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Owning Up: The Trilogy: Scouse Mouse; Rum, Bum and Concertina; Owning Up (Penguin Classic Biography)
Owning Up: The Trilogy: Scouse Mouse; Rum, Bum and Concertina; Owning Up (Penguin Classic Biography)
by George Melly
Edition: Paperback

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Autobiography at its finest, 17 Feb. 2004
Wit, raconteur, art connoisseur, surrealist, lascivious jazzman, sexual athlete and wearer of some of the most dangerous suits in Britain, Melly's autobiography is every bit as provocative and bizarre as the man himself.
Written in reverse order but rearranged into chronological order in this edition, it's best to tackle the volumes that way round.
Scouse Mouse covers George's upper-middle-class childhood in Liverpool between the wars. This is a fascinating account of his family, the arts scene in Liverpool, and of a city and lifestyle now almost completely vanished; there are plenty of laughs along the way too.
Rum, Bum and Concertina describes Melly's spell in the Royal Navy, his burgeoning sexuality, and his contact and involvement with the London art world, in particular the Surrealists. Probably the weakest of the three, but again a fascinating portrait of two very different aspects of his life.
Owning Up sees George falling victim to the dreaded curse of Jazz, describing in scabrous, lip-smacking and often highly self-deprecating detail his torrid days with Mick Mulligan's band. At the end of this book he decides to forsake the jazz life for writing and broadcasting...
...but of course an afterword describes his subsequent jazz career with John Chilton ;)
George is a national treasure; his books are warm, acerbic, waspish, astonishingly perceptive and almost infinitely readable. A real treat.


The Complete Book of Formula One: All Cars and Drivers Since 1950
The Complete Book of Formula One: All Cars and Drivers Since 1950
by Simon Arron
Edition: Hardcover

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb photographic reference, 13 Feb. 2004
Now this is a weird one. Respected journos Simon Arron (at Motorsport News and Autosport for many years) and Mark "brother of Warren and the bloke who should have Nigel Roebuck's job" Hughes (also of the Beano) have teamed up to produce the ultimate photographic reference book on F1.
They attempt to show a picture of every car/driver combination that's ever competed in the World Championship, and a portrait of every driver - and apart from a few very obscure ones in the 50s, they succeed pretty well. (About 30 missing out of something like 3500 driver/car combinations, many of these F2 tail-enders who only ran in one GP and none later than the early sixties).
The book's organised year by year, with a nice photographic survey of the year's championship, and then pics of the driver/car combinations in championship order. If Fred Bloggs drove three different models of car in 1966, then they show you Fred in each of the three. You can't accuse them of being less than comprehensive. Now, there's not much new you can show about most of the famous ones, but this book really comes into its own the further down you get - it's all here, private owners of customer or ex-works cars, extra works entries, one-offs, no-hopers, chancers, special-builders... there's pics of everything from AFM to Zakspeed in here. Most of the pics are very good, but some of them, probably out of the need to use substandard material to cover everything, have been fairly crudely digitally enlarged.
Possibly not of interest to pure Bernie-era F1 fans, but anyone interested particularly in the 60s and 70s when there were all sorts of weird and wonderful characters popping up in bizarrely-coloured cars (check out the chocolate brown and orange Brabham John Watson used to drive!) for odd races in strange privateer cars this is the book. It's also a great photo-essay on how the F1 car has evolved over the past 50-odd years.
Somewhere between coffee-table and anorak, with appeal to both ends of the spectrum.
I've spotted two errors. Pete Lovely's 1971 Lotus 69/49 hybrid is described as having a 4-cylinder Cosworth engine; in fact it used a DFV V8. On the same page (!) obscure one-off March rent-a-driver Max Jean is mis-listed as Jean Max, although this mistake is very common!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 24, 2009 10:21 PM GMT


31 Songs
31 Songs
by Nick Hornby
Edition: Paperback

34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What music means to Nick Hornby..., 15 Jan. 2004
This review is from: 31 Songs (Paperback)
We already know Hornby's a music obsessive - it would've been impossible to write High Fidelity otherwise - but rather than Rob's obsessive cataloguing, this book presents Hornby's own reactions to some of his favourite songs.
It's not really a music book, as such - although he says a fair bit about the artists and the songs, what Hornby's really exploring in this book is how particular songs have influenced, evoked and helped him remember particular parts of his life - it's about the assocations music makes with his memories and emotions, and as such is actually more of an autobiography.
The style is light and readable, as you'd expect from Hornby, and the choice of tracks just surprising enough to keep you reading.
There are few shocking insights here, quite a few laughs and a few poignant moments, and a good slice of pop-cultural memories. It's fun, nostalgic, entertaining, and you'll have lots of fun arguing over which tracks you would've put into your own version!
Solid entertainment from a writer who understands just how music can take you back to a particular time, place and mood.


