"Whenever I begin work on a new book, I am reborn into a new world."
Hoosier author James Alexander Thom's first published novel, Spectator Sport, has been reissued as a print-on-demand book after nearly 20 years out of print.
The novel, a race-fan's-eye-view of the lethal, rain-delayed 1973 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, was originally published in 1978, before the Owen County native became nationally known for his best-selling American frontier and Indian War novels, such as Long Knife, Follow the River, Panther in the Sky, The Red Heart, and Sign-Talker.
The new edition, published by www.iUniverse.com as an Authors Guild Backinprint.com Edition, was redesigned with "a less lurid cover than the original Avon Paperback," says Thom.
Thom says he instigated the reprint because readers who have all his other books complained that they couldn't find copies of his first novel.
Spectator Sport recreates minute by minute the three-day part effort to complete the 1973 '500' and the legendary quagmire of muck, misery, and waste the crowded infield became during the three rainy days. A driver and a crewman were killed and spectators were hurt.
Thom, a former Indianapolis newspaperman, was in the crowd for the part of the event, and supplemented his eyewitness observations with research in newspaper files and with tapes provided by the late Sid Collins of his three-day broadcast coverage.
"I dealt with some serious troubling cultural trends in that book," Thom says. "I'm sorry to say they've only gotten worse since then so the book is still meaningful."
The novel was such an unflattering portrayal of the sporting spectacle that Speedway officials wouldn't cooperate when film production company tried to make a movie from the novel months later, and that project was scrapped.