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Wednesday, December 1,2010

Keep on truckin'

'Ice Road' star slides into the book world

by Bill Castanier

Alex Debogorski, author of “King of the Road” and star of the History Channel’s “Ice Road Truckers,” hopes to ward off an icy reception while promoting his new book.


Debogorski and his crew are on a nationwide tour with his ice rig. They’ll stop off at the Okemos Schuler Books & Music Saturday. Debogorski’s ice truck will be parked at Meridian Mall for the signing. It’s a 93-foot -long tractor trailer, weighing in at 70,000 pounds — and it will be stuffed with give-away goodies.


Debogorski and his crew were unavailable for comment.


”Ice Road Truckers” is one of the scores of successful reality TV programs, and a recent article in The Wall Street Journal provided insight into why this niche is doing so well: lots of testosterone and what the writer called “a formula that celebrates gritty, blue-collar jobs.”


TV viewers have seen everything from swamp loggers to oil workers to chopper pilots to pawn shop owners — and let’s not forget the soon-to-premiere series spotlighting the lives of amateur gold diggers.


All this is happening as a result of the cable channels’ efforts to pull in male viewers who don’t tune in for “Dancing With the Stars.” Although we’ve yet to see shows built around telephone lineman or help-desk workers, everything else seems to be fair game.


In his debut book, Debogorski tells tales of his 25 years hauling cargo across the frozen lakes of the Northwest Territory to the most remote places on earth. As the dust jacket cover says, “The true tales of this larger-than-life ice road trucker are not to be missed.”


The chapter titles are certainly titillating. How about “A Driven Man” (no pun intended) or “Life is a Cabaret”?


I flipped right to that one to discover that it details Debogorski’s stint as a bouncer in an outpost bar in Yellowknife. Not only does he recall his bouncing days, but he provides some lessons for other testosterone-driven guys in a bar fight. First, take some training, learn how to be on target with your fist or foot and, finally, “avoid fighting if you can.”


From there the book really takes off, as Debogorski enters what he calls the “the kingdom of ice.” And that’s about as good as it gets as the author describes only a few of the white-knuckle trips he made during three seasons of “Ice Road Truckers.”


“King of the Road” loses some of the drama of the cable version, but one of the highlights is an eight-page photo album stuck in the center of the book. One picture shows a young Alex sitting in a hospital bed, recovering from a broken leg, the cutline explains, “after a truck accident driving with dad.”


One of the driving factors of the tough-guy documentaries is their low cost. According to the Journal article, a single episode of “Pawn Stars” might run $30,000, while an episode of “Dancing with the Stars” costs $185,000. This is cheap TV, and “Ice Road Truckers” can draw nearly 3 million viewers per installment, not a bad return on investment. Detroit has even been able to weigh in with “Hardcore Pawn.”


Who knows? Next up may be “Used Book Store Owner.”


Alex Debogorski



2 p.m., Friday, Dec. 3
Schuler Books & Music
1982 Grand River Ave., Okemos
(517) 349-8840
www.schulerbooks.com

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