A weighty tome came in for review the other day, which I decided not to mention, because it deals in over-dramatic fashion with the crunch-and-gore aspect of motor racing, costs a great deal of money, and is three years out of date anyway. But, flicking through its pages, I came upon the following attack on Motor Sport by its American author:—
“The British journal Motor Sport, one of the best, reviews a book: ‘Robert Daley does for Motor-racing, in his much-publicised and admittedly magnificently-illustrated “The Cruel Sport” what Hemmingway did for bull-fighting in “Death in the Afternoon’, but the presentation will be too lurid and in places too exaggerated for our more discerning readers. . .’ The curious spelling and syntax aside, this is typical. Daley broke the convention: he spoke of the risk of the profession, he treated at length of the personalities of the drivers, and he included photographs of crashes, and, far worse, photographs of injured drivers. Every attempt must be made, therefore, to keep the book from coming to public attention.”
Apart from the fact that in reviewing “The Cruel Sport” we can scarcely have been said to have kept it from coming to public attention, at this length of time we cannot say whether writer or type-setters committed the errors in spelling; as for syntax, the person who wrote the review was so passionately fond of motor racing while his education was progressing that he deliberately neglected English composition in favour of mechanical information. Today he writes for a motoring magazine; he makes no claim to be an author of English literature. When it becomes a matter of objecting to the publication of gory crash pictures (Mayfair offended very badly not so long ago, with that horrid picture of the dying Archie Scott-Brown) and of disliking those who cash-in on motor racing by over-dramatising and exploiting its accident potential, he hopes he is making the right decision?
It is for you, who pay for this journal, to judge. But as the author of the book in question has seen fit to criticise, Dog eating Dog, may I quote just one of his many lurid passages?—”. . . they both had their backs to the circuit when they heard the rubber shriek and the shouts. They snapped their heads round [‘they’ being the wife and mistress of the drivers concerned]. Blue car and white car, the white one swerving to the side of the road, its driver fighting to hold it out of the ditch, the blue one flipping end for end down the course, like a clown’s toy. A man flew out, tumbled through the air. To the people standing at one side it seemed that he would miss the telegraph pole. No, he hit it high and fairly and face-on in a terrible embrace; just for a second a body stuck there, then it fell backward, arms piteously outstretched. The white car had got around; there was nothing else in sight; nothing to be heard but the soft thud of the body hitting the ground, the quick sigh from the crowd.” I am not jealous of this author’s ability and inclination to write thus of motor racing, so have not paused to look for spelling mistakes or bad syntax in his book. But you may think that anyone who craves to portray motor racing in these words has a damned sauce to criticise a technical writer who prefers to present to the best of his uneducated British ability less-dramatic aspects of the game. That, in fact, this sensation-hungry American is sticking out his neck with all the venom of a bullet fired from a Purdy rifle.—W. B.