Monday, July 17, 2017

The Dukes Of Hazzard: Gone Racin' - A Book Report

Did you know there was an official story of how Bo and Luke went to NASCAR and were replaced on the farm by Coy and Vance?

No, not the story of how John and Tom left the show and were replaced by Byron and Chris, but an actual "in cannon" story of the events that lead to Bo and Luke leaving Hazzard to chase their stock car racing dreams and how Coy and Vance ended up back in Hazzard!

The Dukes of Hazzard: Gone Racin' by Eric Alter is a novel that was released in 1982.  It is a collectible that's a little on the rare side but I've had it in my collection for quite some time.  I have both the standard American version and the British version.  Both of them are in excellent condition and I never really wanted to read them because it would crease the spine of the paperback.

The front of both editions have similar artwork that is used on a number of different items but most noticeably used on the album cover and the shoe box.  The American version has been photoshopped in a weird manner that cuts away the top of the General Lee to show the bottoms of the characters.

The British version doesn't have this oddity on it.

Each version has a different familar Dukes of Hazzard logo on top.  The backs of each version are more different than the front.  The American version has more artwork that includes another picture of the Gen'ral, the police car, and the Jeep.  Also included are actual pictures, not artwork, of Coy and Vance looking quite out of place (don't they always look out of place?)  The British version just has text.  The blurbs on the back of each are similar, but have a few differences.  The British version refers to our favorite car as only "The General." It also separates the third paragraph and for some reason has it in a different color than the rest.  The American version has everything in one paragraph.

Originally I thought that the only reason the other cousins, Coy and Vance, were added to the back cover were because this book came out in '82, during John and Tom's strike, but had already been written with Bo and Luke as the stars.  I thought they included Coy and Vance just because they would be on TV when it was released.  I was wrong.  This book actually tells the tale of Bo and Luke leaving Hazzard!  I was blown away by this story.  It really was surprising.

A few years ago, I bought a copy of the book in rough condition and more or less forgot about it.  Recently I have been organizing everything and adding items to the new collection database and got the three different copies of the book together.  I decided that it was time to finally read the only official Dukes novel so I took the beat up copy with me to the beach and read it as I sat in the sand before playing volleyball every day.  I really expected this book to be on the same level as today's "young adult" books:  geared toward young readers and pretty basic.  I was really surprised that the book was well done and had a story that really kept me involved.  Ok, I would be excited about any Dukes story, but it is definitely on a much higher level than the read along stories that came with record and tapes that were geared toward elementary students.

Right off the bat, you recognize that the narrator is not the balladeer from the show.  There is a narrator, but he just doesn't have the same feel for the story as Waylon.  It is obvious that the author didn't try to replicate Waylon's style and that is appreciated.  The book does start off like a typical episode, but the narrator goes into a little more detail introducing the reader to Hazzard County and the characters.  The book is meant to be read by fans of the show, but could also be enjoyed by folks who never saw an episode.  At the beginning, Bo and Luke are flying through Hazzard in the General Lee, whose "engine sounds like a herd of angry buffalo."  There are a lot of phrases like this throughout the book.  The Dukes have an impromptu race with a blue sedan and both cars get chased by Rosco.  The Duke Boys out-drive the out-of-towner and Rosco ends up in the pond.  Typical Dukes stuff that we love.  That is followed by a scheme by Boss Hogg to swindle the Duke Farm away from the Dukes, nothing new here.  One addition from the beginning of the book that I loved was the introduction of Barnard Pugh, from "the County Land Assessors Office" that was sent by Boss Hogg to estimate what the foreclose auction would bring.  A Real Estate Appraiser!  In Hazzard County!  Just like me!!  Boss's latest scheme involved phony back taxes and making the Dukes come up with $10,000 or he would foreclose on the farm so he could build "Hoggland, a year-round resort for vice and corruption."  Nothing too far from the TV show yet.

A little more backstory is given to some characters than we ever see in the show.  The story of Uncle Jesse being the best moonshiner around is told.  It goes into detail about the government taxing liquor and moonshiners evading the taxes.  It tells about Jesse running from the Revenuers and being the best at it.  It also mentions that Bo came to live with Jesse first as a teenager followed by Luke, then Daisy.  And then about Jesse letting the boys go on one moonshine run and how hey got caught their first time.  It then tells about the deal Jesse made with the government to keep the boys out of prison and on probation.  All of that is from the first four pages of chapter two.  It is also mentioned that Bo and Luke are both 21 years old.  Their age is never mentioned on the show.

