Books, games, music put holiday shoppers in gear


Auto Racing

November 28, 1999|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

This is the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. For readers seeking gifts for auto racing fans, here are a few ideas:

"French Kiss": Butler's Michael Keyser talks with such excitement in his eyes and energy in his voice about his recently released book "A French Kiss with Death -- Steve McQueen and The Making of `Le Mans,' " the impression is it's an homage to the late screen star.

But "French Kiss," which Keyser wrote with Jonathan Williams' help, is no loving smooch.

"I knew he had a lot of warts on him," said Keyser, who has no qualms about showing those imperfections. "He was doing [cocaine], breaking up with his wife and having trouble with his directors. Some of those problems were created by Steve."

Others, Keyser said, were simply baffling.

The book is a fascinating look at a complicated man and the never-told story of the movie's 1970 filming. "Le Mans," though not judged a great movie at the time, has grown to be viewed as a classic. After reading "French Kiss," an urge to go to a video-rental store may be uncontrollable.

Keyser worked with Williams, who drove the camera car in the filming of the movie, to gather information from all available sources. McQueen's former wife, Neile, shares embarrassing moments, and McQueen's son, Chad, writes the foreword.

"I think the worst thing that happened to McQueen, in terms of this movie, was that [before filming] he finished second at Sebring," Keyser said. "He got to enjoy the adulation, and he felt he was one of the guys -- and then he had to act. Every time someone gave him a script with a story line, it didn't sound true to him. He would have been much better off without Sebring, without the reality."

Also recently published is Keyser's "The Speed Merchants," an overview of sports-car racing from 1969 through 1972.

The books, not yet in bookstores, are available on the Internet at Cost: "French Kiss," $59.95; "Speed," $69.95.

Memorable moments: With 2000 approaching, HarperCollins has published "NASCAR Greatest Races: The 25 Most Thrilling Races in NASCAR History." The races were chosen by surveying drivers, crew chiefs, motor sports writers and fans. Compiled into this treasure, the races will refresh your memories and make you wish you were old enough to have some others. Cost: $30. In bookstores.

E-mail games: Hasbro Interactive has a new game for the computer-efficient: "NASCAR: A Different Kind of Racing!"

After following the set-up instructions, you pick your drivers from a list of Winston Cup stars, such as Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte.

The idea is to e-mail moves back and forth between or among opponents. You can keep track of pit stops and track positions and send and receive text message with each turn.

For the computer-savvy and the racing fanatic, it's probably great. The rest of us might want to let this one pass. Hasbro Interactive games range from $14.95 to $19.95 in retail stores.

For the well-heeled: The National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum in Knoxville, Iowa, offers the usual sweat shirts, jackets and caps. But for the race fan with everything, how about an engraved brick in the museum lobby? For $250, you can buy a permanent tribute to yourself, a friend or relative. Information: 515-842-6176. Fax: 515-842-6177. Web site:

Storytelling: You might wonder why two writers with one of the greatest storytellers at their fingertips didn't allow him to simply tell the tale. But Tom Higgins and Steve Waid still manage an entertaining book.

"Junior Johnson: A Brave Life" is the famous driver's story, and though the authors write about him instead of letting him just do the telling, it's still legendary. Cost: $29.95. In bookstores.

Inside ride: Last but possibly unique, "Inside the Ride: Music for Racing Fans!" is a curious compact disc. It features noise -- that from stock cars, dragsters, Indy cars, exotics and hot rods. Engines roar and whine.

"Each of these incredible speed machines has a distinct personality, which dictated a different musical style," said Like Dat Music Inc. president T. J. Knowles, who collected the sounds on an 18-month tour of racing venues. "We made the digital [racing] sounds an integral part of the music."

The CD features songs such as "Let Me Drive," "Indy Mood" and "Daytona Intrigue."

And, surprisingly, it's fun, with a tone that ranges from surreal country to modern jazz. "It's not just a guy thing," Knowles said.

But be warned: If you grow easily tired of engine noise, this may not be for you. Cost: $15.95 plus $3.50 shipping and handling. Call 888-436-1551. Web site: Also in retail stores.

Nuts and bolts

Championship Auto Racing Teams owners voted unanimously last week to retire car No. 99 as a tribute to driver Greg Moore, who died in an accident in CART's season finale Oct. 31. Moore won five races in his four-year career and was the series' youngest race winner, having won in Milwaukee at the age of 22 in 1997.

Fans can watch Dale Jarrett celebrate his Winston Cup championship in New York on Friday on ESPN. The network will show the Winston Cup Banquet live beginning at 8: 30 p.m.

Winston Cup driver Ricky Rudd, who won at least once in each of 16 straight seasons, saw the streak end last Sunday.

ESPN The Magazine will go away from its regular biweekly publication Feb. 1, when its first special newsstand preview issue hits the stores. The season chosen for the initial preview: Winston Cup's.

This is the last motor-sports column of 1999. On Motor Sports will resume in February, when the 2000 racing season begins.

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