Simon Wood

Posts Tagged: motor racing

DID NOT FINISH is a book that is very close to my heart as it’s a mystery centering on the world of motorsport. Thirty years ago, I raced open-wheel cars motorsport in the UK.

In the book, a death threat is circulating around the pits. Derek Deacon says he’ll kill his championship rival, Alex Fanning, unless Alex throws the championship deciding race. Rookie driver, Adrian ‘Aidy’ Westlake, doesn’t put too much stock in the threat. He figures Derek is just playing mind games. That changes when Alex dies on the track after banging wheels with Derek. A cover-up ensues. The police wrap up their investigation without following up on the death threat, TV coverage omits the crash and the racing community seems happy to ignore what they heard. Aidy is the exception. He feels obligated to expose the truth and finds himself dragged into a much larger conspiracy.

A real incident is the basis for DID NOT FINISH. I was competing in a regional championship where a rumor was floating around the paddock that a driver threatened to kill the championship leader if he didn’t win and, just as in the book, that driver died in a crash during the race. At the time, I felt quite helpless. There is a world of difference between an idle threat and an actual murder. What made the situation even harder for me to accept was that minutes before the race started, the driver who died had shared something with me that he hadn’t even shared with his family. It’s a confidence I’ve kept for twenty years.

Did Not Finish is not an attempt to expose a crime or rewrite history but illustrate life in the fast lane. Motorsport is an expensive game. To compete, you need more than just a bat, a ball and a pair of sneakers. You need a small army. Even at a grass roots level, it costs tens of thousands each year to own, maintain and race at a competitive level. Because of that, the desire to win gets amped up and tensions run high. Competition brings out our best, but it can also bring out our worst, so dirty tricks aren’t out of the question.

Naturally, there’s rule bending in motor racing and I can’t say I didn’t pull some stunts to help me survive in the sport. Other people I knew took more drastic measures, especially when it came to money. Some people borrowed heavily, in some cases turning to loan sharks. Others got involved in a variety of criminal pursuits to make ends meet. They ranged from misdemeanors such as theft to major felonies such as drug trafficking. Some individuals felt they had to protect their interests and did so by intimidating others or flagrant cheating. Some of the stuff that occurred is enough to make your hair curl. And in most cases, all these acts boiled down to people doing anything to hang on to their dream and win. It’s a siren song that’s hard to ignore.

Dick Francis showed the dark side of the world of horseracing, I’m hoping to do the same through Aidy’s adventures. He lives in the shadow of his famous father, the late, great driver, Rob Westlake, who died along with Aidy’s mother in an auto wreck after securing a Formula One contract. Raised by his grandfather, Steve, himself a retired Grand Prix mechanic, Aidy is following in his father’s footsteps.

As the series develops and Aidy makes his rise through the world of motor racing, he’ll be drawn into the various issues affecting the sport. And as he does, he’ll learn one thing—in motorsport, murder will always happen breakneck speed.

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It’s a new year and that means I receive annual royalty statements for a couple of my books. One such book was LOWLIFES. It’s been a pretty successful book, but the publisher said, “Royalties have fallen off the edge of a cliff. I guess books do have a finite life.”

I understand the sentiment but I disagree. The problem I have (and it’s a nice one to have) is that I have close to two dozen titles in publication. That means some books will take the limelight while others are pushed into the shadows. It’s not necessarily my early books. My most popular titles are usually the latest and my first.

So I want to shine some light on what could be considered my forgotten titles.

LOWLIFES: Larry Hayes is a decorated police inspector with a substance abuse problem and he has to investigate himself as to whether he murdered a homeless man. I have a soft spot for this slice of pulpy noir because I was commissioned to write this piece from a brief outline.

HOT SEAT: This is the second of the Aidy Westlake motor racing mysteries. Aidy gets his first professional drive but soon finds himself press ganged into investigating the murder of a team mechanic by his gangster brother. Again with many of the Aidy Westlake stories, it’s based on my own experiences in the motor racing world.

ROAD RASH: Straley is a bank robber on the run, but the situation takes a downward turn after he steals a car from a fatal car wreck. He develops an all consuming rash within hours of driving away, but the disease isn’t bacterial. He will lose everything, including his skin on a journey to redemption. The story is partially inspired by a personal encounter with Santeria believers.

