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Peter Fenelon

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Ken Tyrrell: The Authorised Biography
Ken Tyrrell: The Authorised Biography
by Maurice Hamilton
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The book Ken didn't want to happen..., 12 May 2005
Ken Tyrrell always said that he didn't want a biography; he didn't feel he'd achieved much... typical of his modesty, his achievements included masterminding all three of Jackie Stewart's world championships, discovering Francois Cevert, Jean Alesi, Michele Alboreto and many other F1 stars, becoming a Grand Prix constructor almost against his own will, introducing the first six-wheel Grand Prix car, and keeping his team running through thick and thin from the 1960s to the 1990s.
By any standards they're achievements to be proud of and Ken's family and Maurice Hamilton decided after his death that it was time to write it all down.
Ken was from a working-class background; didn't even see motor racing until the 1950s when his football team went to watch a race meeting. He decided that he could probably do as well as some of the 500cc F3 drivers, and scrimped and saved to get into racing. He eventually decided that he'd reached his natural level as a driver and moved over to the management side of things, running F2, FJunior and F3 teams, and later also Mini Coopers.
An early signing was a promising young Scottish club racer, one John Young Stewart. Jackie soon became an integral part of the Tyrrell story, almost part of the family. Family's another important theme in this book - Ken's immensely strong relationship with Norah Tyrrell and his sons Bob and Kenneth is described as an essential part of how Tyrrell fitted together as a team.
The team, run from his lumber yard at Ockham, became a force to reckon with in the minor formulae - he soon attracted the attention of French aerospace firm Matra. Ken ran Formula Two cars for them, and graduated to Formula One (he'd already stood in for John Cooper when he was injured) with Cosworth-engined Matras (while Matra themselves ran cars with their own BRM-inspired V12). The Tyrrell/Matra/Stewart/Ford combination delivered its first Championship in 1969 - but Matra wanted the success to continue with their V12. Stewart was intransigent; he had to keep his Cosworth. So Tyrrell bought customer Marches for 1970 and in secret built the 001. The new car and its descendents brought the team another two World Championships, but in 1973 it was hit by two blows - Jackie Stewart decided to retire, and Francois Cevert was killed.
Tyrrell never scaled those heights again. The team gradually slipped down the grids through the 70s and early 80s, from championship contenders to lucky winners (arguably losing their way with the legendary six-wheeler, the story of which is told in full here).
The team's nadir was 1984, when they were excluded from the championship on fairly shaky grounds. Ken fought hard against this and fought back, the team re-establishing itself as a steady midfield challenger (and enjoying the odd spectacular result with Jean Alesi) but it was obvious that without a major sponsor and a works engine deal its glory days were over and the team's last few years were a steady and rather depressing decline. The racing story ends with the flash, brash BAR outfit - the antithesis of everything Tyrrell stood for - buying out the team and forcing Ken's departure.
The book ends with Ken's courageous battle against the cancer that claimed his life.
This is a human, humane, perceptive and detailed biography of one of the last gentlemen in Formula One, an immensely respected figure who was a true inspiration and leader.

Dino: The Little Ferrari V6 & V8 Racing and Road Cars 1957- 1979
Dino: The Little Ferrari V6 & V8 Racing and Road Cars 1957- 1979
by Doug Nye
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good history of V6 and V8 Ferraris on road and track, 12 May 2005
Ferrari, in the public imagination, was inextricably linked with 12-cylinder engines (never mind that two World Championships and many sports car races were won with humble 'fours'!).
At the time of his premature death, Enzo Ferrari's son Alfredino ("Dino") was working on a V6 for Formula Two use.
This book describes the history of that six, its descendents and its eight-cylinder relatives in racing and road cars - so we see Ferrari F1 cars from the late 50s through to the "return of power" in 1966, the late-60s F2 programme, and a range of small-capacity sports-prototypes; the Dino 206, 246 and 308 are also covered in some detail, as is the Dino-engined Lancia Stratos. (The return to GT racing of the eight-cylinder 355 and 360 aren't discussed - this is very much a reprint rather than a new edition!)
This is typical Doug Nye - rock-solid technical and racing detail told in an engaging, entertaining and anecdotal style. The nature of the book means that there's not really one clear theme running through it, but Nye keeps all the strands of the Dino story under control and keeps the relationship between single-seaters, prototypes and road cars clear - although this is primarily a book on competition cars.

