Switchback, A Spy Thriller

by J.K. Kelly


Have you read Ian Fleming’s James Bond books or Robert Ludlum’s spy thrillers purely to be entertained? If so, there’s an emerging author you ought to know about who combines the action and intrigue of the Fleming or Ludlum books even as he sets his stories in the modern day (read the 2000s) automotive racing environment—mainly Formula 1, but other series and venues become part of the story as well.

Author Jim “J.K.” Kelly has a solid background working within the motorsports industry. He related part of that in his memoir titled Fuelin’ Around that we told you about on this site. That means the settings and behind the action information of these purely fictional Bryce Winter adventures are spot on with reality. The first Bryce Winter thriller was titled Deadly Driver and, yes, we told you about it too.

Now comes its sequel, Switchback, which debuts at the 2024 Rolex 24 at Daytona, Florida just as this commentary is posting. If anything, Switchback is even better at grabbing the reader’s attention and holding onto it so firmly that, if you choose this as a bedtime read, you just might find yourself so engaged and still awake turning pages beyond when you’d normally have turned off the light! 

Kelly’s background is, as said, solid. He studied journalism and law enforcement in college even as he spent weekends attending area auto races working as a freelance writer/photographer. He notes wryly that “I even drove to Los Angeles one year to cover an event for a magazine only to have it delayed due to, of all things, snow!” He landed a dream job doing public relations for a NASCAR team followed by working as first regional manager, then director of sales and marketing for VP Racing Fuels. The latter is at the heart of his story told in Fuelin’ Around.

During a conversation with Kelly I’d noted how refreshing it was to read a good, gripping adventure story that didn’t resort to titillating or detailed sex scenes to entice a reader to keep reading. Jim’s response was telling of his character and maturity, “I purposely don’t write graphic sex scenes by choice. They’re not necessary, at least not for me. However, if they want some when it comes to a movie version, they can twist my arm!”

Similar to how Kelly concluded his first thriller racing novel with a gauzily-veiled hint of a sequel, so too do Switchback’s last pages portend of more, a third book in the Bryce Winters racecar driver/CIA agent spy series, to come. 

Action fiction involving, much less centered around, racing exist in a realm similar to that of hen’s teeth. One of the more successful writers back in the day was Bob Judd of whom Jackie Stewart wrote that Judd was “Dick Francis on wheels.’ Judd wrote something on the order of half-a-dozen race novel adventure titles published between the latter 1980s to mid-1990s. All are very readable. 

Even the inimitable automotive writer/journalist Ted West, who praised Kelly’s books with “they are a high-speed lap through this breathless private world of beautiful people and ruthless international suspense [of the Formula One elite]” has tried his hand at writing race-oriented fiction with, most notably, the 2010-published Closing Speed. 

Treat yourself to one—or both—of Jim “J.K.” Kelly’s adventure-spy-Bryce-Winter-racing-thrillers and  experience and enjoy for yourself a story with, as the British Autoport Magazine observed, “More twists and turns than Monaco, making it interesting until the checkered flag . . . even a gateway to non-F1 fans as well.”

Switchback, A Spy Thriller
JK Kelly Consulting LLC, 2023
368 pages, no images, softcover
List Price: $12.95
ISBN 13: 978 1 7363592 8 0

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