Book Reviews, October 1968, October 1968

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“Cars In Colour”, by Michael Sedgwick. 174 pp. 8 11/16 in. x 8½ in. (B. T. Batsford Ltd., 4, Fitzhardinge St., London, W.1. 25s.)
Batsford are back on the motor-book bandwagon with this rather unoriginal picture-job, with introduction and supporting notes by Michael Sedgwick. We say unoriginal, because excellent as the page-size colour plates of 80 cars ranging from 1888 1½-h.p. Roger-Benz to 1961 M.G.-A are, there exists a strong suspicion that we have seen most of them before, in other Batsford books or Montagu Motor Museum catalogues. Otherwise, why stop at 1961 in a publication released late in 1968?

However, the pictures are quite pleasing, although far too many of the subjects they depict are seen in modern settings, carry V.C.C. dating plates, oversize tyres or otherwise are non-contemporaries. They are, nevertheless, a good selection of action racing, static racing car, sports car, veteran, vintage, p.v.t., classic and last-decade cars. Sedgwick’s written commentaries are accurate and amusing, if you have not had them before. So if you can think of no better way of spending 25s. you may care to help Batsford to regain its lost foothold in the motor-book world.—W. B.
* * *

“The Green Hat”, by Michael Arlen. 244 pp. 7 7/16 in. x 5 in. (Cassell & Co. Ltd., 35, Red Lion Square, London, W.C.1. 25s.)
This is a reprint of the famous novel of the ‘twenties, which has as part-hero a pre-1923 Hispano-Suiza. It also contains references to other real cars, an aged Rolls-Royce, a luxurious Renault, Citroën taxi-cabs and racing Bugattis. . . . Although, when my Secretary telephoned to ask for a review copy, incidentally calling it with some perspicacity “The Red Hat”, the young man at Cassell’s said “It’s not about cars . . . it’s a novel”. He was both right and wrong but he obviously did not know that this is the book quoted nearly every time an Hispano-Suiza car is mentioned. (I always thought it mean of Arlen to spend some of the profits this best-seller brought him on buying a Rolls-Royce—a yellow Rolls-Royce, to prove again that there is nothing new under the sun or the stars.)

This was the “naughty” book of its time, although what those who shunned it or covered it in brown paper before reading it would have thought of today’s marks of civilisation’s sick-emancipation, like Penthouse and Playboy and the majority of TV plays, I cannot imagine. . . . “The Green Hat” is very much concerned with life for the rich under the sun and the stars of the mad-‘twenties; the nightclub scenes and the description of the race between Hispano and Rolls to Maidenhead from London for a mixed midnight bathe in the Thames, sans costumes, have become classics of their kind. Such references to motoring, mostly behind the Hispano stork, as there are, are written less straight-forwardly, but they, too, can be called classics of their period.

The yellow Hispano-Suiza of this novel is driven by an attractive woman in a green hat, who is killed in it. It drew forth Arlen’s great piece: “This car charmed the eye. Like a huge yellow insect that had dropped to earth from a butterfly civilisation, this car, gallant and suave, rested in the lowly silence of the Shepherds Market night. Open as a yacht, it wore a great shining bonnet, and flying over the crest of this great bonnet, as though in proud flight over the heads of scores of phantom horses, was that silver stork by which the gentle may be pleased to know that they have just escaped death beneath the wheels of a Hispano-Suiza car, as supplied to His Most Catholic Majesty.” There is more in this style, in praise of the make of car Arlen chose to star in his novel. He knew cars, mentioning 75 m.p.h. as the Hispano’s top speed, or 76 with the cut-out open, and its 120 horsepower, and the old Rolls, identified by its “winged Mercury” mascot, as giving 60 horsepower.

So this is a novel which merits inclusion in Motor Sport’s book reviews. Students of the nineteen-twenties will want this book and Arlen’s first novel “The London Venture” and others in Cassell’s paperback First Novel Library. “The Green Hat” has a splendid introduction by A. S. Frere who was with Heinemann when Arlen brought them the original mss., in which he discusses the author, the late Dikran Kouyoumdjian, and tells us that his famed Rolls-Royce, bought after his book had earned him, they said, £120,000 of ’20s money, was an ex-Lord Lonsdale car, “loud, yellow, vulgar”, which Arlen was in those days able to park outside the Embassy Club in Bond Street almost every lunchtime.

I am glad that this legendary book is available again and thus has at last come into my hands; but I confess I found reading it very heavy going.—W. B.
* * *

“International Motor Racing Book No. 2”, edited by Phil Drackett. 144 pp. 9 1/8 in. x 7 in. (Souvenir Press Ltd., 95, Mortimer Street, London, W.1. 21s.)
We are not usually in favour of these mixed-contents annuals. But this one is different. It contains a great deal of interesting material, and the layout is a triumph for Editor Drackett. For example, great names in racing, like Hulme, Hill, Amon and others, well-known motoring writers such as Garnier, Al Bochroch, Kemp, Geoffrey Charles, Pat Gregory and Bill Boddy contribute varied pieces (Boddy literally, with an article on girls-who-go-racing), Joan Drackett spot-lights Ken Tyrell and there is lots more besides. And 150 good pictures, from all ages of motor racing.

This would be a good buy now, to save up as a Christmas present for some young enthusiast.
* * *

Putnam and Company Ltd., 9, Bow Street, London, W.C.2 have added two more aeronautical histories to their long list of exceedingly informative and beautifully produced and detailed books in this series. We have reviewed each in turn, so it suffices to say of the two latest titles, that they follow the pattern of previous Putnam aeronautical books, and contain copious drawings and photographs. The new titles are “United States Navy Aircraft Since 1911” by Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers (518 pp., 84s.) and “Soviet Transport Aircraft Since 1945” by John Stroud (318 pp., 63s.).

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