Sports Racing Cars: Expert Assessment of Fifty Motor Racing Greats
Sports Racing Cars: Expert Assessment of Fifty Motor Racing Greats
by Anthony Pritchard
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sensible overview of sports car racing, 12 May 2005
A good introduction to sports car racing seen through the cars that have dominated it over the years. All the obvious classics are there, from pre-war Bentleys via front-engined Ferraris, Maseratis, Jaguars etc through the classic rear-engined prototypes of the sixties (Ford vs Ferrari vs Porsche) and seventies through the Group C era of Porsche vs Jaguar right up to the return of Bentley at Le Mans. Each article can only scratch the surface of the history of the fifty cars Pritchard has chosen to analyse, but the selection is (for the most part) a good one - the only gaping omission is that of the Audi R8 (odd since its Bentley "cousin" features) - and the histories give a good feel for who was racing and winning and what the opposition was at any point in the history of sports car racing. There are some good photographs and cutaway drawings, and overall, this is a welcome addition to the literature on sports car racing.

Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback
Paper Lion: Confessions of a Last-String Quarterback
by George Plimpton
Edition: Paperback

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of sports journalism, 11 May 2005
36 year old writer and editor George Plimpton had previously (in "Out Of My League") pitched in a demonstration baseball match. In "Paper Lion" he set himself the target of playing as quarterback for the Detroit Lions. The book covers his time with the Lions from arrival at their preseason training camp in 1963 to the end of his active involvement with them.
It's as much a book about (American!) football and footballers as it is about Plimpton's own achievements. The descriptions of tactics and training are less important than Plimpton's relationship with the established professionals and the other rookies, almost 15 years his junior. We learn much about the sociology and dynamics of the football team, the coaches, the fans, the team owners; about what motivates men to play such a visceral and often brutal sport. It's also a book full of immortal characters; Alex Karras, "Night Train" Lane, Gail Cogdill and many others come alive in the pages of this book.
This is participatory journalism at its best. We feel every sack Plimpton is the victim of; we share his joy every time he learns a new play and carries it off in training; we share his despair when a demonstration game turns out to be a disaster.
The landscape in American football has changed dramatically - there are many more professional teams in one league structure; the players are paid orders of magnitude more, the plays infinitely more complex - but that's irrelevant. This is a boook about sportsmen and sport, about teamwork and rivalry, about effort and attainment. Some things are eternal and transcend the time and place.
A wonderfully insightful book about an intelligent outsider taking part in professional sport.

The Moonlandings: An Eyewitness Account
The Moonlandings: An Eyewitness Account
by Reginald Turnill
Edition: Hardcover

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book; misleading title, 11 May 2005
The author, title and the CUP imprint led me to believe that this would be a relatively straight history of the Apollo lunar landings told by the BBC's Space Correspondent throughout the programme.
Turnill's book is much broader in scope and more personal than that though. It's really an extended memoir of his involvement with the American space programme, from their earliest satellite launches through to John Glenn's return to space. The centrepiece of the book is the description of the Apollo lunar missions, though, through the viewpoint of media coverage, Turnill's experiences at the Cape, and his personal relationships with many of the astronauts, engineers and mission control staff. A central theme in the book is Turnill's strange relationship with Wernher von Braun.
This is one of the most readable and informative books on the US manned space programme I've ever read - while not being as detailed as Heppenheimer's "Countdown" or Burrows' "This New Ocean" which attempt to tell the whole story of the space age, and broader than Chaikin's "Man on the Moon" which just concentrates on Apollo; Turnill concentrates on the men who built, flew and controlled Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, the way the media reported them, and how von Braun's grand design for the space programme was compromised by the disappointments of budget cuts and the shuttle programme.
The prose is excellent, with Turnill offering a mixture of often amusing anecdotes, straight reportage and interesting background and analysis - he's clearly done a lot of research as well as reminiscence and it's obvious that he's respected by many of the astronauts and engineers.
If you just want a book on Apollo, there are others that have much more detail, but if you want an accessible, readable history of the US manned space programme pre-Shuttle, this is it.

The Complete Peel Sessions
The Complete Peel Sessions

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ......and tonight we've got a session from the mighty Fall., 2 May 2005
Words that every Peel listener knew... you knew you were in from some eulogizing from Peelie, and a few tracks of anarchic, spiky, often chaotic brilliance.
This set collects all 24 Peel Sessions - 97 selections from the Thoughts of Chairman Mark. Pretty much every Fall lineup's represented, and most of the old favourite songs are there. The band's form can charitably be described as variable - some sessions are dog-rough with the band sounding tentative, on others they sound tight and well-drilled. Smithy's familiar snarl is always there though - sardonic, provocative, dangerous, and compelling.
This is a huge document of a quarter of a century of all that's genuinely alternative in rock - music to provoke, infuriate, fascinate. Not just everything the Fall stand for but everything Peel stood for.
A must for anyone with an interest in the band or fond memories of Peel.

