MO Book Review: The Bad Editor – Collected Columns and Untold Tales of Bad Behavior

Advertisement

Let’s face it, motojournalism isn’t really a profession for overachievers, is it? Some of us like to kid ourselves that it once required a certain amount of writing skill, but rereading some of the things I wrote 20 years ago puts that argument to rest. Then too, it’s mostly moot, since most of the moto enthusiasts consuming our content today wouldn’t know a dangling modifier from an Oxford comma, or care. Neither do I, come to think of it. Is there a video? We only want to know how many ride modes there are, if there’s cruise control, and what time is happy hour? All to say, the journalists in motojournalism aren’t often at the sharp end of the literary, or the journalistic spear; The Bad Editor is here to offer a bit of inside postmortem regarding our motojournalistic malpractice.

It could be that our attention spans have all been ground down to nubs by the www, but in the pre-internet days, there were some writers in the big monthly print magazines whose words you couldn’t wait to sit down under a good light to read. Peter Jones was never one of them. I kid!

But he was pretty good. Pretty, pretty good, and still is. The Kevin Camerons and Peter Egans are the gold standard, and both of those guys’ collected columns – Top Dead Center (1 and 2), and Leanings (at least 1 and 2), are on many motorhead bookshelves and deservedly so. Why shouldn’t Peter Jones collect all his columns into a volume, too?

The Bad Editor contains 30 collected columns and 19 new tales of bad behavior. The columns first appeared in SportRider magazine, American Roadracing magazine, Motorcycle Street & Strip, Speed.com, and Motorcyclist.

“The 19 Untold Tales of Bad Behavior,” according to the publisher, “are original to this book, written to be revealing irreverent entertainment for motorcycle enthusiasts. No names are mentioned, brands identified, or world problems solved. These Untold Tales are written as fun inside stories of bad behavior by the author, his cohorts, his enemies, and, yes, some corporations.”

25 Years Ago…

The 30 columns begin in October, 1996, when Peter came to work at Sport Rider, in the wake of the Nick Ienatsch pogrom. A man of high ethical standards, as he describes himself in at least one essay, I recall PJ departing after two years largely because of a special poly-bagged newsstand edition of the magazine which contained a free “how-to-tune-your-suspension” insert or something similar. Peter pointed out to the publisher that the insert wasn’t free at all, since the price of that month’s Sport Rider was $1 more than usual. The publisher countered that the SR did happen to be $1 more that month, but that the insert itself was still

Advertisement
free. PJ must’ve had another job lined up anyway, because he then bounced to American Roadracing, where he learned even more about creative business practices in the publishing world. (Did I mention that the now infamous David Pecker was a Cycle World bigwig in that era?) Then on to Motorcycle Street & Strip until 2002, where this volume’s columns end.

I know these things because I was working on the same 17th floor of the Petersen Publishing building, corner of Wilshire and La Cienega in Los Angeles, for Motorcyclist. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it all unfold every day as a bunch of over-stimulated delinquents and budding con artists attempted to outdo each other in adult roles all up and down 19 floors of magazine publishing. Most of us tried to behave professionally in an environment that really was a lot like Christmas every day. But before the internet, we had a lot of time on our hands between monthly issues. What’s that they say about idle hands being the devil’s workshop?

I gave Peter’s rep quite a boost when he first came to LA. One night PJ dropped by my house for cocktails. After several, I tripped over a plastic dinosaur in the backyard, fell in the garden and bashed my head on a concrete fish. Monday at work, I had a nasty wound over my purple eye. Everybody wanted to know what had happened. I only told, quietly, a select few people: “I said the wrong thing and Jones punched me out. Be careful around that guy…”

I saw Jones stab a huge sword through his own head once…

What book? Oh, yeah, The Bad Editor. The columns are a lot of fun to go back and read – quick takes from wherever Peter’s fertile and slightly off-center imagination might take him vis a vis motorcycles, roadracing, g-forces, and the world at large. Though they’re 20 years old, most of these essays hold up very well, since the nature of the motorcyclist hasn’t changed even if the motorcycles have. And they’re only around 1000 words long, so… another bus will be along shortly if you miss this one.

19 Tales of Bad Behavior

It’s the 19 Tales of Bad Behavior I was more interested in, because some of them seem eerily familiar. As a result, I had to research the veracity of certain accounts. In “You’ll Never Work in This Industry Again,” I was shocked to learn that a guy who sounds just like me had been canned from a prestigious glossy magazine for unprofessional behavior at a Las Vegas press introduction, after the host manufacturer complained to his boss. So, I phoned up the guy who’d fired me 20 years ago to compare notes.

He reassured me that I was fired because I was six months into a 1-year drivers’ license suspension, and for being in general a PITA employee who was creating a toxic work environment. OK, then. That’s better. He refreshed me that we’d

Advertisement
also discussed a similar manufacturer complaint about my behavior in Vegas, and he’d dismissed it as lame. And he even admitted to contributing his share of toxicity to the workplace. So that was nice. I wanted to throw in he’d contributed 80% of it at least, but I bit my tongue. Sleeping dogs and all that…

Jones on assignment in Kyoto with Adam Waheed, circa 2018. Luckily, phones with cameras did not exist for most of the era the book covers.

“The Morning After” describes debauchery that took place one night on a docked cabin cruiser, when a journalist was pushed overboard by a manufacturer’s rep and injured. That couldn’t have been me either, since my boat was a Uniflite sport sedan. And the journalist who fell off it and cracked some ribs on the dock did so only after he’d been trying to dislodge a manufacturer’s rep from his spot on the bridge, and was skillfully repelled from boarding. It was a bad night for that guy. As he was driving home, his story was that he swerved while reaching for pain pills on the passenger floorboard, and that’s when the officer stopped him. A night in jail with cracked ribs was not pleasant, but at least it was a nice Orange County jail. We should’ve taken his keys, but it was the ‘90s. Who knew?

In another violent incident depicted in the book, a glossy-magazine editor gets punched out by an online one for refusing to share a motorcycle when the group was one bike short on a press ride somewhere in Europe. Something very similar happened to me, but I did relinquish my ZX-6R after a brief stand-off when that online editor threatened me with a (rather effeminate) balled-up fist: A couple years later, he hired me to be Editor-in-Chief of that esteemed online publication! Sometimes it pays to chicken out.

PJ’s book is packed with similar swashbuckling tales from the days of yore, and attempts to assign reasons and motivation to many of the things that happened and the parties involved. Personally I apply Occam’s Razor to nearly all of it: We were mostly a bunch of miscreants who loved riding motorcycles doing the best we could to describe them to our readers, with not that much forethought or reflection on anybody’s part that I ever observed – or maybe I’m projecting? Sadly, the economic realities of the modern workplace and the ever-present prying eyeball of the www and social media mean the modern motojournalist has no choice but to take it all a bit more seriously. Fred Gassit has left the building. Maybe it’s better this way, now that we work more and play less.

Luckily, Peter has amassed even more wit, wisdom, and humor over these last 25 years, and now you can read his column in nearly the last US monthly glossy standing: Rider magazine. Also, this is only Volume 1 of The Bad Editor. In the final chapter, we’re left hanging as the author is in handcuffs and being incarcerated for a serious moving violation on the Blue Ridge Parkway… there’s plenty more tk, as we say in the publishing biz.


The Bad Editor is available now from Amazon.com in print ($18.55), or Kindle eBook ($7.99). Sample chapters and news of book signings can be found at www.thebadeditor.com.

Check Prices for The Bad Editor here


We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.

Become a Motorcycle.com insider. Get the latest motorcycle news first by subscribing to our newsletter here.

Advertisement