While not exactly inundated with fresh and exciting new titles, Iain Robertson reviews three of the latest crop that deal with cars, bicycles and travel generally; it is not such a bad mix.
Jaguar XK120 – The Remarkable History of JWK 651
ISBN: 978 1 907085 56 7
By Chas Parker and Philip Porter
Porter Press International
Ardent fans both, the authors of this excellent, large-format, hardback record of a solitary motorcar’s life so far, can only be described as aficionados of the first order. Porter Press is renowned for its single-minded approach to publishing and has already majored with titles dedicated to single models, although this is the second of its ‘Exceptional Cars’ series, which is preceded by a fabulous book dedicated to an Iso Bizzarrini, that I reviewed last year. Philip Porter is renowned for creating ‘labours of love’ and this 128pp book is no exception. As it happens, I have witnessed this car in action and I appreciate that, while it has seldom been out of action, apart from inevitable rebuilds and restoration exercises, it is a very special car with somewhat of a chequered history. Of course, to car fans, the hand-formed, alloy-bodied Jaguar XK120 is something of a Holy Grail. There were six examples produced by the Coventry-based car company in 1950 that were intended for competition use. JWK 651 fulfilled its purpose but did so with incredible aplomb, entering an amazing blend of races, rallies and even record-breaking runs during its early life. However, the book also details the car’s main driver, Leslie Johnson, who was the first gentleman to win a race at the controls of an XK120. The sheer beauty of this simply stunning sportscar is explored in finite detail within the pages of this book and the editorial is not merely concise but exceptionally well-written too. The quality of the period photography is matched only by the pristine colour imagery of the car in its present, fully restored condition. Amazingly, it was lost to automotive historians for several years but, now resurfaced, it possesses a value that is merely underscored by Porter’s excellent publishing.
The Excursionist – A Novel
ISBN: 978 1 911195 28 3
By J D Summer
It takes a useful blend of bravery and confidence to self-publish. Most of the established imprint houses would find little interest in the 220pp of this modest little paperback. Although it is abundantly clear that the author is the main subject, ingeniously he has reinvented himself as the lead character, Jack Kaganagh (a name that is confused in the text constantly with Kavanagh), who happens to suffer from ‘dromomania’, which is (according to Websters) an uncontrollable desire to wander. It is an easy book to read and while not being the most informative about locations and even some of the 140 countries that the author has visited, it does take a wry look at the travel scene, via some mildly amusing anecdotes and a cast of comically-named incidental characters. It is well written in the main and makes an ideal book to delve into while flying to a destination. The chances are you will finish it before flying home.
Mountain Biking in Slovenia
ISBN: 978 1 85284 808 8
By Rob Houghton
Cicerone Press is one of those publishers that seldom rests on its laurels and its on-going production of handy, pocket-sized, outdoor travel guides is sometimes overwhelming but it is at it again in a guide aimed, this time, at cyclists. More specifically, its target is the mountain biking fraternity and its author is a renowned cyclist and instructor, although he has only been a mountain biker for the past decade. His enthusiasm for the activity permeates every one of the 208pp. While there are innumerable spots all around Europe that might be deemed suitable for the cycling community, Slovenia has a particular relevance to mountain bikers, mainly because of its outstanding mix of biking routes, some of which are truly Alpine spectacular. Rob has provided no less than 35 one-day, or half-day routes worth exploring around the four main regions of this small country, with distances ranging from 12km to 59km, appropriately graded for degrees of ‘difficulty’. Known as a cost-effective place to visit, the guide is packed with details of accommodation, travel, bikes and equipment necessary. Having read all about it, now I want to try it personally and this practical guide will accompany me.