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3.6 out of 5 stars7
3.6 out of 5 stars
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on 19 August 2009
A friend recommended this book to me and I'm really glad he did. Even though I have never been remotely interested in motor racing, I soon found myself caught up in this terrific tale of the struggle to put together a winning team and machine for what must have been a truly gruelling contest. The characters quickly become as familiar as real people, and the various twists and turns to the story make it a real page-turner. I'm now looking forward to Michael Pearson's next offering - on this form, it will be well worth the wait!
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on 29 November 2011
Perhaps the most annoying thing about this book to anyone remotely knowledgeable about sports car racing in the 1950s is the frequent historical inaccuracy. Sports car engines - any racing engines, in fact - in the `50s wouldn't rev. to anywhere near 18,000 rpm (a 3 litre V8 would only have topped around a third of that), drivers didn't "flip up" their visors when they came into the pits (the full-face helmet didn't come into vogue until the `70s; drivers used goggles in this period) and small-time entrants didn't employ teams of engineers - a manager and a couple of mechanics is about all but the very biggest would run to.

Jack Brabham was a long way from car constructor in 1956; he'd only arrived in England the previous year and was just commencing his tenure as a driver at Cooper. And Lotus was barely out of its infancy, hardly a big enough constructor to be courted by a major Japanese tyre manufacturer. Brands Hatch was hardly new in 1956, was not owned by the BRSCC, and the pits were not yet of the "drive through" type (this being true for almost all circuits at the time).

This seems to have been written by a young author who has scant knowledge of the period in which his book is set and has tried to transpose his experience of the contemporary world into days past. That applies to all aspects of the life described; blokes in pubs in 1956 didn't drink pints of lager, nor was canned lager (the plural of which, by the way, is lagers, not lager's) "newly fashionable" at home yet, and back then a team from Essex testing at Brands would think nothing of driving there and back in a day and certainly would not have gone to the expense of staying locally overnight. Also, it would never have been described as a "Mickey Mouse circuit", a much more recent expression resulting from the FIA's emasculation of motor racing's upper echelons. More evidence of trying to impose the 21st century into the mid-20th century lies in the frequent use of Americanisms which have become commonplace in modern parlance but were certainly not used in the England of this book (e.g. a bloke from Essex in 1956 did not sit on his "butt").

Furthermore, low-volume sport car manufacturers in the mid-`50s did not exist completely detached from the world of racing and then take the plunge with an exclusively redesigned racing version of their road-car using a dedicated chassis, as contemporary firms do; they simply raced the existing car with a tuned engine and perhaps some upgraded components (if that, even) and would almost certainly have been involved in it from the outset (most built racing cars before expanding to road cars).

Some technical awareness wouldn't go amiss here, too. Adding wheel weights will do nothing to cure oversteer; they are there to balance the wheel/tyre combination and eliminate vibration (and would never be added simply by hand without the use of a balancing machine).

Continuity errors abound, as well; on page 11 it is revealed that the central character is engaged to be married but at the end of the book he "pops the question", while on page 155 Ferrari is to enter the a certain driver in the Targa but then he's driving for the Sicilian private team. And on top of all this, the book is littered is the most appalling punctuation (see comment above) that I have ever encountered, to which is added a number of inexcusable typos (what's a star-finish straight?) for good measure. Did anybody actually proof-read it?

But once you get past all of the above there is the plot which is thin and predictable, unsuccessful and distracting attempts at humorous asides, and characters which are clichéd, so at least these are consistent with the rest of the book. To sum up, don't waste your money or, more pertinently, your time; if you want to read a good book about sports car racing in the 1950s, start with Burt Levy's truly excellent The Last Open Road.
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on 22 August 2009
Being familiar with Michael Pearson's previous work which has centered on Naval History, A Ribbon of Road in the Moonlight shows how versatile a writer he is.
In this book that tells of a small motor manufacturer and the determination of its owner to build a sports car and assemble a team of mechanics, drivers and financiers with a view to winning one of the most prestigious road races of the era.
Set in the early 1950's it captures the fascination with speed and glamour, much sought after in the post war years.
The characters Michael Pearson has created are alive; you feel you are in their company during their arguments and negotiations.
This novel has been a joy to read. I look forward to others from Michael Pearson.
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on 29 May 2013
Enjoyable read, big print so it won't take long to get through the book, so take another book if your going to read it on holiday. Some of the facts are a bit off the mark such as the car having a V8 that revs to 18k - in 1955!
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on 25 March 2010
Being an avid petrolhead, I was looking forward to reading this book and must confess to being a little disappointed. It is certainly let down by some inadequate proof reading - there are spelling errors and some very poor punctuation. While it captures well the flavour of the era, one is staggered that our hero's engine can rev happily between 3500 and 18000 with a misfire above and below - it could be on the F1 grid today!!

The story is good fun and certainly had me smiling on occasion. It would have been nice for more space to have been given to the race itself. For a genuine contemporary account of the racing, you can do no better than reading Dennis Jenkinson's article of his co-driving with Moss on the '55 Mille Miglia - a classic in its own right.

Without giving away the denouement, the ending is somewhat marred by a failure to recognise the part played in determining the race winner by "overall elapsed time".

A good light read, but lacked authenticity, detail and originality.
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on 20 June 2009
If you have read any of Michael Pearson's naval history books then you will recognise the same attention to detail here set in 1957 as he turns his hand to motor racing fiction. As a first novel its an enjoyable read and I was sufficiently taken back to the era where political correctness didn't exist and some of the character stereotypes lifted straight from a 1950s movie and its fun because of that. You feel yourself rooting for the plucky British sports car maker gambling his entire busines on a single race. The title may confuse some in that the Targa Florio is daylight road race but the phrase is lifted from the poem 'The Highwayman' by Alfred Noyes and immortalised in the music video for Fleetwood Mac's 'Everywhere' which is a nice touch. Looking forward to the next one.
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on 24 May 2010
More research and understanding of the subject would improve read for motorsport enthusiasts. A light read that keeps you amused.
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