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Rewriting history


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#1 Alan Baker

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 11:26

Browsing the latest issue of Motor Sport, I came across extracts from John Surtees' new autobiography (a wallet lightening £50 from all good booksellers). The piece begins with a story about the 1963 Sebring 12 hours. Surtees claims that the works 250P which he had done all the testing on was offered to NART and he and Scarfiotti were given a new unsorted car and that, having won the race, team manager Dragoni protested the result, suggesting that the NART car had covered more laps. Now I bow to nobody in my admiration for il grande John the racing driver (though not John the team manager or designer), but this story is (almost) complete tosh. There were two 250Ps at Sebring, both works entries, for Surtees/Scarfiotti and Mairesse/Vaccarella and they came first and second. NART's entry was the previous years Le Mans winning front engined 330LM/TRI driven by Pedro Rodriguez/Graham Hill and they came third. I believe that Dragoni did protest the result, but in favour of his second placed works car, not the NART entry. This seems to be another case of "from the horses mouth" turning out to be more like what comes out of the other end of the animal. I suppose one can't blame an eighty year old for a little confusion regarding events of more than fifty years ago, but I would have thought that if you were going to employ a co-author, he might at least check the facts, though you wouldn't find them in Motor Sport, which completely ignored Sebring 1963!



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#2 Arjan de Roos

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 11:34

Indeed, the co-author should have checked at least TNF and would have found a piece by DCN. It was the 2nd placed car SF car of Mairesse/Vaccarella.



#3 Tim Murray

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 11:46

Interesting. He told the story in detail in his 1991 autobiography (John Surtees: World Champion) where he apparently got his facts right, explaining that it was because Mairesse expressed a preference for the 250P Surtees had developed that caused the swap to be made. He then says that the protest was on behalf of the other works car. It's very strange therefore that he should change the story in his latest work.

#4 D28

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 14:09

Yes it takes about 2 minutes for anyone to check the results of such an important race on several data bases. One would expect such  fact checking to be carried out. The NART entry was 2 laps down at the finish, plus the tale flies in the face of many stories from the era, of how Enzo hated the customer teams to best his factory entries.



#5 kayemod

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 14:18

Yes it takes about 2 minutes for anyone to check the results of such an important race on several data bases. One would expect such  fact checking to be carried out.

 

One would indeed, but that's something that almost all publishers seem to be doing less and less of. I see obvious errors in almost everything I read these days, and if there's a story in a newspaper or magazine on something you have detailed knowledge of, you can almost guarantee that there will be mistakes, some quite serious, in there somewhere. And in a similar vein, don't get me started on BBC pronunciation of people and place names, most often 'foreign' ones, but often from here in the UK as well. I sometimes wonder if anything gets properly checked any more, that's my Colonel Blimp post for today.



#6 nicanary

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 15:03

I guess the book may have been hastened through the preparation/printing stages - I think I'm right in saying that the proceeds of sales are going to the Henry Surtees Foundation.So perhaps we ought to forgive a few slip-ups.

 

I agree however about the media and their errors. I suspect that internal cutbacks means that they can't afford enough research assistants, or whatever the young iniversity-leavers are called now. What would they have made of Featherstonehaugh and Cholmondeley-Tapper?

 

(If it's of any interest to anyone, and I suspect it isn't, my late mother hailed from Happisburgh in North Norfolk. Media types will tell you it's pronounced by the locals as "Haysbro", but my dear old mum called it "Happisburg", and she should know. So there.)



#7 Paul Parker

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 15:06

One would indeed, but that's something that almost all publishers seem to be doing less and less of. I see obvious errors in almost everything I read these days, and if there's a story in a newspaper or magazine on something you have detailed knowledge of, you can almost guarantee that there will be mistakes, some quite serious, in there somewhere. And in a similar vein, don't get me started on BBC pronunciation of people and place names, most often 'foreign' ones, but often from here in the UK as well. I sometimes wonder if anything gets properly checked any more, that's my Colonel Blimp post for today.

 

I agree and I have been guilty of some such.

 

My problem was finding somebody who had the time and knowledge of matters esoteric or arcane, to do a proper proof reading for errors, some of the more obvious choices were/are inevitably too busy with their own projects.

