Brands to Bexhill

Brands to Bexhill, by Max Le Grand. Bookmarque Publishing, Oxford, £29.95.

This is a difficult book to review. To understand, in fact. Basically, it is the story of Max Le Grand’s lifestyle, as a motor-racing photographer and journalist, his excellent pictures used in the book reflecting his skill at the former pursuit. Max knew many of the racing “greats” intimately — Hunt, Clark, Bolster, John Webb, Stewart, Graham Hill, etc, and any account of life at that level must hold the attention. Yet some of the book I found rather simplistic, the parts dealing with Mum and Dad and his childhood, etc, in the days when they lived close to Brands Hatch when it was a grass track. Sometimes the journalist creeps in — I was not quite at ease with the subtitle “Cock the shutter, engage the gear, British motor racing really started here” — presumably a combination of camera and car terms, with the location where Max eventually went to live with his wife.

Thus the book’s title, and much Bexhill motoring history in the later pages. As to where Britain’s motor racing really started, I dealt with that at the time when Bexhill held its revived speed trials in 1990 — the Whitsun BexhillI 100.

In some places the journalese creeps in again. Of Brooklands: “Boy, just imagine old Felice Nazzaro belting the guts out of Mephistopheles round here”… “Jesus Christ, what a thrill to watch Henry Birkin thunder round this lot in his big old Bentley. His eyeballs would have been bouncing in their bloody sockets. He would have been steering from over to understeer as the car bounced over the concrete slabs. Fantastic stuff.” However, the words are attributed to Innes Ireland, when Max saw Brooklands for the first time with him, in 1964. So it starts with a boy at Brands, ending with a lot about Bexhill’s motor-racing past, and an electric-car record there, of 106.764mph, in 1993. This is Max’s story before he took up deep-ocean racing, TV presenting and travel writing. You may like it. You may not. I felt somehow not quite comfortable with it. But don’t let that stop you reading it. The first print run goes to just 984 copies, plus 50 special slipcase editions. W B

• Shire Publications have added a history of the Wolseley in Shire Album No 322. Although of only 32 pages, this little book is full of good pictures and Nick Baldwin’s compact history of the marque. The price is a marque. a modest £2.25.