After the introductions, the book really sways away from a standard episode.  The driver of the blue sedan from the beginning turns out to be stock car world champion Fireball Watson.  A detailed story about how moonshiners evading revenuers lead to the creation of stock car racing is included.  The Duke Boys impressed Champion Fireball Watson with their driving skills and he says if he can ever help them out, to look him up.  They then see an article that says the winner of the Daytona 500 could take home $100,000.  After that the Dukes enter the General Lee in to the Daytona 500.  Yup.  The story is only a little over the top.  Well, I guess a little more than a little.  Bo, Luke, Daisy, Uncle Jesse, and Cooter form the Dukes Family Racing Team and travel to Florida.  Boss Hogg can't let the the Dukes win the big race so he employs a new patrol car for Rosco to chase the General Lee in.  The new car has a name, the Exterminator, and is described as the fastest, most powerful patrol car available.  The make or model of the car is never detailed nor is any information given about the appearance of the car, but I sort of pictured it as being similar to the Johnny Lightning Hazzard County Patrol Car Zinger.

The Exterminator is a fun new addition and plays in to the story a lot throughout the book.

The Dukes get into several adventures on the way to Florida including driving an accident victim to the hospital in the General and getting a police escort over the state line.  Boss, Rosco, and Cletus also travel to Florida and there are scenes similar to the the (later) final season episode "The Dukes in Hollywood" that are fish out of water scenarios that include Boss Hogg living it up in a luxury hotel.   When the Dukes finally make it to the Sunshine State they see the ocean for the first time and camp out on the beach.

Along their adventure the cousins each find love interests, Bo and Luke meet twins Tonya and Tamara, daughters of Fireball Watson and Daisy falls for Houston Crawford II, the son of the biggest race promoter in NASCAR.  One aspect of the story that stuck out to me was Luke seemed to be more impulsive than Bo and Bo was more level headed and is the cousin to get the family out of a jam.  The author sort of switched those role between the cousins.  There was also one instance in the book that said "Bo and Duke..." which is an error that always bugged me when it would show up in articles and advertisements.

The General doesn't jump that often in the story, but there is a big one in the book.  During a police chase where the entire Daytona police force, and the Exterminator are chasing the Duke Boys they take the Gen'ral off the pier and jump him into the ocean.  Yeah I guess the book is a little too over the top. The General Lee was going so fast before the jump that it skips across the water and the boys are able to stop on the beach and hide out under the pier to escape.  The big climax involves the General Lee racing in the Daytona 500 and Rosco, in the Exterminator, actually chases them around the track.

While reading the book, sitting on the beach, I commented to Natalie that they could actually tie this in to the TV story line and leave Bo and Luke on the NASCAR circuit and bring in Coy and Vance.  I was still under the impression that this book was planned before John and Tom left and it coincidentally had an over the top story about Bo and Luke chasing their dream to race on the NASCAR circuit.  After the story was resolved in the book, the NASCAR promoters offered Bo and Luke positions as drivers and they declined because they had responsibilities on the farm.  Then Uncle Jesse told them that they should follow their dreams and don't worry about the working on the farm because he just received a letter from his other nephews who are "tired of wandering all over the world" and want to come back to Hazzard County.  I was stunned.  When was this book written??  Was this ending added to accommodate for the departure of Bo and Luke?  I'm left with answers to so many questions.  I've been pretty deep inside the Dukes of Hazzard world for quite a while and I've never known there was an official story that took place between seasons 4 and 5.  I'm really surprised that I've never talked to another Dukes fanatic about this book.

One issue that I had with the book is a coin flip between Bo and Luke to decide who drives the Gen'ral in the Daytona 500.  They flipped a coin a few times before in the story and it was established that this was a normal occurrence.  The final flip is the big one.  Bo flips the coin and and doesn't show it.  Luke called tails and Bo peeked under his hand.  It was tails but Bo told Luke it was heads.  Bo lied to Luke and took the wheel of the General Lee.  The entire time I was reading the rest of the book I thought that lie was going to come back somehow, but it never did.  It was often expressed how much the family meant to each other and how the Dukes don't lie and right before the big finish, Bo lied to Luke.  I've always been a "Bo guy" so it upset me that his character was smeared a little.  I'm not sure why the author included that part and never revisited it.  Odd.

In the end, the story flowed right into the first episode of season 5.  Again, I am shocked that I never knew much about this book.  If you have one in you collection, give it a read.  I left a lot of details out of this book report and hopefully didn't spoil it for anyone who actually plans on reading it.  There are a few pages of pictures in the middle of the book and I included them below,  nothing that has to do with the story and nothing we haven't seen before.  The Dukes of Hazzard: Gone Racin' is a surprising and fun book, a great addition to the collection, and an important part of the Dukes of Hazzard legend that I never knew existed.

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