 

The ever obliging David McKinney helped me unravel the Maserati 250F inconsistencies and other 1950s banana skins but one well known person proof read one of the in Camera books and basically removed detail and changed some captions, getting it wrong in the process. Fortunately I received a copy in time to undo the damage.

 

You have to be very aware if somebody else has become involved with the text, especially if there is a time limit, publishers frequently allow designers to dictate the layout and by proxy the amount of text, they apparently prefer white spaces to words.

 

Of course the end result should look as special as possible, but given the choice I suspect that some would resort to the two/three line non-captions of previous eras if allowed.

 

As for the mangled pronunciation of names and places, this is surely the end result of inadequate education and also a generational and attitudinal problem.



#8 Paul Parker

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 15:39

I guess the book may have been hastened through the preparation/printing stages - I think I'm right in saying that the proceeds of sales are going to the Henry Surtees Foundation.So perhaps we ought to forgive a few slip-ups.

 

I agree however about the media and their errors. I suspect that internal cutbacks means that they can't afford enough research assistants, or whatever the young iniversity-leavers are called now. What would they have made of Featherstonehaugh and Cholmondeley-Tapper?

 

(If it's of any interest to anyone, and I suspect it isn't, my late mother hailed from Happisburgh in North Norfolk. Media types will tell you it's pronounced by the locals as "Haysbro", but my dear old mum called it "Happisburg", and she should know. So there.)

 

Yes indeed, Buddy and Tommy no less.

 

I met a distant female 'Buddy' Featherstonehaugh relative back in the 1980s and she insisted it was to be pronounced Fanshawe, although Guy Griffith told David Venables that 'Buddy' was known in the pre-war Brooklands paddock as Feestonhuff which annoyed him.



#9 bradbury west

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Posted 16 July 2014 - 21:05

I bought my copy of the Surtees book at the FoS  late in the afternoon on the Thursday motor show day, having eventually found the Henry Surtees Foundation  display, which was pretty impressive, especially with the 2 off 158 exhibits. As I was paying for the book the very pleasant staff member pointed out that John was on the stand and approaching. She suggested he might sign the book, which he did,  which goes nicely with my signed copy of his original tome Speed. He was amused by my recounting  the signature  event on the latter. He was a delight to speak to, and was happy to make smalltalk with me, a prime example of the great unwashed, The experience served  only to endorse the high esteem in which I hold Il Grande John.

 

The book is an excellent  potted history of his life and career, and he told me they had been asked to put it together in 8 months to meet his 80th birthday, and had scoured his old albums, dusty cupboards and various photo archives for new pictures. ( incidentally, via this  I came across the Kent based TopFoto archive, search engines are available, which supplied some shots for the book, but they have a wide motor sport archive, )

 

In terms of the book  price, these things are all relative, and I prefer to think of it as a  donation to  the Henry Surtees Foundation, with an excellent free book included.  I was very impressed with the mission statements/objectives/ethos of the Foundation, which  were displayed on a large notice board. I have a photo here if anyone wants it or wishes to post it here.

 

Almost usual disclaimers

 

Roger Lund



#10 Stephen W

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Posted 17 July 2014 - 08:46

I guess the book may have been hastened through the preparation/printing stages - I think I'm right in saying that the proceeds of sales are going to the Henry Surtees Foundation.So perhaps we ought to forgive a few slip-ups.

 

I agree however about the media and their errors. I suspect that internal cutbacks means that they can't afford enough research assistants, or whatever the young iniversity-leavers are called now. What would they have made of Featherstonehaugh and Cholmondeley-Tapper?

 

 

In my limited experience of publishing all the errors that came back in the proofs were brought about by the publishers who employed someone to 'interpret' what we had written. This led to ERA appearing as era and Coventry Climax appearing as a sexual encounter in the Midlands!

 

You have to be very aware if somebody else has become involved with the text, especially if there is a time limit, publishers frequently allow designers to dictate the layout and by proxy the amount of text, they apparently prefer white spaces to words.

 

 

Being limited on the word count for the book (this included captions!) I was aware that we had to be very careful in making sure the captions matched the photos. Unfortunately on one page the six photos were put in on what appeared to be a random basis whilst the captions appeared where the photos should have! 

 

The whole experience has put me off venturing into the world of publishing again as I have better things to do with my life than correct mistakes made by others less capable.