Mickey Thompson: The Fast Life and Tragic Death of a Racing Legend

"Mickey Thompson - The Fast Life and Tragic Death of a Racing Legend" by Erik Arneson, published by MBI and Motorbooks
This was a book just begging to be written since that awful day in 1988 when Mickey and his wife Trudy were, as the Los Angeles County Sheriff put it, "assassinated" in their driveway by thugs hired by a former business partner. That "partner" is now serving two life sentences in a California state prison; the actual hired shooters were never found.
Thompson defined and often dominated American motorsports from the '50s through the '80s; he operated the first professional ¼-mile drag strip in America, Lions Associated Drag Strip in Los Angeles' harbor area, set more land speed records than anyone else at the Bonneville Salt Flats, was so innovative at developing cars for the Indy 500 that many oldtimers shunned his efforts and, finally, brought the excitement of Baja-style off-road racing to major stadiums across the country.

My connection? I knew Thompson well and worked for him between 1978 and 1980, during the time he staged the first major off-road race in the middle of an American city: 1979's Off-Road Championship Grand Prix in the Los Angeles Coliseum. I know the title well because I actually named the event in an office contest --- and got a $1,000 bonus from Mickey (or MT, as we all called him) for coming up with it ... big money for a 25-year old kid back then!
His natural enthusiasm, non-stop energy, impressive promotional abilities and some outrageous personal habits (such as setting his plane on 'autopilot' so he could take a nap, or eating his steak with an ice cream desert on the same plate) are all well-documented.
MT's dad was a big, tough Irish cop in southern California, where MT was born and raised and lived his life, and the kids in that family learned that running home to avoid a fight was much, much worse than actually getting your ass kicked by some bully.
But MT was also a warm and caring person ... something folks who didn't know him well would never guess. Under the obvious gruffness and the anger which would often result in a fistfight between Mick and his latest enemy-of-the-moment, Thompson was a loyal friend, loving husband, son, father and grandfather and would hire people for more money than they ever made after talking with them for five minutes. He was a good boss, too.