Bill Bryson has delighted his readers for over a decade with his laugh-filled travel adventures. The book that quite literally set his feet on the bestseller trail was A WALK IN THE WOODS, his frolicsome and misguided adventures on the Appalachian Trail with his dysfunctional high school buddy, Stephen Katz. In THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE THUNDERBOLT KID, we learn a great deal more about Bill and his friends and how he started his worldwide meanderings.
Bryson was the son of a sports reporter father, Bill Bryson, Sr., and women's page columnist Mary Bryson, who wrote for the Des Moines Register. They were a bit eccentric, according to their author son, and while they loved their children, they seemed a bit distracted in their parenthood role. Thus, Bill and his siblings more or less raised themselves, with Bill attending (or more frequently not attending) Des Moines' finest public schools in its wealthiest neighborhood, the famed South of Grand. Drugs of choice were cigarettes and purloined beer. Accidental arson and occasional alcohol heists were the most grievous crimes. It was still safe for boys to deliver newspapers at dusk and walk alone through the woods without fear.
THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE THUNDERBOLT KID is more than a collection of tales of a misspent youth, or a nostalgic reminiscence of halcyon times gone by. Bryson has conducted considerable historic mining of the last most peaceful time in America, a time of enormous irony. We were experiencing the greatest technological lifestyle boom in American history, while at the same time worrying that we'd be vaporized by global atomic annihilation. We rejoiced at the vanquishing of the arch enemies of Nazism and Fascism, but were peeking under every bed to find hidden communists in our midst. Joe McCarthy held us in thrall on tiny-screened televisions as he investigated Hollywood for pinko commies, while hours of innocent entertainment in the greatest era in Hollywood musicals pla