Friday, June 9, 2023

52 Miles to Terror

 52 Miles to Terror
(1966) by Ruth Christoffer Carlsen (misspelled on cover) & G. Robert Carlsen (eds)

This is a pretty weird short story collection. Some of the stories are just that--weird, apparently for the sake of being weird. Some are just little fiction vignettes. There's one straight mystery. One where the title makes you think you're getting a mystery (spoiler alert--you're not). One that's just plain fun. And one that's either fictionalized nonfiction or just nonfiction. All have to do with cars and/or racing. I think younger me (in the late elementary school years) might have enjoyed this a lot more than late middle-aged me. ★★ and 1/2--primarily for the more mystery-related portions.

"Fifty-Two Miles to Terror" by Alex Gaby: An odd little story about a man traveling with his family to a relatives house when a souped-up red jalopy challenges him to a drag race and then a game of chicken. What on earth is this middle-aged man thinking?

"The Affair of the Wayward Jeep" by Bill Mauldin: For once the army assigned the man with the right talent to the right job--Private Franklin loves working with cars and is actually assigned to work on the jeeps and supply vehicles. But what happens when he gets pulled to act as driver for a general and he decides to add some refinements to the standard-issue vehicle?

"Hit and Run" by John D. MacDonald: Follows investigator Walter Post as he tries to track down the driver in a hit and run which resulted in the death of a pretty young mother. Just when you think he's found the one responsible, MacDonald adds another piece to the puzzle. [one hit by car]

"1924 Cadillac for Sale" by William Saroyan: A rather bizarre little monologue by a used car salesman. Is he telling the truth? Or is this one elaborate ploy to sell that Caddy?

"Death Saw the Stop Sign" by Kathryn McFaun: A big truck pulling a horse trailer suddenly loses its breaks and makes a mad-dash downhill and through a busy town. 

"Too Big a Dream" by Will White: Another bizarre story...I'm actually not sure what's going on in this one. I think the man has built his own car from scratch. And then he takes "her" out one night for a drive in the moonlight. And....I don't know what the heck that ending means.

"Jalopies I Have Cursed and Loved" by John Steinbeck: Our narrator just gives us a run-down of cars he has had in the past and how people were more connected to their cars when they actually knew how to work on them. But was that a good thing?

"Hearse of the Speedway" by Peter Granger: A race car gets the reputation as a killer when drivers repeatedly get into accidents under the most innocuous circumstances. One man thinks he's mastered the machine after a string of successful (and winning) races. But is he the master or has the machine mastered him? [five auto accidents]

"A Race Driver's Long Good-bye" by Angelo Angelopolous: Short piece based on the actual events of the day prior to and the beginning of the 1958 running of the Indianapolis 500 which infamously opened with a fifteen car pile-up in the first lap.

First lines (1st story): There was a little, persistent ache in his right shoulder, as there always was now when he was behind the wheel for more than an hour or two, but that was all. Everything else was fine.

Last line (last story): Somehow, Bryan drove through it, saddened, to win.--Ed


Deaths = 6 (one hit by car; five auto accidents--drivers)

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