Blood and Smoke, by Charles Leerhsen, focuses on the first Indy 500, which took place in 1911. It describes the history of the automobile to that poinBlood and Smoke, by Charles Leerhsen, focuses on the first Indy 500, which took place in 1911. It describes the history of the automobile to that point, as well as the strange and fascinating personalities who were instrumental in creating the Speedway and the race.
I'd recommend Blood and Smoke for the Indy enthusiast, or anyone else interested in American popular culture in the pre-1911 years. Leerhsen has an eye for cultural detail and a sympathetic ear for the personalities that watched and participated in early American automobile racing.
Be warned, though: Leerhsen's writing style is not for everyone. No detail is too small or too irrelevant for him to exclude, and long hours with the convoluted, purple prose of his source texts have colored his own writing. The result for the reader isn't pleasant: goofy details about personal lives and sartorial choices frequently hijack the narrative, making it difficult to follow a single narrative strand, and "clever" phrasing and word choices provoke eyerolls instead of the guffaws Leerhsen seems to have intended. If Leerhsen had separated these details from the main text by placing them in footnotes, the result would have been much easier to read, even if a reader is (as I am) the type that likes to flip back and forth between the main text and the footnotes.
Using footnotes, though, would have significantly shortened the main text, from a respectable (if not impressive) 250-ish pages to something more like 200 or even 175. This is because Leerhsen's narrative stops dead at the conclusion of the 1911 race. Those unfamiliar with the history of the Indy 500 will find themselves dissatisfied with this decision: without future races to compare the 1911 race to, it's hard to completely understand how unique the 1911 race was.
Bottom line: a book of definite interest to racing and history buffs, but not to casual readers....more
Sometimes a bit dry and repetitive, but generally a comprehensive and interesting look into food-related domestic culture in the US during WWI. AmplySometimes a bit dry and repetitive, but generally a comprehensive and interesting look into food-related domestic culture in the US during WWI. Amply illustrated with patriotic posters and recipes as well as snippets of wartime correspondence between the home front and the front lines. Of great value to writers and researchers interested in the era, as well as WWI buffs looking at the day-to-day civilian experience in the US....more