Pulp fiction provides the perfect bedtime reading for a classic fan

| 11 Aug 2012

I’ve just finished reading a great old bit of motoring pulp called Clear the Fast Lane by Douglas Rutherford.

It’s the story of a down-on-his-luck Grand Prix driver (Grant) who gets hired to drive an AC 428 across Europe to Greece by his friend Richie (a mercenary) with two mysterious Middle Eastern passengers and an even more mysterious box in the boot.

Written in 1971, it is compelling bedtime reading with lots of good descriptions that are highly evocative of a tense road trip, even if the author takes some terrible liberties with the passenger and luggage capabilities of the AC.

Even though I do love the AC 428, had I been writing it I might have made the car a Monteverdi 375L which is at least a 2+2.

Apart from the AC briefly turning into a manual (‘Grant eased up the clutch and pulled away from the kerb’), Rutherford’s technical descriptions of the car are accurate enough to satisfy the anorak without alienating the casual reader.

I can’t think of another novel where the car is so much the focus for the action; almost the entire story is played out in the cramped confines of the 428’s cabin.

Rutherford penned several thrillers based around motor racing and road trips, so I will look out for them, but I was sorry to see that the publishers of the 1974 paperback that my pal John loaned me had an illustration of a Cobra on the front cover – an even less likely four-seater.

Clear The Fast Lane would probably make a good film or maybe just an episode of The Adventurer, although Gene Bradley in his loud trousers would not make a convincing high-speed motorist; he’s so old he’d have to stop every 30 minutes for a cuppa and to stretch his legs.

I’m ploughing through this ITC masterpiece at the moment. I bought the series from HMV on Oxford Street the other week, along with Accident (Dirk Bogarde and Stanley Baker), Arabesque (terrible, but I’d forgotten just how bad, and it does at least have a 250SL in it) and Abigail’s Party, we were actually in London to see the play in the West End.