Racing on the page



The recall of our one-time belated ‘Belated Book Reviews’ feature, with a cartoon by Appleby, has reminded an American reader of the novel about motor racing entitled Portrait in a Windscreen by Gawen Brownrigg.

This was published by Michael Joseph in 1938, and reviewed in The Autocar, which proclaimed it as the first serious motor racing novel, but not to be read by the prudish!

Another reviewer called it a “cocktail novel with ingredients not mixing too well”. What would they have said of Colin Dryden’s 1997 novel set in the world of Formula One, in which, for starters, a top racing driver sleeps with his female team manager — I was spared this as no review copy was sent to me; not, I hope, because I am considered a prude.

There were, of course, motor racing novels long before 1938. Mark Pepys, The Earl of Cottingham, wrote All Out (Cassell, 1932) dedicated to Segrave’s wife Doris, for instance. There was Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh (soon to be made into a film), and that very good one about a Gordini driver which opened with him taking a stroll one evening in Monaco when a girl, whose Ford V8 has broken down, asks if he can help her, saying “Do you know anything about cars?” — if I remember correctly.

Our correspondent wonders whether Mr Brownrigg went to races and asks had I ever met him? Alas, no.