Evel on the eve of his biggest jump



Few sports writers are as talented as Leigh Montville, and few subjects as compelling as Butte native Evel Knievel.

The two collide in Montville's new biography of the daredevil, titled Evel: The High-Flying Life of Evel Knievel: American Showman, Daredevil, and Legend.

The book hits shelves tomorrow, but Sports Illustrated has posted an excerpt that details Knievel's outlandish 1974 launch over Idaho's Snake River — in a "rocket" that was actually just a bucket seat attached to a steam-powered thrust engine. Knievel spent the days before the jump in Montana, and Montville recounts Knievel's strangely sentimental mood as he reconnected with friends and family. He also explains the probable reason for his demeanor — nobody expected Knievel to survive, including Sports Illustrated photographer Heinz Kleutmeier.

"You're going back to the bottom of the canyon," the photographer told his assistant when they arrived at the site. "That's where I want you for the jump."

The assistant objected. The sun was brutal. The bottom of the canyon would be hot, dirty, and totally without merit. Nothing would happen there.

"No, that's where the story is going to be," Kleutmeier said, thinking about the test shot he had witnessed. "I saw the test. That's where this guy is going to land."

In addition to the excerpt, Sports Illustrated also posted a slideshow of classic Knievel images.

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