Two for the Road is a hangout for mystery writers Tammy Kaehler and Simon Wood to chat, reminisce, gossip, speculate and argue about all things motorsport.

Monday, March 31, 2014

So Long, Farewell

By Tammy and Simon

Almost three years ago—June 9, 2011, to be precise—Simon and I started blogging together about our love of cars and racing. Along the way, we’ve shared the good and the bad on the topic, as well as a few jokes.

But it’s time to hang up our virtual race shoes.

Neither one of us is going away, but we both need to streamline our online efforts a bit more—to make sure we have time for the important bit … writing those mysteries.

So while you won’t find us at Two for the Road anymore, you can find us in a wide variety of locations.

Simon (left): Facebook, Twitter, website, and blog.

As our swan song (back to those birds again), we’d like to thank everyone for playing along with us and talking racing.

If we don’t see you at Bouchercon 2014 (where Simon will be the Toastmaster and Tammy will act like she owns the place), we’ll see you at the track!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Car Crazy

By Simon

I got nostalgic the other week and chatted about my first car love, which was a 1983 Ford Fiesta XR2. That got me thinking about love for cars and when that love started. 
I know exactly when I got hooked on cars.  I was two years old and it was at a post natal or toddler daycare thing. 

I remember the place but not the reason why I went there.  I just remember my mum would take me to this clinic where there were a bunch of other kids with their mums.  There'd be play area and a nurse that would check the kids out from time to time.  Not sure of the point of this place but I didn’t mind going for one reason and one reason only—a toy ride-on red double-decker bus.  It was one of those plastic buses you sat on a pushed along with your feet.  As soon as I saw that thing, I had to ride on it—and I did—and it was awesome!  The wind was in my hair as I scooted along at what had to be 2mph.  Heady stuff, I can tell you.  Naturally, every time we came back to the clinic, I zeroed in on the red bus, even if I had to kick kids off.  That bus belonged to me and no one was taking it from me.  There’d be calls for me to share and to give the bus back but I would ignore everyone and continue to scoot along until forcibility taken down by my embarrassed mother.
At some point, we stopped going to this clinic place and I had to say goodbye to my double-decker but I got to say hello to my very first car—an orange beach buggy pedal car—which had one seat for me although I could squeeze in my teddy bear next to me.  I pedaled that thing all over until a sunlight/UV made it brittle and an impact with a brick wall ended our relationship.  Teddy and I were uninjured in case you were wondering.

A toy double-decker bus got me hooked on cars and speed—but what about you?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Covering Avoidable Contact

by Tammy

The cover is here! And it's gorgeous! How's this for evoking the mood of the 24 Hours of Daytona?

And to whet your appetites, here's the summary:

Racecar driver Kate Reilly is suited up and ready for the start of the legendary 24 Hours of Daytona. But what’s ahead will test her will and nerve more than any other endurance race.

Even before the green flag waves over Daytona International Speedway, Kate receives word her boyfriend Stuart is fighting for his life after a hit-and-run earlier in the day. Still reeling from that news, Kate must absorb other shocks in the race’s opening hours, including an on-track accident with tragic consequences and an eyewitness who claims Stuart was run down deliberately by someone from the race paddock.

Alternating stints behind the wheel of her Corvette racecar with stretches of quizzing colleagues and searching for clues, Kate taps every possible source—friend, foe, and family—to find out who’s after Stuart and why. As the race clock counts down to zero hour, Kate must come to terms with her own fears about the past and decide who she’s willing to trust. Only then can she identify who’s willing to kill to keep a secret buried—and stop them before they lash out again. 
Avoidable Contact will be released in August 2014. Pre-order on Amazon or Barnes & Noble (I know it's got the old title, we'll fix it).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Electric Avenue

By Simon
I have a confession to make—I’m thinking of getting an electric car.  Namely a Fiat 500e.

Yes, I know.  Just considering an electric car makes me a traitor to the internal combustion engine faith.  I don’t need your disapproving glares.  I feel the guilt without them.  Hey, at least I’m not thinking of going getting a hybrid.
So why?  Let me explain.  I live in the Bay Area where traffic is crappy pretty 24-7.  Most of my journeys are under 40miles.  An electric car means I can use the diamond lane at any time.  Julie has a crappy commute and she can shave quite a bit of time off getting to and from work and there’s a free charging station at her building.  From a practical standpoint, an electric car makes a lot of sense from what I need out of a day to day mode of transport.

Isn't logic a beautiful thing?
But I am not a logical person.  I am a human being, goddamn it.  I don’t want a mode of transport.  I want to be entertained when I get behind the wheel of a car and a fancy Fiat golf cart isn't going to cut it.  I need a car that looks good, sounds good and knows how to misbehave.   I need a gas-powered car.   I am just flawed that way.  Sorry environment. 
So what am I to do?

