Friday, November 2, 2007

Daredevil Motorcyclist Not a Big Jump Actually

What do you do after writing books about Dean Acheson, James Forrestal, Jimmy Carter, Henry Ford, John Kerry, Rosa Parks, Father Michael J. McGivney, Hurricane Katrina, and editing the Ronald Reagan diaries? This was historian Douglas Brinkley’s dilemma. His answer: a biography of the daredevil motorcyclist and seventies icon, Evel Knievel.

Actually this is not a big jump, pardon the pun. You may remember Brinkley shaking up the dry, run-of-the-mill history lecture format in the early 1990s when he took a small class of students on a six-week road trip across America, reading classics of literature and seeing everything from Graceland to Monticello. They met William S. Burroughs, toured Jack London’s place, and stayed with Ken Kesey, who took them on a ride on his legendary psychedelic bus, Further. (See his The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey). Brinkley has also edited the papers of Jack Kerouac, and he is now editing the third volume of the letters of Kentuckian Hunter S. Thompson.

Evel Knievel: Daredevil in Winter was sold on proposal last week. Given the drama surrounding the motorcyclist’s life, Brinkley’s book should attract many readers – and not just children of the seventies who rode red-white-blue bikes and tried to jump everything that did not move.