Metro Maps of the World (World Maps)
Metro Maps of the World (World Maps)
by Mark Ovenden
Edition: Hardcover

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hypnotic and brilliant, 13 Jan. 2004
What more can I say? - Well, this is rather more than just a collection of maps, it amounts to an essay on design, showing how pure-topographical maps have become stylised to show just the 'logical' structure of metros, and how the use of typography, colour and symbols can create an image for a metro system and a city as a whole. Ovenden also uses the maps to hang brief histories and surveys of the metro systems from, so the book's also a concise history of urban, underground and light rail.
Some fairly blurred reproduction of a couple of maps, and where did all the letter 'l's go on the Merseyrail map? - but otherwise difficult to fault. Handsomely-produced, with enough text to guide the reader through the book, and, most important of all, a lot of maps!


BRM: Front Engined Cars, 1945-60 v.1: The Saga of British Racing Motors: Front Engined Cars, 1945-60 Vol 1
BRM: Front Engined Cars, 1945-60 v.1: The Saga of British Racing Motors: Front Engined Cars, 1945-60 Vol 1
by Doug Nye
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £70.00

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb - volume one of a mightily impressive series., 29 Dec. 2003
Now reissued in an unnumbered unlimited edition, this magnificent book covers the genesis of the BRM project and the first two generations of BRM cars. It also takes asides into the life stories of Raymond Mays and Peter Berthon, the ERA project that indirectly gave rise to BRM, and looks at the Maserati that Owen ran when BRM weren't ready in 1954.
This is really the story of two cars though - one far too complex, the other simple but overlong in its gestation.
The first, THE BRM to many, is the gloriously complex V16 single-seater, a car so powerful, so complex, so underdeveloped and so downright frightening that even drivers of the calibre of Moss were afraid of it. The failure of the V16 to achieve significant success on the international scene is contrasted with its performance in short-distance races in Britain - not what the cars were built for.... - and the demise of the formula for which it was built is at least partly laid at BRM's feet.
BRM's original support via a network of British engineering companies soon faded and the team found itself owned by the Owen Organisation - Sir Alfred's company making it an R&D operation as well as a race team.
The second half of the book covers the Owen Racing Organisation's experiences running a Maserati while their own much simpler four-cylinder car was prepared for the 2.5l formula, how that car arrived late and was initially uncompetitive and how it was finally developed into possibly the best front-engined Grand Prix car ever built.
Nye covers everything - races, test sessions, meetings between the key players - and reproduces many original documents, aided by reminiscences from the late and sadly missed Tony Rudd.
This is a huge, copiously-illustrated and wonderfully readable volume, the first of a projected four volumes on BRM.
It is unmissable by anyone with an interest in the subject.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 11, 2010 12:20 PM GMT


Absolute Friends
Absolute Friends
by John Le Carré
Edition: Hardcover

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A splendid return to form., 29 Dec. 2003
This review is from: Absolute Friends (Hardcover)
Smiley and Karla, Magnus and Rick Pym, now Ted and Sasha - Le Carre is at his best when he creates pairs of characters who lead each other to their fates, and in Absolute Friends he comes up with two true immortals.
Ted, in earlier Le Carre books, would've been a perfectly normal member of the espiocracy, the kind of dependable, solid agent who would've discharged his Circus duties without conscience or controversy. But contemporary le Carre characters have even more tangled depths - Ted's concern for justice and equality is rooted in a loathing of the mess that Britain left behind in India and Pakistan; this obviously leads him into anti-imperialism and the shadowy world of espionage. It is in Germany that he encounters the brilliant, disabled Sasha - firebrand politician and also committed to his own brand of liberty.
Absolute Friends shows two figures bound up into their systems striving to find their own individual justice, their own places in the world. States, systems, organisations are not to be trusted in the new Le Carre - loyalty is individual, morality is absolute. There are probably more overt attacks on Western liberalism and capitalism in this book than in the rest of his work put together; what was formerly presented as the "right" way is now merely the less repulsive of a set of fairly unpleasant alternatives.
Yet how can men like Sasha and Ted build a better world?
This is possibly Le Carre's finest book yet. It lacks the immediacy and some of the intimacy of "A Perfect Spy", although rivals it in scope. It lacks the intense intrigue and 'tradecraft' of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" though matches it for density and depth of tone.
It is a fine, mature and humane novel by a superb writer with an clear yet idiosyncratic view of honour, morality and duty. Wonderfully readable.


Fangio: The Life Behind the Legend
Fangio: The Life Behind the Legend
by Gerald Donaldson
Edition: Hardcover

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lacks some of the sparkle of previous Donaldson biographies, 10 Nov. 2003
Fangio's owm memoirs written with Carozzo are rather poorly edited and the veracity of some passages is open to debate; a new biography of the Maestro by acclaimed writer Gerald Donaldson is therefore of much interest, particularly bearing in mind the quality of his books on Gilles Villeneuve and James Hunt.
Sadly this isn't the great book I'd hoped for.
There's relatively little in there that hasn't already been said about Fangio, though Donaldson expands quite interestingly on his formative years racing in South America and his arrival in Europe. The meat of the book is given over to his Championship career, although some topics - his uneasy relationship with Ferrari and the politics of Mercedes in particular - seem to be rather soft-pedalled.
There is very little about Fangio the man, or his career after racin, beyond some mention of his relationship with Mercedes.
There are many quotes from Fangio's surviving contemporaries, giving much insight into the man and the times.
I was slightly disappointed with this book - I had hoped to learn a lot about Fangio from it and perhaps gain some insight into his character; as it was I found my preconceptions reinforced and didn't feel I was any closer to knowing what made him the genius he was.
Donaldson's style seems slightly stiffer than in his Hunt and Villeneuve books - I wonder if he's not aping the greater formality and deference of the 1940s and 1950s?
Good, but difficult to see it as an all-time classic.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 27, 2009 12:41 AM GMT


