I have never been more excited to read a book than I was after finding out that there was a reprint edition of Timber On The Moon available for purchase on Amazon for less than $10. Gearhead bookworms like me likely already know why. When this book was originally published it was sold in very limited quantities so original copies regularly sell for $350-$400. Maybe it was for that reason that I assumed I was essentially getting a gold bar for the price of a tin cup. The problem with assuming things is that you are bound to be let down and to be frank, if I had paid $400 for this book, I’d probably have constructed a time machine so I could find the good Dr. Morris and demand my money back. Now, for $10.00? It was good, if not slightly disappointing fun. Here’s the problem. Dr. Morris was so absolutely head over heels for Turner that everything, EVERYTHING in the book is spun in a positive sense. Turner writing checks that he knowingly could not afford to write? That was just a display of his great nature and drive to succeed! All the women outside of the wives he had? Those were some lonely dames and well, what’s a guy supposed to do, right?
In an unwitting sense, Dr. Morris paints an uglier picture of Turner by trying to give everything a positive spin than he would have being bluntly honest. I have never read a biographical book where the author was deeper in the tank for their subject than Dr. Morris was when spending his time with Turner. Now that does not mean that Dr. Morris was a bad guy. In fact, Morris was probably the most positive influence Turner had around him at any given time. He didn’t smoke or drink, do drugs, or get involved with any of the female runoff that Turner inevitably had running around. He had the most clear picture of Turner’s wild life than anyone else. Hell, Morris remembered more about Turner’s life than Turner did, I am sure.
I’m not completely panning the book because there are some fantastic sections among the love-fest. While obviously skewed in the Turner direction, the stories of the disaster that was the initial construction and financing of the Charlotte Motor Speedway, Turner’s advocacy of a union in NASCAR, his being thrown out of the sport by Bill France, and his triumphant return are fantastic and told in a way that you can’t help but be enthralled by. The story of Darlington and how important that track was for NASCAR’s history is also awesome. Turner was a dominant racer there and the stories of his success are many.
Other parts of the book that were stunning included Turner’s bold but failed attempt to essentially become the Elon Musk of the 1950s/1960s by buying a rocket system that was developed and then abandoned by the government. Turner foresaw an era where private business would want to launch satellites and he thought he could get in on that. If you can believe it, he managed to take the deal all the way to the “pay us and it is yours” stage before it collapsed. There was lots of that in Turner’s life it seemed. Money in huge sums came and went. He was rich and broke in manic swings. His finances were lots like his personality it seems.
I was hoping that this book would really capture the crazed and legendary lifestyle that Turner lived. While Dr. Morris tried like hell to white wash the whole thing, Turner’s off-the-wall approach at all things can’t be erased and anyone with a sense of time and place can figure out that there were plenty of crazy days and nights, weeks and months in the man’s life. This is not a gritty tell all. It is not a detailed documentation of Turner’s vast array of racing successes. It is not even really a biography. This is a book written by a guy so smitten to be both the biggest fan and best friend of his hero that he almost can’t help himself at times. We bet Turner never even read it.
Buy the Book? Only if you can laugh at it AND with it at different times.