|ATLAS F1 Volume 6, Issue 36||Email to Friend Printable Version|
|The Bookworm Critique|
"THE RAGGED EDGE"
|By Richard Nisley|
Published by 1stBooks.
|by Mark Glendenning,|
It looks like the racing novel is well and truly back in fashion. Last year the grand total of books from this genre to find their way into this column was zero; this year we're up to four and still counting. I have had a few opportunities this year to write about my inherent suspicion of these kinds of books, so I won't repeat myself again. (If you're really keen, you can look back to the reviews of The Last Open Road, Montezuma's Ferrari, or Formula One For Murder). I have to say though that the quality of most of the fiction that has been reviewed this year is making me wonder whether my fears could perhaps be unfounded.
'The Ragged Edge' is the latest to come along, and by and large it's a very welcome arrival. No specific year is given, but the story seems to be set around the very late 1960s, and follows the rollercoaster season of Formula One Championship contender John Wagner. While it's enjoyable enough to follow, the tale of the veteran driver trying to clinch the elusive championship in the face of all kinds of adversity, both on and off the track, is not the most original idea ever put to paper. Nor is the sub-plot of romantic drama, where Wagner is forced to weigh up his desire for the championship against his feelings for Susan, his love interest.
The plot was not necessarily the most important part of the book though. For me, it was more about how the story as told, and it was here that Nisley is at his strongest. The book's hallmark is its attention to detail. That the author has done his homework is evident throughout the book, but is most apparent during the racing scenes where Nisley is describing the nature of the circuits. It's a long time since many of these tracks - Reims, Zandvoort, Jarama, to name a few - have seen much F1 action, and many of the other circuits existed under different configurations. At its best, Nisley's writing helps to create some impression of what it must have been like for those of us who weren't around back then.
In a cover letter that accompanied the review copy, Nisley emphasized that 'The Ragged Edge' was not intended to be "historical fiction"; and it's a fair point to make. Done carefully though, it's possible to add to a novel's sense of 'believability' by carefully placing it into a historical context, and Nisley has managed to weave the two together very efficiently. The story may not have been particularly original, but it was, for the most part, quite believable. This for me was a large part if its appeal.
The other highlight was the quality of the racing scenes. The author has obviously gone to a lot of trouble in creating and maintaining different styles and characteristics for each driver, and he has also remained consistent when recounting the dynamics between one driver and another. Again, it is this combination of attention to detail and obvious empathy with the sport that distinguishes this book from some of its contemporaries.
As I have said in the past though, fiction is perhaps more susceptible to questions of personal taste than any other genre of motorsport writing. Personally, I found 'The Ragged Edge' to be a really engaging read kept me happily entertained from beginning to end, and I'd advise anybody with any interest in racing to check it out. Ultimately though, it's for you to decide, and to help you along I've included a lengthier-than-normal excerpt.
"On the grid, crews topped off fuel tanks, retorqued wheels, checked tire pressure, and gave the bright finishes a last wipe down. Drivers climbed back into their cars, engines started, and crewmen hurried off to the side. The final seconds counted off, the flag waved, and the Spanish Grand Prix was underway.'
|Mark Glendenning||© 2000 Kaizar.Com, Incorporated.|
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