Four Works of Fiction by B S Levy

Writing a novel is both a skill and an art, requiring an author to make “word” people who we, as the readers, will find believable and simultaneously keep us engaged, so that we keep reading and turning those pages. If the author happens to be writing historical fiction—well, that’s one more challenge, because now what is being written is not strictly from the imagination—it must also be accurate while weaving the non-fiction characters into the story. Not a task for the faint of heart.

Burt Levy decided to try his hand at precisely this sort of writing in the mid-90s. His first novel is one of those titles with near-instant recognition… but have you actually read The Last Open Road? Ah, you should. And maybe the sequels too; Montezuma’s FerrariThe Fabulous Trashwagon and Toly’s Ghost. You don’t have to read them all, nor do you have to read them in order as each is a stand-alone volume—however, acquiring them and reading them as a series is a plus for the reader, who gets the full “real time” (history) as well as the fictional saga.

Two thoughts were reinforced with every turned page of each book. The first thought was the name John Jakes, a prolific author of historical fiction about chronicling families by eras. Jake’s books “taught” history in a non-instructional way; so do Levy’s. Then I found myself wondering whether school curricula recognize and adopt contemporary books like these as recommended reading. Textbooks are so often dry, impersonal recitations of events and dates.

Wouldn’t students learn as much, maybe more, by reading about real and imagined people in an historical context that also demonstrates the effects of events on characters with whom the readers could identify? So think about acquiring and reading Burt Levy’s series for yourself, for the pleasure and concurrent edification, and then share them with a kid or grandkid for the same reasons.

Open Road commences early in 1952 and proceeds to take the reader to various sportscar road races and hillclimbs as the protagonist “learns the rules.” We’re along on a Carrera Panamericana in Montezuma’s Ferrari in addition to a 12 Hours of Sebring and more. The Fabulous Trashwagon is our protagonist’s home-designed and –built racing machine. But before it’s race-ready, there are trips to the 1954 Indy 500 and the Bonneville Salt Flats and to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Toly’s Ghost explores the European racing scene concurrently with what’s going on in America, conveniently concluding in the closing days of the 1961 racing season.

As each book tells its story, cars and racing may be the thread of continuity but the rest of the world hasn’t been ignored as politics and the times also have their influences. As the main character learns, we’re privy to his thoughts. This, an excerpt from Trashwagon, is representative of Levy’s approach to story telling: “… you end up making a lot of choices in life… most you don’t even realize you’re making at the time. Somehow, someway, thanks to some incomprehensible collection of reasons, whims, instincts, intuition, and maybe even some destiny that you’ll never understand, you wind up walking, limping, plodding, marching, skipping or running full-tilt with your hair on fire down one of those paths instead of another. And anybody who thinks it happens because they’ve got it all planned out ahead of time knows even less about life than I do.”

A tip: if your order Burt Levy’s books directly, be sure to request signed personalized copies.

Copyright 2009 Helen V Hutchings (

The Last Open Road
by B S Levy
354 pages
List price $25
Think Fast Ink, 1999
ISBN: 978-0964210721

Montezuma’s Ferrari
by B S Levy
395 pages
List price $30
Think Fast Ink, 2000
ISBN: 978-0964210714

The Fabulous Trashwagon
by B S Levy
533 pages
List price $30
Think Fast Ink, 2002
ISBN: 978-0964210752

Toly’s Ghost
by B S Levy
673 pages
List price $35
Think Fast Ink, 2006
ISBN: 978-0964210769

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