Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2011 March 16 • Wednesday

This tightly plotted and compelling novel, probably for readers we would call “young adult” today, was surprisingly good. It wouldn’t take much to make a good movie out of this now, more than fifty years later, even though stories about teenagers can age pretty fast.

Mike Revere is the most popular boy in school and he had to work really hard to get there. His supremacy depends on his being the best drag racer—every morning he races a challenger to the school parking lot, and every morning he wins.

The principal of the school is aware of this but has the experience to know that it's just a fad. There’s a new fad like this every year, and every year it fades out and gets replaced by something else. Drag racing’s popularity has a month or so to go, he figures. But then… Well, I’ll quote the blurb on the inside.

But then Dave "Outlaw" Galt moved to town. Outlaw had utter contempt for authority. The gang was dazzled by his $4,000 Chevy F. I.

Mike saw he had to fight for his title. His answer to Outlaw’s bid for power was a new kind of hot rod club.


Crash Club is about crashing, not racing. The one with the most accidents wins. (I wonder if J. G. Ballard knew about Crash Club.) You get decorated with medals and ribbons, just like in the military. Every time you smash into another car, you get to put a small car decal on your hot rod, just as if you were a pilot shooting down enemy aces.

This all gets out of hand, of course. Really out of hand. The violent conclusion was a bit of a shock and the build up to it was extremely suspenseful. In the end it turns out to be a morality play, but with a few sharp turns to take the reader through.

Felsen, who also wrote books called Hot Rod and Street Rod, captures perfectly the world of adolescence as I remember it: the cruel and absurd social hierarchies, the sense of alienation, the disappointment that parents, children, teachers and students feel.

Crash Club is dedicated:

To my teenage son
and his teenage friends.
Black leather boots,
blue denims,
turned-up jacket collars,
and all…

The first line is, “Mr. Enos Lamont, principal of Raccoon Forks High School, leaned back in his old wooden swivel chair, propped his heels on top of his old wooden desk, clasped his hands behind his head, and, with his eyes closed, thought over the brief letter of warning that had arrived in the morning mail”.