• Ellie Epperson

Book Review - Action Park by Andy Mulvihill

Please note, the opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect any official policies or positions of the Caldwell Public Library.

As I'm handing out Summer Reading Prize books, one title keeps grabbing my attention - Action Park it reads, accompanied with a gnarly picture of a flaming skeletal head in a dune buggy. Each time I pass it, something in the back of my head tries to click into place, "Was it a movie? A TV show? Did I read another book about it?" The AH-HA moment hit one night while I was falling down the Youtube rabbit hole of defunct amusement rides around the country when the algorithms offered a suggestion for a video from Kevin Perjurer (the DefunctLand videos are a whole different rabbit hole) about a water/theme park called, "Action Park."

book cover, book jacket
Book cover courtesy of Amazon.com

Finally, I connected the two. Excitedly, I told my friend, "Hey! I saw this book at the library about Action Park, it was a pretty crazy place I guess." He looked at me, puzzled, and said, "Well yeah, didn't a bunch of people die?" I wasn't sure what part of this phrase finally put the thought I was having in place, but I realized I had actually heard the name from a 2018 movie Action Point featuring Johnny Knoxville. Side note here, I had a lot of brothers growing up so movies like these were pretty common for our household. Luckily, my brothers never tried to recreate any stunts.

Queue me spending the rest of the night reading all about this insane park operating mostly in the 1980s. Action Park: fast times, wild rides, and the untold story of America's most dangerous amusement park by Andy Mulvihill offers a unique look at the workings of Action Park from its conception to its final days being operated by his father, Gene Mulvihill. With a catchy phrase, "Where you're the center of the action!" it tells of the impact Action Park made over the years in Vernon Township, New Jersey. Over its 20 years of operation, the thousands of accidents, multiple deaths, and several scandals have made it a memorable enough place to be the subject of books, movies, and documentaries.

The Cannonball Loop
The Cannonball Loop - Photo courtesy of People.com

I didn't read this book to hear about all the accidents and negligence (this is