Ministry of Space
Ministry of Space
by Warren Ellis
Edition: Paperback

62 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Right Stuff, Old Boy?, 29 Mar. 2005
This review is from: Ministry of Space (Paperback)
A disturbing and brilliant look into an alternate history where Britannia may not rule the waves any longer, but certainly has a damn good go at ruling the skies.
Told mostly in flashback, this is the story of how the monomaniacal Air Commodore Dashwood jump-starts the British space programme at the end of the second world war; realising that Britain is finished as a land power he kidnaps the Peenemunde team and ensures - by any means necessary - that the Americans can't get their hands on any of the remains of the base.
Within a few years Britain has launched its first satellite and Dashwood becomes the first man into space - losing his legs when his rocketplane crashes on re-entry. Undeterred, he continues to push Britain ever further - space stations, Moon and Mars landings all soon follow. The Empire on which the Sun never set spans several planets...
...but the Americans eventually start up their own space programme; and they've discovered how Dashwood found the money to start the British Ministry of Space...
This is strong stuff. A complex political morality tale, a character study of a true monster, and yet also a loving homage to the world of Dan Dare. It's a curiously Bakelite sort of alternate history; no rock'n'roll in Britain, no Beatles, Nationasl Service, short back'n'sides... how much liberty is it worth sacrificing for the dream of the space programme? And can the means ever be justified by the ends?
Everything about this graphic novel is near-perfect - taut scripting, stunningly plausible art, and a real sense of back-story. Further dispatches from the Ministry will be awaited with interest.

The Chariot Makers: Assembling the Perfect Formula 1 Car
The Chariot Makers: Assembling the Perfect Formula 1 Car
by Steve Matchett
Edition: Paperback

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining survey of modern F1 technology, 23 Mar. 2005
Steve Matchett's third book (his first two, "Life In The Fast Lane" and "The Mechanic's Tale" are classics of motor racing literature) is still partly autobiographical - it describes his switch from mechanic to TV presenter, and his move to France - but its main purpose is to describe the design and construction of the modern (2000 onwards) F1 car.
Structured around a series of conversations Matchett had while waiting for a delayed flight (although taking a little dramatic licence), the book covers in considerable detail the hypothetical design of the "perfect F1 car".
Areas covered include chassis, fuel system, transmission, engine, suspension, aerodynamics, tyres, brakes, electronics. In each area Matchett examines how F1's got where it is today, looks at the design alternatives, and describes what's "best in breed". Few doors in F1 are closed to Steve - his long stint as a senior Benetton mechanic and his television work mean he knows most of the technical people and there is a lot of insight into "why" as well as "how" in this book - his own experience colours a lot of the choices, too, with some solutions being described as ideal in theory, but unworkable in practice purely because they're so hard to assemble or maintain!
Matchett always writes well and engagingly, and this is a book that's intelligent, literate, technically sound, occasionally amusing, cogently argued and full of surprising insight into why some conventions of F1 design have arisen.
An excellent overview of modern F1 technology by a true insider. Those who want to go much further should have a look at Peter Wright's "Formula 1 Technology", but for most readers this is all the technical background you'll need. Excellent.

Hard Revolution
Hard Revolution
by George P. Pelecanos
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent thriller with a solid background, 21 Mar. 2005
This review is from: Hard Revolution (Paperback)
Amazon has been recommending me Pelecanos novels for some time so I thought I was long overdue to actually try one. And I now wonder why I waited so long.
"Hard Revolution", like the rest of Pelecanos' novels, is firmly rooted in the underside of Washington DC; more specifically in the Greek and African-American communities. The time is Spring 1968; the city a powder-keg about to explode into riot after the assassination of Martin Luther King.
Against this background Pelecanos weaves the stories of the Strange family, rookie policeman Derek and his Vietnam-vet brother Dennis, their father Darius, and their mother Alethea; and of veteran homicide cop Frank Vaughn. Strange and Vaughn are both trying to keep the peace in their own ways; to Vaughn, it's just a job, and an opportunity to make a few bucks on the side through - well, not exactly corruption, but irregular practices; to Strange, as a young black policeman in a city on the edge of chaos, it's a matter of identity, pride, and honour.
A splendidly detailed and richly characterised novel, with an excellent sense of time and place - a pacy noir-ish thriller which acts as an excellent introduction to the author's work.

Screen Burn
Screen Burn
by Charlie Brooker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Charlie Brooker is angry. Very angry., 1 Mar. 2005
This review is from: Screen Burn (Paperback)
Charlie Brooker loves television.
He just hates the way it is now.
This book is a passionate, scathing, vicious and occasionally scabrous attack on the dumbing-down of television over the last five years or so; the rise of interminable reality programmes, lowest-common-denominator "talent" shows, and incessant downmarket soaps and violent dramas.
Put that bluntly, it could be seen as a depressing book. However, Brooker is the man who gave us TV Go Home and Unnovations, and is the creator of the odious Nathan Barley, so there's a savage, excoriating wit there - this is appallingly funny, and full of well-directed ire.
As television fragments into thousands of channels targeting ordure at the masses, Brooker's book is a powerful scream calling for sanity and some artistic integrity. It's also filthy and hilarious.

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