Book Reviews, September 1954, September 1954

Author

W.B.

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68

“Reach for the Sky,” by Paul Brickhill (384 pages, 5 1/2 in. by 8 1/4 in, Collins, St. James’s Place, S. W.1. 16s.)

This is the story of Douglas Bader. D.S.O,. D.F.C., the legless R.A.F. fighter pilot, who escaped from a German prisoner of war camp after shooting down many enemy aircraft and introducing new tactics to Fighter Command,

It is a splendid story of immense courage exceedingly well told. Certain motering references will appeal to Motor Sport readers, such as Bader’s Douglas motor-cycle, an old Morris, an aged Austin Seven, and his later M.G. sports cars and his mother’s self-change gearbox car, presumably an Armstrong-Siddeley.

This is a book we are confident at least 80 per cent, of our readers will not wish to miss and it is pleasing, in what is in places a necessarily sordid (but inspiring) story, that the flying days of the late 1930s, when R.A.F. pilots trained in Avro 504s, Gloster Gamecocks and Bristol Bulldog fighters, are covered — one day we hope someone will write an entire book about that period; the 1912-1918 and World War II periods are well covered in various books, but that fascinating era in bet ween is not.

Meanwhile, buy “Reach for the Sky” — it will cure any 1954 “blues” you may be suffering from and will make adventure fiction seem trite. — W.B.

“The Le Mans Story,” by Georges Fraichard, translated and with new material by Louis Klemantaski (175 pages, 5 1/2 in. by 8 3/4 in. John Lane, the Bodley Head, Ltd., 28, Little Russell Street., W.C.1. 21s.)

This eagerly-awaited book is a disappointment. A classic race deserves an adequate history; Fraichard contents himself with very brief descriptions of each of the Le Mans races, that of 1939, for instance, being disposed of in about 1,000 words and the remainder of the races given not very much more than twice this space, except for longer accounts of the 1953 and 1951 races from Klemantaski’s pen.

Chapters are devoted to rules and regulations and to race jottings — much of this material is useful and interesting, but more appropriate to topical race accounts and the race-programme than to a book which one expects from its title to be a serious history.

There are some useful tabulated results of all the Le Mans races from 1923 to 1954 (thus, with this year’s race description, bringing the book very creditably up to date) and some very interesting personal accounts of race memoirs, retirements and crashes, much of this new “inside” information. Many of the photographs have appeared previously, but Klemantaski contributes some good new ones. The reference to John Duff’s Brooklands F.I.A.T. is misleading.

The author is hard on Pierre Levegh for trying to drive single-handed throughout the 1952 race, writing: “The official car brought back to his pit a lifeless dummy, who collapsed, vomiting in a dark corner where two hours earlier a headstrong Levegh would have been wise to rest. One cannot, in all sincerity, congratulate him on having imposed upon himself such a pitifully useless penance.” This hardly agrees with Charles Faroux’s reference, expressed elsewhere in the book, to ” . . . Levegh’s wonderful efforts and shrewd driving …” or with the shots in that great Shell film of the unhappy Levegh walking a considerable distance to his pit after retiring and climbing into it.

“The Le Mans Story ” doesn’t add up, in our opinion, to 21s. worth of motor-racing history. Buy it, however, if you are forced to travel anywhere by train! — W. B.

“Le Mans, 1954.” Compiled by the staff of The Motor (50 pages. 7 1/4 in. by 9 3/4 in. Temple Press, Ltd., Bowling Green Lane. E.C.1. 5s.)

This is a very full and interesting account of this year’s “Ferrari” Le Mans race, beautifully produced and well illust rated. It contains reprints front the Le Mans pre-race accounts and report from The Motor, including the race positions hour by hour, and lap speeds of all the competitors, a table listing the first three finishers in the GP. d’Endurance from 1923 to 1954 and in the Rudge Whitworth Cup from 1925 to date. and Laurence Pomeroy’s technical summary of the 1954 race. In addition, this useful account carries reports by Charles Faroux, giving the French angle, and by Paul Frere, giving the Belgian viewpoint. — W.B.

“Scottish Motor Racing.” Edited by Barclay Inglis. 62 pp., 5 1/2 in. by 8 1/2 in. (Motor Racing Publications, Ltd., 13, Conway Street, London, W.1. 3s. 6d.)

This little publication is very nicely written and contains a good deal of new information about the Sport in Scotland, and some good pictures. David Murray, of Ecurie Ecosse, positively exudes enthusiasm for a proper Scottish representation in International motor racing, that ever-cheery and modest tuning-wizard “Wilky” Wilkinson contributes some very interesting “inside” facts about how he makes the Ecurie Ecosse Type C Jaguars motor so rapidly, and Eason Gibson, Gregor Grant, W. A. McKenzie, and other North-of-the-Border personalities write in this book. There is an illustrated section devoted to Scottish drivers, a list of Scottish clubs, results of last year’s Scottish races and the 1954 Scottish Calendar. Good show, Barclay. — W. B.

“Buyer’s Guide to European Automobiles,” by Emil L. Shwetzer. 155 pp., 6 1/2 in. by 9 1/2 in. (Heinrich Klammes Press, Frankfurt/Main.)

This soft-cover book is a catalogue of European automobiles written in American English for U.S. buyers. As with all these publications, many of the illustrations have been seen before, being manufacturers’ hand-out or catalogue pictures, but the text is snappy and knowledgeable. The cars, 68 makes in all, are usefully indexed nationally — England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, with, in addition, separate headings for the English, French and German Fords and small-production specialist cars and miniature vehicles of England, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands tacked on as an afterthought.

The full postal addresses of the various manufacturers are appended to the descriptions, serving as a useful reference.

Performance figures are included in some cases, and Motor Sport is acknowledged; in the case of the Consul-engined Allard Palm Beach our top-speed figure is given as 90 m.p.h. but, in fact, we have not tested this car. A few errors can be spotted in casual reading, such as reversed captions to the illustrations of the New Anglia and New Prefect Fords, and a life of 35 years instead of 20 credited to the traction avant Citroën, while careless proof-reading has permitted the inclusion of a new British make, the Alivs. The author is not afraid to be candid, criticising Morgan, for example, because they have “succumbed to the present tendency to mould headlights into the fenders and slope the radiator. …” Unexpectedly he includes the B.B.M. and F. II Connaught in the book.

On the whole, however, a useful reference work, particularly where the more rare Continental cars are concerned. — W. B.