Route 66 serves as author Bell's muse

Bob Boze Bell was at the Kingman Powerhouse with Roy Wilson getting an exhibition ready in time for the Route 66 International Film Festival.

Bob Boze Bell was at the Kingman Powerhouse with Roy Wilson getting an exhibition ready in time for the Route 66 International Film Festival.

KINGMAN - The flowers arrived early for cartoonist, artist and author Bob Boze Bell, a Kingman native who signed copies of his book, "Route 66 Kid: Raised on the Mother Road," Thursday afternoon at the Powerhouse Visitor Center and Museum.

They came from his cousin "Froggie" in Iowa, who couldn't make it to Kingman for the International Route 66 Festival and wanted to wish Bell the best.

The book chronicles Bell's experience growing up in Kingman and making the trip on Route 66 to the family's farm in Iowa every year. It features Bell's paintings, writings and postcards from the Mother Road.

Bell had signed about 50 books in the first hour and expected to sell out before the end of the festival..

"This has been amazing," the author said. "I'm seeing all the faces from Kingman who know all the lies in there."

Bell's childhood picture is superimposed on a cowboy-outfitted kid taken from a Montgomery Wards catalog. It's become his signature icon.

"I'm a cartoonist first and foremost," the 67-year-old executive editor of True West Magazine said. "People say, 'Why are you wearing a cowboy hat?' It's not a cowboy hat. It's a cartoon hat."

One of Bell's cartoon series is the "Doper Roper" who goes around town lassoing long-haired hippies. It's based loosely on several cowboy characters Bell knew in Kingman and one in particular.

Bell said he always wanted to write a book about growing up on Route 66. When he heard about the festival coming to town, it presented the perfect timing. He contacted local author Jim Hinckley to find a publisher, brought on Kingman native and former bandmate Charlie Waters to edit the book and called upon True West art director Dan Harshberger to design.

"It's been like running in front of a train right up to this last second," Bell said.

He put together a 26-minute video, which premiered at the Cine 66 Kingman Film Festival, to promote the book.

"My dad had a gas station and he would come home with things people traded him for gas," Bell recalled. "Here, kid, you want this Bowie knife? One day he came home with an 8-millimeter camera, so we started making movies and I have all this footage from Kingman in the '60s."

Josh Fredrich, attending the festival from Springfield, Ill., said he bought "Route 66 Kid" because he wanted to read more about the highway. He already has "Route 66: The Mother Road," signed by author Michael Wallis at a Route 66 festival in Springfield.

Bob Best of Kingman said he has six other books about the Old West written by Bell.

"I came here 10 years ago from Minnesota and the first place I went was to Tombstone," Best said. "I like living a lot closer to this stuff."