Have both.  No one says I have to pick a side.  Look, I can have the greatest car in the world but in commute traffic, it’s no fun at all.  I might as well be driving anything—even an electric car.  But an electric car is going to let me down when it comes to going long distances, for that I need a fun car (with a real engine).  So we’ll have two kinds of car.  One for when I need to get somewhere and one for when I just have to go somewhere.  J

Hey, at least I’ll be holding true to my code that I’ll never own a four-door car.  J


Monday, March 17, 2014

Rooting For or Against

by Tammy

During the Sebring 12-hour race on Saturday, a friend tweeted this: "I'm awful but there is one team I don't want to win their class." I tweeted back that she wasn't alone, and we agreed that it wasn't that we wished something terrible for anyone in particular, we just wished better for other teams.

Which started me thinking about being a fan of particular drivers or teams—and honestly, about hating others. I'm sure all race fans have some individuals/groups they love, dozens they're pretty neutral about, and some they dislike intensely.

My two questions:

  1. Do you dislike people because they're the antagonists of your favorites, or because of their own actions?
  2. How much do you dislike them? How much ill do you wish them?
My answers? 

I dislike for both reasons. I'll never forgive Risi Competizione (specifically Jaime Melo) for running Joerg Bergmeister into the wall at the end of Sebring 2007. Joerg, of course, is a good guy in my world (I've met him plenty over the years, as he partnered with my favorite driver, Pat Long; that's us in the photo). I dislike the Busch brothers in NASCAR for general douchebaggery. And I dislike a particular driver (and therefore team) in the United Sports Car Championship because he was a condescending asshole to me in person, when class and politeness would have cost him nothing.

It's the last guy who I dislike the most, and feel actual anger toward, but that's personal. Perhaps I could work up the desire to confront him and tell him off or to wish for his comeuppance. But violence against him is still hard to contemplate. The others? I just don't want them to win. That's about it. 

Where I'm going with this is that I know some drivers get angry emails from fans. Even death threats. And it's hard to understand how they can go that far. I set up a scenario in Braking Points where Kate hurt the most loved driver in the country and got death threats as a result ... which I initially thought was overdramatic and a stretch. Then I heard Danica gets death threats. And Dr. Panoz showed me one.

I suppose people in this world are always more crazy than we can imagine.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Traveling Without Moving

By Simon

With the Aidy Westlake books, I’ve tried to incorporate a lot my racing experiences into the books because they're interesting, funny, dangerous or scary. For HOT SEAT, I used played off something that was both dangerous and scary and used it as a significant element of the book.

Very few things scared me when I used to race. That wasn’t to say I was nervous, apprehensive and a tad shaky most of the time. But I can honestly say I was truly frightened to the point of fearing for my life only a handful of times. The absolute number one fear inducing occurrence was something I would have endure on a semi regular basis and it involved high speeds without moving. It meant putting my racecar on a rolling road.

If you're not sure what a rolling road is, it’s essentially a treadmill for cars. The car’s power wheels sit on a pair of rollers and they keep the car stationary while the car’s wheels are traveling at speed.

I would have to take my car to a rolling road to check the car performance or to examine a fault. The car would sit on the rolling roll while the car would be hooked up to all this diagnostic equipment. The place I used to visit looked like an ER for cars.

This all seems pretty innoxious until you have to put theory into practice. First there's an issue with the car’s weight and power. A normal car is heavy enough to remain seated on the rollers. That’s a different story when it comes to a single seater racecar. It doesn’t weigh a lot and it has relatively speaking a lot of power. So its light as feather status means the car will fly out of the rollers if the car isn't tied down. So to cure the problem, my car had to be held in place by fixing haulage straps to my car and to the steel structure of the building. So my car would be traveling at 100mph held in place with a pair of straps. I didn’t envy the idiot who be driving the car. Excuse me, that'll be who? Me? Why me? Don’t you have people for that? Really, I’m the one who fits in the car. Okay then. I’ll bloody do it then.

As they guy who ran the rolling road company said, “You won’t get me in one of those deathtraps.” So encouraging.

So I would have to get the car up to speeds of a 100mph. Before I even got anywhere close to those speeds, the car would be fighting against the straps, threatening to breaks its bonds and make a dash for it. Except there's nowhere for the car to run. I’m inside a building with a solid brick wall ten feet in front of me to cushion the impact should the car escape. I didn’t see the point of putting my safety harness on. If the car hit the wall at a 100mph, I’d be Simon-shaped puddle. Because a single seater racecar has no fan to cooler it, air blast fans were aimed at the car and me to cool it down, but I still managed to sweat like a whore in church despite the chill.

The car never broke free, but my imagination foresaw the carnage and played it to me every second I was at the wheel. I swear that damned brick wall used to grin at me. Who would have thought traveling without moving could be so scary.

I won’t tell you how I’ve used rolling roads in HOT SEAT. You'll have to read the book to find out. :-)

Monday, March 10, 2014


by Tammy

Something I've learned in life is that persistence will bring you success, no matter what. I've particularly found it to be true of writers trying to find publishing success—in my own case and for many others. This weekend proved it's true for NASCAR's favorite son also. Dale Jr. almost won at Las Vegas, finishing second after running out of gas on the last lap.

Junior made a comment (reported on Twitter and probably elsewhere) about everything the team has worked for paying off so far this year. So I'm stopping my Junior bashing for the week to give him kudos. I know it's only three races into the season, and I'm not tipping him to win the championship just yet, but so far, he's got a win (at the Daytona 500) and two seconds so far for Junior.

