“Two Roads to Africa,” by H. E. Symons (John Gifford, Ltd.) 10/6.
HUMPHREY SYMONS’S long awaited book on his African journeys was published by John Gifford, Ltd., on January 11th. The reviewer has a great respect for the author, having had first-hand experience of his ability to do several difficult tasks at the same time with unruffled calm—Symons thinks nothing of acting as Editor and Advertising Manager of a new motor paper, writing his regular motoring articles, compiling one or more instruction books, and preparing a special piece of publicity literature for another client, all at the same time, and often with the shadow of a big event like an Alpine Trial or Monte Carlo Rally on his mind as well. His ability to find his way about Europe is uncanny, and as a result he would need only an hour or so’s notice before departing to report a motor-race or to compete in a Continental rally, completing his maps, log and travel arrangements as likely as not on the boat-train itself. This ability to work methodically on tricky jobs coupled with his well-known driving ability and physical stamina are by no means the only qualities to which Symons owes his success. He is, primarily, a publicity writer to the Motor Industry, and what he does is always widely circulated news. There is no uncertain jealousy between rival motor papers, and when you reflect that Symons was for ten years Sports Editor of “The Motor” and yet that, after becoming a freelance, he never seemed to find any difficulty in getting his influential writings in this paper and in “The Autocar” as well you can see the value placed not only on his undertakings, but on his ability to recount his experiences in a very readable manner.
His book “Monte Carlo Rally” bears re-reading over and over again. When it comes to individual record or demonstration runs, not exactly “stunts” but nevertheless undertakings carried out with no outside organisation and no other competitors to conquer, the reviewer must confess that he is usually more interested in accounts of races, trials and rallies. Yet, so well does Symons write of his African epics, that “Two Roads to Africa” ranks as one of the finest motoring books we have read. It is written with no attempt at over-dramatization, yet there is never a dull passage, far less a single page that arouses a desire to skip the contents. Symons writes just as the motoring enthusiast would wish, mentioning his friends and helpers in his own interesting way and describing the visits to the works while the cars are being prepared for the journey, so that the enthusiast is interested from the commencement of each section, the contents of which as a whole will absorb anyone who likes a well-told tale of unusual travel, whether motorist or not. In the preface Symons says that his travels were in no sense pioneer ventures, and his object was merely to show that normal British cars were capable of traversing roadless country in the shortest time and with the greatest economy. As his book unfolds, you appreciate the foresight of Morris, Wolseley and Rolls-Royce in allowing him to undertake his African journeys. The book is in four parts, and in all runs to 320 pages. Part One deals with London to Timbuktu in a new Morris Ten, which did a record run in seven days. Part Two deals with Folkestone to Kano in a Morris Twenty Five in a week. Part Three describes England to Nairobi in a Rolls-Royce “Phantom III” Park Ward limousine, when 12,482 trouble-free miles were put in at a daily average of 367 miles, without any topping-up of the cooling system. Part Four tells the full story of Symons’s Cape Record with the Wolseley 18/85, when in spite of the sensational crash which is now history, the daily mileage was 320, or 515 miles a day for nineteen days if one cuts out the loss of time occasioned by salving and repairing the car. There are so many incidents one is anxious to quote from this book that it is better just to say that these African adventures are told in the same easy style in which Symons told of adventures and experiences amid colder climes in “Monte Carlo Rally.”