As an old Route 66 buff, and hailing from the base of 66 in Chicago, I'll admit to being a bit partisan here. But, to clear the air, I have never been a member of or involved with any Route 66 group, assn, etc, anywhere. So, I'm doing this review just as a fan of the book.
Tom Teague, the author, wrote this book pretty much on his own time, taking leave from his job. So, for me, the book comes from the heart, and not as an attempt to forge a career hawking Route 66, as some of the more famous Route book authors are doing. Teague's POV here is bring the reader in touch with people who are connected to Route 66 in some tangible way. And he does this by interviewing people whose life had some very direct connection to the Route's history, development or circumstance.
Teague looks at, for example, such flyover 66 towns as East St. Louis, Il and Times Beach, MO. Neither are mentioned in other 66 books because they show us real life stories. As do nearly all of his interviews. His interviews with Will Rogers Jr. and Bobby Trump, give you an indept view of what 66 meant to them. And, more important, the real history of it.
I'll admit I'm picking on Michael Wallis, who has made a career of his Route 66 book. Wallis is a main fixture on the Rubber Chicken Circuit, giving such things as 'Key Note Addresses' to Route 66 groups. And by hawking his wares to movies like 'Cars'. A strong storyteller, you can bet that Wallis' macro approach to Route 66 pales in the knowledge Teague had of Route 66, and the hard work that went into making it what it is today. Teague didn't make a dime on his book, as evidenced by it being out of publication. Wallis keeps pulling in the bucks, although he'd have to concede that Teaque had much more indept knowledge of Route 66 than he ever has.
Teaque passed away suddenly a few years ago. So, we won't be able to read anymore of his work. That's a shame. Now, we're stuck with Route 66 books that focus on what you could call the 'Wallis Model', where it's so much about the business of Route 66. Wallis is a God to today's Route 66 masses, people who spend a great deal of their life trying to turn a profit from hawking the Road. If you don't believe me, try going on Route 66 chat rooms and bring up points like that. You'll see just how much today's Route 66 folks are much like the business pimps who tried to fleece dough from drivers back in the Route's heyday. What we forget is what Teague focused on, the real, personal stories of people on the Route. To me, the Route is a piece of American history, and an icon. It shouldn't be a medium for business.
Every Route 66 fan should read this book, if for nothing else a bit of perspective on the road. Without Teague, your left with nothing more than a collection of stories and travel guides. Teague's book is real.