Persistence. Perseverance. Not giving up, no matter what.

We all face challenges that make us want to give up. My most recent one was struggling to finish my third book. Along the way, there are always the same moments: the panic of "I should just give up," the moments of realizing "that's so obvious, I should have fixed it" too late to do anything about it, and the daydreams of overnight bestseller status tempered by preparing for this to not have been my best literary effort.

I'm not fishing for compliments. I'm simply talking about the emotions of one persistent person when facing great odds. And yes, I suppose I'm comparing myself to Junior. A little. Me? I toil in greater obscurity than Junior does, obviously. But that means my lack of success (relative to authors who are household names or national bestsellers) isn't as public as his. He's been not quite achieving his dreams on a much bigger and more public stage.

But he's been persistent.

Time and time again, I've seen people who aren't the most talented, who aren't the most charismatic, who aren't the most connected, who still manage to find success. Great success, sometimes. Because they keep at it when others give up. So I'm sticking with this writing thing. I don't expect to quit my day job soon (maybe ever), but I do expect more readers and more success if I keep at it. Just like Junior.

How much do you accomplish just by sticking with it?

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fast And Dirty

By Simon

Did Not Finish is a book that is very close to my heart as it’s a mystery centering on the world of motorsport. Twenty years ago, I raced open-wheel cars motorsport in the UK.

In the book, a death threat is circulating around the pits. Derek Deacon says he’ll kill his championship rival, Alex Fanning, unless Alex throws the championship deciding race. Rookie driver, Adrian ‘Aidy’ Westlake, doesn’t put too much stock in the threat. He figures Derek is just playing mind games. That changes when Alex dies on the track after banging wheels with Derek. A cover-up ensues. The police wrap up their investigation without following up on the death threat, TV coverage omits the crash and the racing community seems happy to ignore what they heard. Aidy is the exception. He feels obligated to expose the truth and finds himself dragged into a much larger conspiracy.

A real incident is the basis for Did Not Finish. I was competing in a regional championship where a rumor was floating around the paddock that a driver threatened to kill the championship leader if he didn’t win and, just as in the book, that driver died in a crash during the race. At the time, I felt quite helpless. There is a world of difference between an idle threat and an actual murder. What made the situation even harder for me to accept was that minutes before the race started, the driver who died had shared something with me that he hadn’t even shared with his family. It’s a confidence I’ve kept for twenty years.

Did Not Finish is not an attempt to expose a crime or rewrite history but illustrate life in the fast lane. Motorsport is an expensive game. To compete, you need more than just a bat, a ball and a pair of sneakers. You need a small army. Even at a grass roots level, it costs tens of thousands each year to own, maintain and race at a competitive level. Because of that, the desire to win gets amped up and tensions run high. Competition brings out our best, but it can also bring out our worst, so dirty tricks aren’t out of the question.

Naturally, there’s rule bending in motor racing and I can’t say I didn’t pull some stunts to help me survive in the sport. Other people I knew took more drastic measures, especially when it came to money. Some people borrowed heavily, in some cases turning to loan sharks. Others got involved in a variety of criminal pursuits to make ends meet. They ranged from misdemeanors such as theft to major felonies such as drug trafficking. Some individuals felt they had to protect their interests and did so by intimidating others or flagrant cheating. Some of the stuff that occurred is enough to make your hair curl. And in most cases, all these acts boiled down to people doing anything to hang on to their dream and win. It’s a siren song that’s hard to ignore.

Dick Francis showed the dark side of the world of horseracing, I’m hoping to do the same through Aidy’s adventures. He lives in the shadow of his famous father, the late, great driver, Rob Westlake, who died along with Aidy’s mother in an auto wreck after securing a Formula One contract. Raised by his grandfather, Steve, himself a retired Grand Prix mechanic, Aidy is following in his father’s footsteps.

As the series develops and Aidy makes his rise through the world of motor racing, he’ll be drawn into the various issues affecting the sport. And as he does, he’ll learn one thing—in motorsport, murder will always happen breakneck speed.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Around the Racing World

by Tammy

I'll be honest. The races I followed the most closely this weekend were the Oscars. But that didn't mean there's not some interesting news brewing in the racing world....

  • In NASCAR: Kevin Harvick might have won at Phoenix, but Junior took second. Who's thinking Junior for the championship already?
  • In sportscars: Level 5 (the team that won, but then was penalized off the podium, but then was reinstated for the win at the 24 Hours of Daytona) has pulled out of the United Sports Car Championship. The nice way to put it is they want to give the series time to establish itself. I can't help but wonder if they're still mad and/or realizing they're little fish in a big pond now.
  • In Formula 1, can it be true? Might Red Bull NOT be the dominant force this year? I'll believe it when I see it....
  • What? F1 wants to come back to Long Beach?! Bring it on!
  • Finally, the news is the disturbing lack of news on Schumi. The void of silence on his condition has many of us thinking the worst. Make sure you're following Former F1 Doc Gary Hartstein for interesting analysis of what little information is coming out.
Any recent news I'm forgetting? Who's excited for Sebring??