A Complete  History of Britain
A Complete History of Britain
by Simon Schama
Edition: Paperback

122 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling narrative history by a master of the craft, 15 Oct. 2003
Far more than "the book of the TV series", Schama's History of Britain is a delight to read and a masterpiece of narrative history. Simon Schama's erudite but accessible style works as well in print as it does on screen.
His History of Britain takes very different approaches in each of its three volumes. Volume 1 has the broadest sweep, from the Iron Age to the death of Queen Elizabeth. This is history on a grand scale, charting the birth of the nations of England, Scotland and Wales and the clashes between them, the invasions that made the British people what they are today, and the birth of the idea of statehood. There is time for vivid and detailed description of the Romand and Romano-Celtic eras, the Dark Ages, the endless dynastic wars and intrigue that followed the Norman Conquest.
Volume 2 works on a much shorter timescale, moving from the death of Eilzabeth via the Civil War and Restoration, Union with Scotland, and on through the eighteenth Century to the American Revolution. The tale is rather more linear, England's establishment of dominance over the rest of the British Isles, the beginning of Britain's rise to empire, wealth and world power. This is a dense and thrilling volume, full of the energy of a vibrant new nation exploring its place in the world, crackling with possibilities. It's clear that the 17/18th centuries are where Schama feels most at home (consider his other works like Rembrandt's Eyes, Citizens and Dead Certainties) and he certainly brings this period to vigorous life.
Volume 3 shifts focus again, to the close of the Millennium, looking at the origins, impact and decline of the Empire, the heights of the Victorian age and the despair of two world wars. Instead of a straight linear narrative Schama explores aspects of Britain and Empire through a number of parallel strands - including advances in the arts and sciences, changes in domestic life, the experience of colonialism, the changing roles and opportunities of women, and so on.
Only three works really bear comparison with Schama's efforts. The multi-volume Oxford History of England is authoritative, rather dry and specialist for the general reader; Norman Davies' The Isles concentrates rather more on economic and social history than Schama and while highly readable lacks the touch of flair that Schama brings to his work; finally Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples has the literary grandeur but is perhaps too subjective and literary.
That Schama's work can be considered alongside these works is a credit to it. It's difficult to imagine how these volumes could be significantly improved upon.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 1, 2012 4:10 PM BST


Lotus 72: Formula One Icon
Lotus 72: Formula One Icon
by Michael Oliver
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unmissable tribute to a true F1 great, 10 Oct. 2003
The Lotus 72 was the definitive Formula One car of the early and mid seventies, instantly recognisable, incredibly long-lived and competitive over five of its six seasons in the front line. The greats drove it - including Rindt who was tragically killed in one, Fittipaldi, Peterson, Ickx, even Graham Hill in a private car for Rob Walker.
Surprisingly, there hasn't been a full-length study of the 72 yet, but I'm glad there is now and that marque enthusiast Michael Oliver is the man to have stepped up to the plate and written it.
A special car like that needs a special book to describe it, and Oliver has delivered the goods admirably. He's already written an excellent history of the Lotus 49; this immense book documents the full history of its successor in at least as much detail. The story of the development of the cars, their racing careers, the men involved with them, and the cars' competitive afterlife after their Grand Prix careers are all thoroughly documented with plenty of interviews and quotes from people who were involved.
The photography is excellent, and the large-format layout makes the book a true pleasure to look at - much more elegant than Oliver's book on the 49.
This will undoubtedly become a classic work of F1 history and everyone with an interest in Lotus, 1970s racing, or the history of the sport in general should be forming an orderly queue to get hold of a copy.
Simply excellent.


Chevron: The Derek Bennett Story
Chevron: The Derek Bennett Story
by David B. Gordon
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great cars, great designer, great book., 5 Oct. 2003
I'll put my cards on the table here and admit that I grew up a Chevron nutter. I used to haunt Aintree circuit as a kid and Chevrons were never far away, gorgeous sports cars and single seaters.
So I had high hopes for this first full-length history of the marque and its eccentric, self-taught genius founder Derek Bennett. And I wasn't disappointed. It's excellent.
This is racing history told as social history - Chevron was a Lancashire company through and through, and Gordon (whose stepfather was a Chevron driver) places the close-knit band of Bolton individualiasts firmly in context.
The story of Bennett, his helpers, the cars and their drivers is told with affection, enthusiasm and a keen eye for detail. Gordon's spoken to all the important people, and the book is rich in anecdote and humour.
Chevron never did take over the world; in a sense the marque really died with Bennett's tragic hang-gliding accident although the name lived on for several years.
This is a great book about a great marque and a great man. Need I recommend it more than that?


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