10/28/2015 9:30AM

Giwner: Never judge a book by its cover

Melissa Simser
Alan Charles was a harness driver/trainer, but his life took many turns along the way.

My initial introduction to Alan Charles was during the 2010 Passover Pace at Monticello Raceway. I went into the race with no clue who he was and boy was I missing out on a story.

I can clearly recall asking another driver about Charles as it was always helpful to know the competition before heading onto the track. The only information I could muster was that he was a former driver or trainer that hadn't raced in a long time. I figured he would be somewhat cautious having been on the sidelines so long. I was wrong. Charles gunned down the road with Cody Little Gal on that April afternoon as I split horses late for second with Ms Denise.

I had no idea at the time about the road Charles had traveled leading up to that Passover Pace win and having read his Walking Out the Other Side, I'm still left in awe of his life path.

The story begins at Charles' low point in life as a cocaine addict in the mid 2000s before you travel in time with him to learn the entire story. It reads in some ways like the movie Forest Gump. Amazing things happen in his life and in the end the pieces somehow fall into place for Charles regardless of any poor decision making along the way. Even through his worst moments, somehow he ends up on his feet.

At times you begin to wonder if some of the interactions, chance meetings and luck Charles experiences in his life are even real. According to the writer, the book is 100% true. He even admits to leaving a few encounters out to avoid the book seeming too unrealistic.

For those that don’t know the name, Charles was a semi-regular driver/trainer from 1988 to 1995. He competed at The Meadows, Yonkers and The Meadowlands to name a few tracks. According to USTA records he has won 41 races in 565 career starts as a driver.

Of course there is something to be learned in the 305-page book, which is now available for sale on Amazon.com and his website, walkingouttheotherside.com. To sum it up in a nutshell, it is never too late to make a positive change.

“I did a lot of stuff I’m not really proud of, but I had to tell the truth,” said Charles, who has somehow avoided a sure death sentence from his cocaine addiction to remain a productive member of society. “I’ve been very lucky. Everyone has said I must have had an angel on my shoulder.”

I breezed through the book in less than 48 hours and had trouble putting it down. It was a quick and very entertaining read. I highly recommend it.

Most of all I’m happy to write that Charles will reach eight years of clean living in December. Happy early anniversary!