Commencing with Route 66 Backroads, and continuing with Ghost Towns of Route 66 as well as The Route 66 Encyclopedia, the idea has been to craft a series of books that encourage exploration as well as add depth and context to the Route 66 experience. The next logical step in my quest to create a comprehensive series that covers every aspect of this iconic highways history and culture is the current project, a Route 66 historic atlas.
However, as with the encyclopedia and the highway itself, simple descriptors really won’t work with the atlas. Yes, it will be a welcome addition to the Route 66 enthusiasts reference library but it will also be a travel guide of sorts, especially for those fascinated about classic cinema locations or with a morbid curiosity about crime scene locations.
It was the former that really piqued my initial interest when the project was first proposed by the publisher. The latter, however, has left me with very mixed feelings.
Long ago Route 66 transcended its original purpose. It is now an odd blending of history, Disneyland, and romanticized images of a bygone era. However, at the core of the resurgent interest in this highway is fun, an escape from the mundane and the tragic that are a part of the fabric of daily life.
I do not want to taint or cast a pall over that experience. Nor do I want to reopen old wounds. Still, my goal with this book is to chronicle that highways history and that history includes bank robbery, theft, murder, serial killers, fraud, larceny, and other crimes.
From its very inception this dilemma has dogged me. Now, as the research is taking me into some very dark corners, it has become quite evident that maintaining a balance will be the true challenge in this project.
For the section on celebrity association, as well as movie, music video, and television locations the balance is relatively easy. Tragedy such as the death of comedian Ernie Kovacs on Santa Monica Boulevard adds a somber tone to that stretch of highway but knowing about the rich celebrity association with Barney’s Beanery or the Formosa Cafe provides a ray of sunshine.
How is that balance to be achieved in the chronicling of a serial killer who murdered an entire family and then dumped their bodies down a mine shaft near Joplin after carjacking their vehicle near Luther in Oklahoma? Is there any way to push aside the dark, heavy gloom in a tale of a man who found novel ways of killing his wives for insurance money?
From this perspective the Route 66 historic atlas is the most daunting project to date. However, it also has the potential to be one of the most rewarding as it will serve to fill a wide array of holes in the highways history.
Moving on to more cheerful topics, don’t forget that we currently have two of our most popular prints, neon nights and time capsule listed on Ebay. As ten percent from the proceeds of the sale are being donated to the ongoing Kingman mural project here is an opportunity to dress up the home or office, or dress up the home or office of a friend, and contribute to the beautification of the Route 66 corridor at the same time.
If you happen to be in the Burbank area on the afternoon or evening of April 6th, you might want to stop by Auto Books – Aero Books. The road trip day event is shaping up to be quite a fun filled evening.
For fans of Facebook, who also happen to be fans of the double six as well as the works of Jim Hinckley, I have an authors page. In addition to updates from the road and about my schedule, there are also daily photo posts and some lively discussion from folks who seem to have a very good memory.
To round out this posting, would you care to share your plans for a Route 66 adventure in 2013?