Saturday, June 8, 2013

My Generation FIRST READ

My Generation
First Read
By Rick Tavel© 6-7-2013

 It happened just the other day.  I was browsing one of my favorite automobile image sites,
Omnibus of Speed ( and there it was, something I had not seen in over fifty years, a picture of the cover of the first book I had ever read (excluding of course the Dick and Jane books that our school class was forced to read together), Henry Gregor Felsen’s Hot Rod.  Felsen wrote several novels centered around the growing interest in hot rodding  and the car culture in  the 1950’s. 

Though his books may not be considered to be the great American novel, sorta 50’s pulp fiction for teens, it would be interesting to know just how many young boys’ imaginations and love of books Felsen’s books inspired.   Felsen was able to portray a young boy’s coming of age centered around the culture of hot rodding, car clubs and the teenager’s special relationship for his car.  In fact, it was Felsen’s ability to accurately depict this which earned him the title of, “the granddaddy of the street rod”.

 Felsen wrote over sixty books on various subjects as a novelist, getting his start as a freelance journalist while in the Marine Corps, stationed in the Pacific.  While serving in the Marines he also edited the Marine Corps magazine Leathernecks.  He lived most of his life in Iowa and taught part time at Drake University.   During his long career as a writer Felsen’s most success came from the series of books centered around hot rods, speed, and car clubs.  His most successful novel Hot Rod, first published in 1950, was followed by Street Rod, in 1953, Crash Club, in 1958.  Rag Top and Road Rocket were also part of the series.   Combined, his hot rod novels sold over eight million copies. 

Today Felsen still has a following from several of those who were lucky enough to discover his novels before they were old enough to get their drivers license. A first edition Hot Rod sells for several hundred dollars and most all of his hardback hot rod novels are considered rare.  In fact  there is a hot rod car show tribute to Felsen on September 22 in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Though Henry Gregor Felsen my not be considered to be in the same category as Hemingway or Salinger, millions of young readers can thank him for the hours of exciting reading he provided before video games and the internet, often under the bedcovers with a flashlight after their parents ordered “lights out”. 


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