Earl Swift is the author of “Auto Biography: A Classic Car, An Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream.” The book tells the life story of a 1957 Chevy that, at the beginning of the book, is falling apart.
Swift profiles the car’s thirteenth owner, Tommy Arney, who has led an extraordinary life, one that started with a brutal childhood, proceeded into a life of crime and ended up as a somewhat successful and controversial businessman. Arney sets out on a quest to restore the car to its former glory, and Swift is there for all of it. Through that narrative, Swift manages to also tell the stories of every single person who had ever owned the car. In the process, he captures America’s strange and abiding relationship with the automobile.
This is Swift’s fifth book. Since 2012, he’s been a residential fellow of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities at the University of Virginia. Before that, he was a newspaper reporter for the Virginian-Pilot, where he was nominated five times for a Pulitzer Prize.