Book Review: “Blood on the Wall”, by Deke Houlgate

A new novel, sporting the rather ominous title; “Blood on the Wall”, by Deke Houlgate, is now available. The story is centered around a California sports writer assigned to cover the Indianapolis 500 in the early ’70’s.

Houlgate is certainly in a position to know his subject matter well. The author was, like the book’s lead character, a Los Angeles newspaper man. He was also a well known racing “insider”, serving as Pennzoil’s press agent for many years. Three-time Indy winner Johnny Rutherford knew Houlgate well, saying,” Deke was never shy about creating press opportunities for me and the Pennzoil team. But I never imagined that he could be as creative as he has been with “Blood on the Wall”.

The central character is LA sportswriter Jack Allen, who Houlgate crafts into a combination of Clark Kent and James Bond. While on assignment in Indianapolis to cover the big race for his hometown paper, Allen encounters beautiful, available women, extreme racial prejudice, riotous race fans, “backward” Hoosiers apparently stuck in the previous century and a few suspicious mysteries surrounding the race itself.

The title, “Blood on the Wall”, refers to a fatal Speedway accident during 500 practice, that is apparently based on Jim Malloy’s actual 1972 crash. Houlgate, who may be in possession of inside information, puts an intriguing spin on this bit of history. Truth or fiction? You decide

The story seems quite heavy-handed with regard to racism. The author apparently feels the need to portray the Hoosier capitol and it’s people, circa 1972, as extreme racists with still-strong ties to the Klu Klux Klan. But, again, we must remember that this is a work of fiction (?)

This is Deke Houlgate’s first attempt at a novel, and it’s well not bad. The book does give some interesting behind-the-scenes glimpses into the inner workings of the Speedway media corps in an era when women were just beginning to gain admittance. The book is definitely a “period piece”, and must be viewed as such. Basically, it offers one man’s recollection of life as a media representative during the Month of May at the Speedway in the ’70’s.

Is it worth reading” Probably. Is it worth buying?

I’d borrow a copy and read it first

“Blood on the Wall” (paperback) by Deke Houlgate
$12.95: available from

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