WHERE THE WRITER MEETS THE ROAD
Reviewing Sam Posey’s new book
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Fri, Jul 3, 2015
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Review by Doug Stokes
Where The Writer Meets The Road
By Sam Posey
Forward by David Hobbs
David Bull Publishing
ISBN-13 978 -1935007-27-2
Hardcover 6” x 9” 208 pages
30 B/W photos, 25 color photos
I asked for this assignment—reviewing a collection of Sam Posey’s short writings: articles, broadcast intros, and profiles (that’s actually the sub-title of this remarkable book). I asked to review this book expecting full well that I would be both awed (by the writing as a reader) and cowed (by the writing as an alleged writer).
I was, of course.
If you’re not quite sure of who Sam Posey is, for starters he’s the guy who crafted and spoke those incandescent openings to so many TV broadcasts of the Formula One races over the years, always ending with his simple, yet electrifying, call to action: “… the Grand Prix of Monaco (Singapore, Belgium, Monza)…is next!
Posey calls his racing introductions “teases” and credits the legendary Jim McKay (ABC’s Wide World of Sports) with making those short, quickly-spoken dramatic set-ups so much a part of televised sporting events much like the prologue to a classic play. For me, Posey’s work setting the scene, citing the back story, and quickly building the anticipation, have always been mesmerizing masterful distilled descriptions of what was to come. It was a direct order to sit tight and turn up the volume…right now!
There are 36 short chapters in this collection, each one a near perfectly formed example of Sam Posey’s elegant and erudite word crafting. The over-used term “renaissance man” is well-applied here. Posey is a successful designer/architect; the author raced with strong results at the highest levels of the sport all over the world (Trans Am, Can Am, Formula 1, Indy 500, Le Mans, Daytona, and Sebring), and is (here this is obvious) a great essayist.
At about halfway through this book (which spans more than four decades), one almost becomes used to the continuous craftsmanship of Posey’s work. There is a cadence to his choice of words that work to make each story so skillfully realized. And then you look back at the words and realize that you’ve truly been on a voyage (and nothing like reading a review about a book about racing).
The tendency here is to simply photocopy six or seven pages of Posey’s work, put them up here, and just say: “Okay, read this wonderful stuff for yourself”, but that really would not be fair.
Actually I will reproduce one page (and hope that my friend David Bull will see it as a paean to his publishing rather than an actionable breech of international copyright law) that for me conveys not only the mystique of the Sarthe circuit but how well a great observer/writer like Posey can see, understand, and authentically communicate back, what the process looks like from the inside.
His profiles of Mark Donahue, Phil Hill, and Brian Redman are direct, personal and moving. His heretical piece calling Porsche out for persisting with the tail-heavy 911 design for decades is refreshing in its candor; and his perceptive articles (see above) on the mysteries of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, put the reader right in the cockpit and into the thick of it—now.
Included here as chapters are the introductions that Posey wrote for the inductions of Mario Andretti, Brian Redman, Dan Gurney, Jim Hall, Parnelli Jones, and Roger Penske into the Road Racing Drivers Club. These micro-biographies not only capture each man and their contribution to the sport, but the spirit of the times that each of them drove in. (Just for the record here, Posey raced in competition WITH the first four on this list and raced FOR Roger Penske in the Trans Am.) Andretti and Gurney contributed short personal statements about Posey to this book. Both of them lauding his driving abilities as well as his (here well-displayed) work with words about the task itself.
And there’s more. Emmy award-winner Posey throws in a few choice stories about his decades of work as a motorsports TV reporter. His on-air wrangles with co-reporter Bobby Unser (which always started with Bobby drawling: “Now Sammm…”, and then unfailingly going on to slip in the fact that he had won the 500 three times) were wonderful swordplay with microphones. (If you don’t remember, there are a number of short examples of their verbal elbow work on YouTube … one of them incredulously entitled: “Bobby Unser and Sam Posey AGREE on something!”)
Seeing and writing with a lyric poet’s heart; even a visit to the very bowels of the Ford Motor Company’s legendary River Rouge plant with its ferocious boiling caldrons of molten steel and dank city block-long buildings with byzantine machines dwarfing bustling assembly line workers has beauty in its fury. In Posey’s copy book the alternately freezing and blazing inferno becomes, as the title of his piece portends: a “Ballet Mechanique”.
His stories of the glory days of the Trans Am series and the internecine warfare that went on behind the scenes are great fun and his self-deprecation in his epilog is more than charming. In it he indicates that Peter Revson once said to him “Sam, you think too much.” To which the author admits: “He meant my interests in painting, writing, and design were distracting from my driving. He was right. Peter and the drivers who appear in the profile section of this book, had the focus and commitment I lacked, and they have earned their glory. I have never felt jealous, and I would never look back and say that I was anything but lucky, both in the car, and outside it.”
There are a number of accompanying photos in this book, all illustrative of the material at hand, but for this reader (and unabashed Posey fan), this guy, this book, is about his words.
This relatively small book (if you’re a racing fan like me you’ll likely wish that it was far longer) simply brims with wonderful racing reminiscences related in a writing style that wraps around its reader in nuanced detail. Sam Posey knows well of what he writes and writes well about what he knows. –DS
BOOK NOTES: As if to prove that he qualifies as a well-rounded person, a few years back Sam Posey wrote a book about his fascination with model trains. The book, “Playing With Trains” became something a cult-classic in the HO-scale world and has been a best seller both hardbound and in paperback form. (Personal: whoever I loaned my copy out to: “I know you have it, bring it back, please.”). I do, however know where my very recently re-read copy of his earlier biographical “Mudge Pond Express” is … and heartily I recommend both books to interested readers for the very same reason that I recommend this new title: Sam Posey. To order the book on Amazon, click here.