Book reviews, May 1958, May 1958

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“They Fought for the Sky”
by Quentin Reynolds. 298 pp., 8-1/2 in. by 5-1/2 in. (Cassell and Co., Ltd., 35, Red Lion Square, London, W.C.1. 21s.)

This book about the pilots of the 1914-18 War and the aeroplanes they flew is excellent entertainment and also a useful source of reference, for it is nothing like as superficial as its serialisation in a Sunday newspaper may have suggested. The author, the well-known newspaperman, certainly has an eye for a story and They Fought for the Sky is, it is true, written in “popular” style, nor are some of the technicalities handled in a manner to suggest that Reynolds has a firm grip on how the i.c. engine functions.

These criticisms apart, here is an excellent “refresher course” for those of us who admire the now-legendary World War I pilots like Billy Bishop, Richtofen, Mick Mannock, Immelmann, Billy Mitchell, etc., but who cannot recall which were their individual fighting characteristics, in what sequence they took to battling in European skies and what aeroplanes they flew. Reynolds’ book brings all this to life again and his explanation of the research he did before embarking on this book should reassure the reader of the accuracy of the main facts, within the limits possible with such distant, dramatic and at the time but casually-recorded history.

Apart from the excellent pen-sketches of the great pilots of the 1914-18 War and a clear picture of how the air war of that fascinating era unfolded, They Fought for the Sky puts into perspective the sequence, qualities and failings of the leading fighter aeroplanes of that time, although naturally technicalities are but sparse.

Anyone interested in this subject but lacking time to peruse the seven volumes of The War in the Air, which is the official history of the R.F.C., will find 21s. well spent on this Cassel’s’ work—Reynolds’ three-page bibliography also offers a rich source of reference to this specialised subject, although the author omits Sagatarioius Rising, that so excellent book by Cecil Lewis, although it is quoted from liberally. They Fought for the Sky contains some good pictures, and Hispano-Suiza fans will find delight in the stork insignia painted on the Spad flown by the great French ace Georges Guynemer. This book will make excellent escapist Whitsun reading, if you can get a copy before the holiday.—W. B.


by Ursula Bloom. 214 pp. 8-3/4 in. by 5-1/2 in. (Burke Publishing Co., Ltd., 55, Britton Street, London, E.C.1. 18s.)

This is the biography of the late Professor A. M. Low, that well-known figure in motoring and scientific circles. The Professor figured in a biographical article in the second issue of The Brooklands Gazette before that journal was renamed Motor Sport. He was intimately associated with all manner of queer ventures, wrote a large number of scientific books of the more popular sort and played a notable part in the founding of the Cyclecar Club, now the B.A.R.C.

The Introduction is by Lord Brabazon of Tara, who is, as is his wont, honest and outspoken, so that, while he is obvioosly full of affection for Low, he “debunks” his right to the title of Professor and finally concludes by calling him “a very nearly great man.”

In a rather “bitty” book, because it is largely composed of extracts from Low’s letters and articles, Ursula Bloom describes the life of her friend, the man of so many parts, who demonstrated television in 1914, built a robot-plane in 1917, developed contact lenses, and concentrated on the Low audiometer. Low’s interest in early small cars is not given anything like as much space an one would have wished but there are pictures of Low in an (unnamed) Calthorpe light car during World War 1 with a Bleriot flying overhead (one suspects by reason of some composite photography!). Low in a 1912 Bedelia tandem-seat cyclecar (driving from the front seat—apparently his own conversion), with the Norlow motor-scooter he built with the Hon. V. A. Bruce after World War 1 and with the rocket-driven Speedway motor-cycle.

