Thunder Road SpeedBowl
Local author Erik E. Esckilsen read and signed his third novel for young-adult readers, The Outside Groove (Houghton Mifflin, May 2006), on Wed., May 31, at Barnes & Noble, South Burlington, at 7 p.m. Nearly 50 people attended the event, which was free and open to the public, and marked the book’s official launch.[image4_right]

In writing The Outside Groove, the Burlington, Vermont, native Esckilsen conducted extensive research at Barre’s Thunder Road Int'l Speedbowl, where he interviewed race drivers and track officials and also drove a street-stock car on the high-banked,quarter-mile oval. “I realized, when I returned to the pits after my practice run, that some of the drivers had been watching me make my way around the track,” Esckilsen says. “I doubt anyone was impressed by my skills. Writing about racing is definitely more my speed.” In the book’s acknowledgments, the author credits, among other American-Canadian Tour (ACT) officials, Director of Racing Tom Curley and 2000 Late Model track champion Tracie Bellerose, who is credited with “inspiring” the novel.

Esckilsen’s first novel, The Last Mall Rat (Houghton Mifflin, 2003), draws on his experiences growing up in South Burlington and selling shoes at the University Mall. That book, now available in paperback, was an International Reading Association notable book ( Esckilsen’s second novel, Offsides (Houghton Mifflin, 2004), takes up the controversy over Native American mascots in a narrative about a Mohawk teenage soccer player who must make a difficult moral decision in choosing to play or not to play for a high school team (

“I find teen life inherently dramatic,” Esckilsen says, “and I’m drawn to the challenge of trying to communicate with a younger generation whose world is, in many ways, very different from the one in which I grew up. The more I write for teenagers, however, the more convinced I am that the primary job of the adolescent remains fundamentally unchanged from what it was in my own teen years—to somehow get through it.”

In addition to writing fiction, Esckilsen teaches writing at Champlain College. For more information on his work, visit or