Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon

“Steve McQueen was the biggest movie star in the world in the 1960’s and ’70’s”.

This is the claim from Greg Laurie, author of the recent biography on Steve McQueen published in 2019.

The truth is, Steve McQueen was a bit before my time. By the time I reached high school, Steve McQueen had passed away from cancer. I didn’t grow up watching him on the TV show, Wanted Dead or Alive, that had made him a household name, and I wasn’t even born yet when he moved to the big screen with his breakout role in the 1963 movie “The Great Escape“.

So, even though I was familiar with McQueen, he was never an actor I idolized or paid much attention to. To those a bit older than me though, McQueen was “the man.” For a generation of guys, McQueen epitomized what it looked like to be cool. He was “the king of cool”, as Laurie says numerous times in his book.

Greg Laurie is a pastor of a large church in Southern California. He’s older than me and he’s definitely part of that generation that grew up admiring McQueen. Laurie’s fixation with McQueen runs  so deep that he even has a replica of the famous Mustang car McQueen drove in the epic 1968 movie Bullitt.

As a pastor, Laurie had heard that McQueen had come to faith before his untimely death in 1980 at the age of 50. However, none of the biographies of McQueen’s life included any details about his faith journey. Being such a fan of McQueen, Laurie set out to learn the details, not only about McQueen’s life, but his journey toward God.

Laurie’s book, Steve McQueen: The Salvation of an American Icon, is a detailed biography of the legend’s life but also shares important details about McQueen’s last few years, in which he experienced a transformation spiritually.

McQueen’s life was one of contrasts. He grew up poor but became wealthy. He was abandoned but became a loving husband and father. He could be harsh on the set but he seemed to care deeply for the underdogs, especially troubled youth like he had been.

McQueen was a self-made man who epitomized the macho spirit of the 60’s and 70’s. Though he could not save himself physically, succumbing to the harsh and painful effects of Mesothelioma in 1980, he did find salvation spiritually.

Laurie documents McQueen’s life and career and highlights a number of key encounters and relationships that were instrumental in McQueen finding God late in life.

I found the book to be interesting and engaging as I learned about McQueen’s childhood and his professional career. The details about his turn to God were inspiring while the events surrounding his sickness and death were tragic to say the least.

If you’re a McQueen fan, you’ll likely love this book, as it fills in a lot of details of the actor’s life and career. McQueen’s life isn’t glamorized. The veil is pulled back and you get a picture of the man warts and all.

One thing to note about the book though is that Laurie takes every opportunity to insert his own story into the narrative. It’s obvious from the beginning that Laurie is a McQueen fan but it turns out that there are many similarities between the two men, mostly in the stories of their family upbringing.

Laurie uses these similarities to try to help the reader understand how McQueen might have felt emotionally regarding the circumstances of his childhood and adult life. While it’s helpful in some degree to paint a deeper picture of what might have been happening on the inside, there are times when it appears that the story becomes more about Laurie than McQueen.

Still, the book is full of interesting information about an American film legend who passed well before his time. If you’re a McQueen fan or just like a good redemption story, you’ll likely enjoy this book.

You can get the book on Amazon or listen to the book like I did by getting your copy at christianaudio.com.

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