This is a sad book, of interest, however, to the late Professor’s many friends and to youngsters who are of an inventive turn or mind.—W. B.
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The R.A.C. has issued the 1958 edition of its comprehensive Guide and Handbook. Containing a million words, nearly 200 maps and town plans, a 64-page Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland in three colours, a two-page map of London, together with lists of parking places in the Metropolis, high tides at 154 coastal towns and resorts, a directory of more than 3,000 towns and villages, with data on garages, hotels, restaurants, golf clubs, market days, etc., and information on caravan sites, hills, steamer services, legal advice, etc., etc., this 640-page (8-1/2 in. by 5 in.) book is excellent value at 12s. 6d. to non-members, 8s. 6d. to R.A.C. members. We are still intrigued, as we were two years ago, to see that Fleet Pond is the largest lake in England—this should be worth a visit, being but 373 miles from London, whereas the Lake District proper is a day’s drive away!

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That indispensable R.A.C. publication The Motor Sport Year Book (228 pp., 4-1/4 in. by 6-1/4 in.) has been enlarged for 1958, alas no longer of pocket size. It contains the full season’s fixtures of International, National and local events of every kind (this fixture list occupies 76 pages) and in addition contains model sets of rules for clubs organising competition events, the R.A.C. Standing Supplementary Regulations, a full list of R.A.C.-recognised clubs and officials, with addresses, location and admission prices to the principal British race circuits, speed trial venues, etc., etc. This is a book essential to everyone who follows the sport. It cost 2s. 6d. (3s. if posted) from the R.A.C., Pall Mall, S.W.1, or R.A.C. County Offices.

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Castrol have again issued their looked-forward-to book Achievements. The 1957 edition covers events the world over, won on Castrol oil. Users include the greatest of the world’s riders and drivers. If you want a copy of this 48-page lavishly-illustrated book, use the tear-out postcard which will be found in this issue of Motor Sport.
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The 1958 edition of the informative B.A.R.C. Year Book (103 pp.. 8-1/2 in. by 51/2 in., soft covers, 5s.), which contains a great deal of information about B.A.R.C. racing in particular and motor racing in general, including routes to continental circuits and circuit maps, is now available from 55, Park Lane, London, W.1. There are articles on racing in America and on G.P. cars and the G.P. d’ Europe but the last two contributions have been lifted directly from last year’s Aintree programme without being edited, that on the history of the G.P. d’Europe, for instance, including the words “crowds are gathered today at Aintree,” and omitting details or results of the 1957 race!

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Readers of an engineering frame of mind will find a great deal to interest them, and perhaps much that will surprise them, in R. G. Moulton’s Model Aero Engine Encyclopedia (208 pp., 8-1/2 in. by 5-1/2 in., 12s. 6d. Model Aeronautical Press Ltd., 38, Clarendon Road, Watford, Herts.). There are illustrations and tabulated data relating to the world’s commercially-available engines from 0.55 c.c. to 4.8 c.c., the majority of which will run at something in the region of 15,000 r.p.m.!

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A computer for attaching to car and motor-cycle speedometers, which provide visual conversion of English into metric speed and distance readings, is available from M.H.G. Products, 13a and 13c, High Street, Welling, Kent, price 7s. 6d.

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A handy tester for electrical circuits is made by the Larmar Eng. Co. Ltd., Ingatestone, Essex. This “Larmar Lightning Tester” is not a sparking plug tester but is intended for quickly locating faults in the wiring circuits of a car. Suitable for either 6 or 12-volt systems this tester, which incorporates a lamp bulb and a contact point which can penetrate insulation if required, sells for 8s. 6d. (postage 8d.).

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Rootes’ flooring

The Rootes Group now sells, at 7d. per section, inclusive of p.t., “Polymat” floor covering for car and home. Pliable but tough, this material has interlocking tabs and slots so that mats of any size and shape can be made up in a matter of minutes, especially as “Polymat” can be cut and shaped with a sharp knife. Approximately 4 in. square, this material is packaged in six squares in any one colour, choice of black, brown, blue, green, red, grey, primrose and white being available. “Polymat” is claimed to be tough, flexible, hygenic, hard-wearing and sound-insulating. Supplies are available from Rootes Ltd., Ladbrooke Hall, Barlby Road, North Kensington. London. W.10).