WORKING STIFFS: This was my first collection of short stories all with a workplace theme. The publisher asked me to come up with the themed collection after reading one of the stories. I rose to the challenge by coming up with stories that ranged from the police workplace all the way to the criminal workplace. Everything is a job…even crime.

I would love it if you’d check these books out. They might not be the bells of the ball, but you’d like them just as much. You just have to get to know them.

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The first Aidy Westlake mystery DID NOT FINISH is my Book of the Week. It’s 99c/99p on Amazon.  DNF is very personal to me because it’s based on my experiences as a racecar driver. It’s a period of my life I am very proud of…and that’s includes the good, the bad and the ugly. Motor racing shaped me as a person and I’ve infused that into the character of Aidy. The storyline is inspired by an actual incident and a secret I kept for twenty years.

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk

The books are available elsewhere in all e-formats, print and audio. You can find all the links here. I hope you’ll pick up this story because this series is very special to me.

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The Aidy Westlake mystery series is very personal to me because it’s based on my experiences as a racecar driver. It’s a period of my life I am very proud of…and that’s includes the good, the bad and the ugly. Motor racing shaped me as a person and I’ve infused that into the character of Aidy. The storylines inspired by incidents I came across during that time.

With that said, I have a deal for you. For one week only, you can pick up all three books for $5/£5 on Amazon, although you don’t have to buy all three to get the price break.

From Amazon.com:
DID NOT FINISH
HALF-INCHED
HOT SEAT

From Amazon.co.uk:
DID NOT FINISH
HALF-INCHED
HOT SEAT

The books are available elsewhere in all e-formats, print and audio.  You can find all the links here.

I hope you’ll pick up the books because they are very special to me, but also because I am working on books #4, #5 & #6.   🙂

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My frustrated DJ self emerges yet again for a playlist for my the latest Aidy Westlake book, HALF-INCHED. The playlist reflects the various themes and plotlines from the book series. If you’ve read the books, these songs will make a lot of sense and if you haven’t, it should give you an inkling as to what to expect. Either way, the songs should result in a shake of the head…or a groan.

So here’s what’s on the playlist:

“The Distance.” – Cake

“Fast Car.” – Tracy Chapman

“Jerry Was Racecar Driver” – Primus

“The Road To Hell” – Chris Rea

“Shut Up And Drive” – Rhianna

“Cars” – Gary Newman

“Road To Nowhere” – Talking Heads

“Keep The Car Running” – Arcade Fire

“Everyday Is A Winding Road” – Sheryl Crow

“One Headlight” – The Wallflowers

“Passenger Seat” – Death Cab For Cutie

“Drive” – The Cars

“Passenger Side” – Wilco

“Granddad” – Clive Dunn

If you have any musical suggestions, leave them in the comments and I’ll add them to the playlist.  Now just hit play to listen. Enjoy!!

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I thought I’d share some fast facts about my latest Aidy Westlake adventure, HALF-INCHED.

1. “Half-Inched” is cockney rhyming slang for pinched as in to steal.

2. Aidy Westlake is named after former Watford Football Club’s had coach Aidy Boothroyd and the late, great writer Donald Westlake.

3. HALF-INCHED was inspired by a British journalist who was discussing high value car thefts in Europe where the vehicles ended up in Moldova.  The police in Moldova rarely investigated the thefts as they didn’t occur in their country…but the police would turn a blind eye if the owners chose to steal their property back. As soon as I heard that I knew I had a book!   🙂

4. Readers, Mary-Frances Lascuola & Barb Kreisel, provided the title for the book when I was struggling to come up with one.  They won my contest to see who could come up with a better title than me!

If you’ve read the book, I hope these tidbits have given you some additional insight into the story.  And if you haven’t read the book, I hope you’ll give it a go.

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Merry Christmas, everyone!!  Aidy Westlake is your Xmas gift!! Aidy and the boys are back.  The full-time racecar driver and part-time investigator returns in HALF-INCHED. Again, Aidy and his crew are up to their necks in trouble. The storyline is as follows.

