact in any field that captured his attention.” - Clifford Tunnell, dragracingonline.com

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Author Erik Arneson, through close cooperation with the Thompson family, has written a full accounting..."

"The author, head of public relations for Speed Channel, offers a strongly researched recap of Thompson's remarkable life story in this 304-page hardcover. Arneson enjoyed the family's cooperation on the book, with added help from countless interviewees and court records from the determined police investigation that finally resolved the slayings and brought the Thompson's killer to justice. On a bittersweet anniversary, this book arrives as very overdue and very welcome."

"...it is an excellent book and I recommend it to anyone who is involved in racing. Mickey touched so many people and his life story is simply amazing. Erik, who also wrote the book about Darrell Gwynn and one on John Force, does a great job of capturing the spirit of a man who was involved in so many forms of motorsports." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Motorbooks; First edition (March 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0760340153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0760340158
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #903,571 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steve Potter on June 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In the end it's not Mickey Thompson's death at the hands of a sociopathic former business partner, tragic though it was, that defines this remarkable man's life story -- it's what this diminutive son of a Los Angeles policeman did in the years alloted to him that defines him for posterity and makes him worth of our attention today. Possessed of restless energy, a love of speed, an intuitive engineering sense and a wild streak of creativity, Thompson crammed more into his five plus decades on earth than the vast majority of humans could were they given five times Thompson's life span.

And speaking of earth, for a time during the early '60s this Southern California hot-rodder was the fastest man on earth, covering a measured mile at better than 400 miles per hour behind the wheel of his monstrous four-engined Bonneville streamliner, Challenger I. He also set scores of international speed records aboard a series of smaller but no less innovative racing cars. And during most of the period when he was setting the racing world -- and occasionally himself -- on fire, Thompson was holding down a full-time job at night as a pressman in a newspaper plant. There are thousands of photographs of Mickey Thompson, and many wonderful ones in the book, but I'm not aware of a single one that shows him asleep.

Thompson's imagination turned, perhaps inevitably, to the Indy 500, and the cars he produced for that classic American motorsport spectacle were revolutionary. After helping to successfully introduce the modern rear-engine design to Indy in 1962, last-minute rule changes hobbled his later designs. But Thompson ranks, along with Daytona Beach's mad genius Smokey Yunick, as the most creative thinker at Indianapolis in the last 60 years.

They just don't make them like Mickey Thompson any more, and Erik Arneson's biography, which presents the whole character, warts and all, reminds us that we are poorer today for that fact.
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A real page-turner about one of the icons of speed. A self-taught, Southern California hot rodder who engineered and raced land speed record cars and was part of the rear-engine revolution at Indy. I sat in front of the 1964 Indy 500 pileup that killed Thompson's driver, Dave McDonald and veteran Eddie Sachs - Mickey was accused of building a junk car and contributing to the disaster, but the other side of the story was the always conservative USAC officials who forced last-minute changes in his racer without time to retest the car. Well written book that fully explores the investigative work that led to the jailing of Mickey's former partner who ordered the murder of Mickey and his wife 14 years prior.
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This recap of Mickey Thompson's life was written fairly well and covered many issues that were not common knowledge concerning the well known (in the racing community) Thompson. Mickey Thompson was a racer's racer that helped mold much of professional racing into an entertainment standard.

I was very intrigued with the information concerning the murder of Thompson and his wife. It took a very long time for the case to be solved and proved. The actual perpertrators (shooters) have never been nabbed which is odd in itself. Perhaps one day the complete details of the shooters will float to the surface and they too will be imprisioned along with the guy (Godwin) that hired them. Meanwhile the Godwin guy is behind bars and should be on death row for what he did.

MIckey Thompson was quite a promoter and very good for the sport of drag racing in particular. His innovative spirit has been something many of that community have aligned with over the years. It is a shame that someone of Thompson's stature has not been the guiding force within the National Hot Rod Association. IF he had been, drag racing would have grown many times over.
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This book wanders all over the place trying to convince you about how much a legend this man was. I know he was, that's why I bought the book...big mistake. This ranks among the worst biographies ever written.
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I enjoyed this book as I learned a lot about the man whom I admired for years. Didn't know he was such a hard driving business man. Of course I knew about his driving records. The tenacity of his kids finally being able to cause a conviction of his murderer was great in that, for some reason, I'd never heard that the crime was solved.
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The cover of the book more or less describes it perfectly, with the emphasis on MT's death. There are relatively brief descriptions of his family, childhood, business, and racing, but not as much detail as I would have liked, and not much on his character as a man. One gets the impression that the author was a friend of the family and didn't want to offend them in any possible way.

The book does give a great deal of detail about MT's LSR efforts, and some information about his Indianapolis and off-road achievements, but little about his drag racing cars and teams. It looks more at his life as a promoter and race track operator. His death and the resulting investigation are extensively described, and it is clear that the author is fully convinced of Goodwin's guilt (spoiler: if you are not familiar with the story, a former business partner was eventually convicted after years of speculation and investigation of the murders, though the actual shooters were never found. The evidence was largely circumstantial, and Goodwin is by all accounts a thoroughly unpleasant individual, which probably more than anything else led to his conviction.) All in all, well worth reading, but not outstanding.
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