False Starts #1: Burt Reynolds introduces The Cannonball Run novelization

False Starts is devoted to sharing never before seen introductions to books that may or may not have existed. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have Sarah Palin introduce a Shirley Jackson story collection? Or Richard Simmons introduce Cormac McCarthy’s The Road? Or Hunter S. Thompson introduce Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution? Or a college student who just read Ayn Rand for the first time introducing Fountainhead? Hopefully we’ll be able to answer these questions and more in the coming months.




Burt Reynolds introduces the 30th Anniversary Edition of

The Cannonball Run novelization by Alan Dean Foster.


I was extremely honored to be asked to write this introduction. The first edition paperback of Alan Dean Foster’s novelization of The Cannonball Run is the most cherished part of my library. I have wonderful memories of reading selected chapters to my son for bedtime. Alan’s writing beautifully captured the thrill of the race, the intense drama of the competition, and the amazing complexity of my character J.J. McClure. Even now I can open the book to a random page and immediately get goose bumps, which is testament to the high quality of Alan’s writing considering how incredibly tight the skin on my body is.

I’m told Alan wrote this book off the script written by some guy named Brock Yates. This is interesting to me because we never saw a script during filming. When you’re working with amazing talent like Roger [Moore], Farrah [Fawcett], Jamie [Farr] and especially my dear friend Dom [DeLuise], a script is the last thing you want. It just gets in the way of the magic of moviemaking. I always assumed Alan wrote the book by watching the movie a few times and picking up on all the deliberate acting choices we made in order to fill in the back story.

My favorite part in this book is the expanded origin sequence of Captain Chaos. Dom was always proud of his creation, and being the method actor he was, he would sometimes wear the Captain Chaos costume for weeks on end. I always loved the subtle inflection in his voice to properly convey the suffering and pathos of the man behind the mask. This was a man clearly tortured by a past tragedy and Dom pulled it off beautifully.

The only mistake Alan made in this book is not adapting the bloopers from the end credit sequence. To me, any attempt to translate The Cannonball Run to another medium without the bloopers would be like making out with yours truly without my patented moustache. As many of you know, I invented the movie blooper in Smokey and the Bandit, but Dom and me perfected it in The Cannonball Run. We were so proud of what we did, we asked Hal [Needham] to put them at the end of the movie. We figured since the movie was only 70 minutes long, this would help the movie cross the 90 minute finish line. The bloopers were a big hit, which is why when we made Cannonball Run 2, me and Dom were determined to screw up as much as possible. One thing that sticks to my craw though is that Jackie Chan fellow. As you know, he was the Japanese or something like that actor in the movie. I learned later that he stole the blooper idea and put it in his movies over there in India or whatever.

While I’ve done a lot of movies in my life, I’m most proud of The Cannonball Run. I can only hope that this 30th anniversary reissue of Alan’s incredible novelization will remind people how timeless this story is and allow those of us who are still alive to complete the trilogy (I refuse to acknowledge Speed Zone!, the so-called third movie, and by my acknowledging it here is my way of expressing my lack of acknowledging it in real life). The fact that the Academy completely ignored The Cannonball Run still infuriates me to no end. It makes me want to spit out my chewing gum just thinking about it right now. But just knowing that such an esteemed and cherished writer like Alan turned our little movie into a work of literature that rivals American classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and Twilight feels like validation for all the hard work we did decades ago.

For the kids at home who have been forced to read this book for your English class, let me help to break down the story’s intricate symbolism:

  • J.J. McClure and Victor Prinzim represent the very best of America.
  • Jamie Blake and Morris Fenderbaum represent the Catholic Church.
  • Jill Rivers and Marcie Thatcher represent breasts.
  • The lazy eye of Doctor Nikolas Van Helsing represents an omniscient God.
  • The Sheikh represents America’s dependence on foreign oil and/or the filthy foreigner.
  • Terry Bradshaw represents the asshole who still owes me $500.

That’s all I can remember from the term paper I wrote for my son when he was in school. As you can see, The Cannonball Run is more relevant than ever before in this post-Evening Shade century.

I’m excited that the 30th Anniversary Edition of the The Cannonball Run novelization will have the opportunity to be discovered by a new generation of readers. I personally can’t wait to re-read the book. I honestly haven’t been this excited about reading since I received the script to Cop and a Half 2: Whole Justice.

-Written by Christian A. Dumais

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