“Christmas has gone sideways for racecar driver, Aidy Westlake. Aidy’s grandfather, Steve, was just putting the finishing touches on a classic Ford GT40 he was restoring for a British millionaire when it was stolen from his workshop. They quickly establish that the supercar was stolen to order and is in now in Moldova in the hands of the notorious gangster, Lupul. There’s a wrinkle. The police in Moldova don’t care. The theft of a rich man’s toy doesn’t rank high on their priorities. The client’s ultimatum is simple—cover his one million pound loss or recover the car by Christmas Day. With the threat of financial ruin hanging over his grandfather’s head, Aidy’s crew has only one option—steal the car back.”

This story takes place between the novels DID NOT FINISH and HOT SEAT.

The book is here.  You can order it from Amazon and Amazon UK. I hope you enjoy it.

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Aidy Westlake is back!!  The full-time racecar driver and part-time investigator returns in HALF-INCHED.  Again, Aidy and his crew are up to their necks in trouble.  The storyline is as follows.

“Christmas has gone sideways for racecar driver, Aidy Westlake. Aidy’s grandfather, Steve, was just putting the finishing touches on a classic Ford GT40 he was restoring for a British millionaire when it was stolen from his workshop. They quickly establish that the supercar was stolen to order and is in now in Moldova in the hands of the notorious gangster, Lupul. There’s a wrinkle. The police in Moldova don’t care. The theft of a rich man’s toy doesn’t rank high on their priorities. The client’s ultimatum is simple—cover his one million pound loss or recover the car by Christmas Day. With the threat of financial ruin hanging over his grandfather’s head, Aidy’s crew has only one option—steal the car back.”

This story takes place between the novels DID NOT FINISH and HOT SEAT.

The book comes out on Christmas Day but you can preorder it from Amazon and Amazon UK.  I hope you enjoy it.

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Hot-Seat-2nd-loThe second Aidy Westlake mystery, HOT SEAT, is the book of the week.  The eBook is 99cents at Amazon, 99p at Amazon UK and $1.99 at Audible.

The storyline goes like this:

“Things are looking good for Aidy Westlake. He’s Pit Lane magazine’s Young Driver of the Year, which has earned him a drive in the European Saloon Car Championship. But his good fortune ends at a race car show when he discovers Jason Gates, a mechanic from a rival team, with his throat cut. The murder sets off a disturbing chain reaction – someone is breaking the rules in the ranks of saloon car racing, on and off the track.”

Now you’ve got no excuse to climb into the HOT SEAT!

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As I’ve mentioned before, I cycle instead of race now. I usually cycling alone, but I do ride with a small group of cycle chums on Thursday nights we resume our rides after the winter hiatus tomorrow.  The thought of this remindes me that, last year, one of our gang was killed on his bike during a training ride. My friend’s death took me back to my racing days. A couple of the drivers I knew died racing. Their deaths, like Paul’s last year, are a little hard to take. It’s easier to accept someone’s death when it due illness because illness is natural and something we don’t have a defense against. We never think the things we do for fun will kill us.

I’ll be honest it was a little weird going out on after Paul’s death, but it didn’t stop me. Naturally the question came up that maybe I should stop, especially after my crash the year before.  I’ve been told that I can’t afford another head injury. The question of stopping was a conversation I had with my mum when one of the drivers I knew was killed at a race. My mum wanted me to stop. I couldn’t then and I can’t now when it comes to my cycling. Racing like cycling is something that makes me happy and I can’t walk away from that regardless of the risks.

When Dan Wheldon died a couple of years ago, my writing and racing buddy, Rick Helms said, “Racing drivers have the most remarkable ability to—on one hand—place themselves into amazingly dangerous situations while—at the same time—engaging in complete denial that this could by their day. Not one driver in the race at Vegas today strapped into the car fearful for his or her life.” And Rick was right. I don’t know if you call it compartmentalization or passion trumping good sense or plain denial, but I never once strapped myself into a racecar fearing for my life and I feel no different riding on roads where careless drivers are in large numbers. I won’t say I’m not scared from time to time, but I’m more frightened of being frightened.

Occurrences like an untimely deaths acts as a reset. This incident has reminded me yet again that I’m mortal and I should be a little more careful and a little less reckless. An incident like this also reminds me to follow my passions and know that there’s a price that I and my loved ones will pay. This is true for racecar drivers, cyclists and all pursuits of the heart.

Yours at speed,
Simon

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