BUMPER BUNDLE OF BOOK REVIEWS – 1
The new book scene is vibrant at the moment with a diverse range of titles and subject matters, writes Iain Robertson, that are certain to engage with readers of all ages, style expectations and information hunger levels; this is a first batch of six, with six more to follow.
Ford GT40 – The Autobiography of 1075
By Ray Hutton
ISBN: 978 1 907085 68 0
We have now reached the 11th in the ‘Great Cars’ series of simply stunning books published by Porter Press. To the ardent car fanatic, these remarkably informative tomes (320pp) are not just coffee-table impressive, because they are also packed with superior grade photography, outstandingly readable editorial and a wonderful blend of anecdotal and detailed memories. As is now customary, while this book focuses on just one car, in this case the race-winning, Gulf-sponsored Ford GT40 that won the Le Mans 24-Hours race twice, it also delves into the famous drivers, such as Jackie Ickx and Brian Redman among others, who gave the car its much-lauded successes. There is probably no other GT40 that is more memorable than 1075 and the full-colour gallery of images towards the end of the book highlights its time-served beauty to very good effect. The author is the outstanding Ray Hutton, a motoring and motorsport journalist renowned for the depth of his coverage across several automotive titles. While not wishing to diminish the value of any of them, I believe that Porter Press has provided him with the ideal vehicle, in this book, for him to display his journalistic art to perfection. Needless to say, no leaf is left unturned in its comprehensive reportage of a charismatic motorcar, which is regarded by all interested parties as the most important endurance race car in history. Grown from Ford Motor Company’s failure to buy Ferrari in 1963, the US giant decided to tackle the Italian specialist head-on, with the sole aim of beating what they could not buy. It is a fantastic read and reference book for fans of the ultimate race car.
Guy Martin – Portrait of a Bike Legend
By Phil Wain
ISBN: 978 1 78097 955 7
From being vaunted as a potential successor to Jeremy Clarkson, to becoming an unlikely celebrity, whose earthy commentary has guided a massive TV audience through innumerable ‘man vs. machine’ challenges, Guy Martin is the Lincolnshire bike racer that everybody knows about. It almost hardly matters, whether his dense Wolds’ accent succeeds at informing his adoring public, or not, as his immense enthusiasm for all things motorbike, engineering and sheer speed are what defines him. Guy is like a seemingly indestructible force of nature. He combines speed and danger in ways that ordinary people might eat pie and mash, declaring them unusual bed-partners but seldom denying that they work together impeccably at times. Phil Wain, the biographical author, is an experienced motorcycle journalist, who also served as Guy’s Press Officer. He has written the story of the man marvel with great gusto, underscoring his achievements but also pinpointing some of the less pleasant aspects of the truck mechanic turned road racer. I could be critical of some of the turns of phrase but it would be specious, when you become aware of what makes Guy Martin tick, something at which this 166pp soft-back book is most adept. Its abundant appeal is as much for the unwitting TV celebrity, as it is for the hardened bike racer that has become the Guy Martin brand of recent years. It is great fun, much like its subject.
The Great Explorers and Their Journeys of Discovery
By Beau Riffenburgh
ISBN: 978 0 23300 527 0
Published in conjunction with the Royal Geographical Society, which adds a significant credibility factor to the title and its contents, this superb 208pp hardback takes an historical trip across the continents to provide a response to man’s fundamental desire to explore. While commencing in the pre-Golden Age, when the likes of Columbus came to the fore, this fine book touches on the role of the Ancient Egyptians and Chinese, as they sought to map our world and satisfy their curiosities. Inevitably, the contents touch on the largely unavoidable subsuming of ethnic races but not in a mawkish manner. It is a declaration of facts, as the specialists know them, without delving into gory detail, or scientific language, which ensures that it remains eminently readable and thus enjoyable. It is a record of great successes and amazing achievements, supported by a charming array of photographic images, colourful illustrations and period writings and authorisations, all of which serve to fill the many gaps that exist in our knowledge about the field of exploration, even to the extent of how it has developed over the centuries and its relevance today. It is a fascinating trawl through social history that introduces some scientific aspects, while remaining accessible and elegant in its presentation. Interestingly, your kids will probably love it.
Uncut Presents The History of Rock in the 1970s
From the archives of Melody Maker and the NME
ISBN: 978 1 78097 984 7
There is no avoiding the fact that the 1970s were great years in the history of rock music. It is my era. When I was moving from teenage to adulthood, music was a precursor of my life in that period prior to the onslaught of new technology. I had been brought up on a diet of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and the former group had already passed its nadir, while the latter would continue with its ‘dirty’ sound to the current day. Yet, the musical die had already been cast for me. The Beatles shaped the era but it was one peppered with often ludicrous change. It would become the period of the live performance but was injected with a lysergic blend of punk, glam and prog, genres that have also ridden out the storms of popularity, some wearing better than others. In purely art form, the pages of this 352pp book are little more than a glossary of each year of the decade, complete with period imagery. It stands, therefore, as a valuable record of that ten years period and ventures through the relatively timeless musings of its music journalists. Great fun and providing me with some details that I missed at the time, Uncut’s History of 1970s Rock is a genuine hoot and it is a relief to see how many of its stars have survived the cut. Besides, it would cost a fortune to buy all of those back issues.
The Story of Scotch Whisky
By Tom Bruce-Gardyne
ISBN: 978 1 78739 020 1
As a Scot, who appreciates the value of Uisge Beatha (Gaelic for ‘Water of Life’), not just in commercial terms but also as a most pleasurable alcoholic distillation, I am glad to have been able to fill my boots with a properly constructed history of Scotch Whisky (notably, without the ‘e’ of Irish Whiskey). Tom Bruce-Gardyne, the author, is a real enthusiast but one capable of exploring his subject matter and imparting practical information to his readership. As one of the world’s most popular beverages, its history, which dates from the 15th Century, is a colourful one that has survived innumerable hurdles during its existence. Yet, it is a drink that continues to evolve and intrigue both samplers and hardened appreciators alike. Its 176pp are packed with delightful photographs that are as much a travelogue around the Lowlands, Highlands and Islands, as they are for pinpointing the sometimes-spectacular locations of each of Scotland’s distilleries, of all sizes. I found the contents fascinating and riveting and I can see this book being appreciated in equal measure by Scotch Whisky aficionados, as well as food and drink fans.
Total Guitar presents How To Play Guitar
By Future Publishing
ISBN: 978 1 78097 571 9
Compiled by the experts from Future Publishing’s magazine, Total Guitar, this 208pp hardback contains hundreds of useful photographs and step-by-step exercises aimed at helping the reader to play guitar. Hints and tips are provided by some of the most gifted musicians, many of which are household names, and they even provide guidance on song-writing, composition and performing. As someone who is learning how to play the ukulele at the moment, I found its contents highly useful, although I can see countless mums and dads giving a copy of this book to their guitar-playing offspring, to help them to benefit from its detail. Its great attraction is that it avoids the stuffiness and ‘artistry’ of some ‘how to’ books and focuses on the simple pleasures of getting the player’s fingers into the right positions to ensure that, ultimately, a budding Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, or George Formby, may result…in spirit at least, if not with playing talent!