"Marathon In The Dust"

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“Marathon In The Dust”, by Innes Ireland. 208 pp. 8 7/8 in. x 5 7/8 in. (William Kimber & Co. Ltd., 6 Queen Anne’s Gate, London, SW1. 36s.)

Having chided my friend Innes Ireland so frequently about his promised book not appearing, I am obliged to refer to “Marathon In The Dust” now that it has made the review lists. The trouble is that it is sadly out of date, the Daily Express London-Sydney (which the book unhesitatingly calls a race) having been overshadowed by the Daily Mirror London-Mexico and quite sufficient books having been written about both before Ireland’s made paper. (If the Daily Express decides to keep ahead it will need to hold something like a Round-the-World London-London Marathon in 1-972/3.

Ireland’s book refers to future marathons, with no reference to the World Cup, which dates it. As an account of how three adventurers, Innes, Michael Taylor and Andrew Hedges, took a privately-entered Mercedes-Benz 280SE on the marathon in the “right crowd” tradition, retiring when the radiator jumped out of place and was gored by the fan in Australia after beating an ancient Bugatti record for the 875-mile run from Delhi to Bombay, the book is a good control to control, almost kilometre by kilometre account of this 11,000-mile contest.

There is rather a lot of “dicing with death” type of writing-and one is left wondering why, if the non-standard wipers lifted from the screen at speed, these were not changed at one of the obviously-efficient Mercedes-Benz service depots en route. Another snag about this belated report is that one has read much in similar vein in Innes’ reports for the motoring weekly of which he was then Sports Editor. The book is just saved from disaster by the author’s arousing accounts of how Australian enthusiasts went berserk clearing a passage for the Mercedes, and his sharp comments about the shabby way their private-entrants’ award was handled and the “total lack of warmth” with which Tommy Sopwith and Jack Sears greeted the Ireland/Taylor/ Hedges crew when they finally arrived at Sydney. Otherwise, this is just another long book about the 1968 event by a non-finisher, albeit a gentlemen’s entry, as Innes makes clear in his first chapter, and even the jolly captions do not excuse the mediocre illustrations.—W. B.