SPIN OUT! By Frank O’Hara (Horwitz,1962)
Racing car dramas never reached high levels of popularity in Australia, but in the early 1960s Horwitz dipped their toes into the market with four books in the Frank O’Hara series.
The first two books (Hell Corner and Ace On Trial) came out in 1959 in digest form under the name of Johnny O’Hara as the author and main character. The books must have had some success, as in 1962 they released a third book (Spin Out) with Frank O’Hara as the author. A fourth and final book came out in 1963 – Back Straight.
The two Frank O’Hara books were actually written by Ray Slattery, who did a lot of work for Horwitz, including some of the war titles I featured in earlier posts.
While Johnny O’Hara would seem to have been the hero of the first two books, Spin Out drops O’Hara as a character and mainly features Jimmy Rudd, a young driver who is trying to earn his spot on the Ecurie Waratah team, in the new world of professional car racing in Australia. Unlike the European action of Ace On Trial, Spin Out is set in Australia, with the racing team competing at various tracks as they try to keep Ecurie Waratah financial. There is a lot of racing detail and descriptions, and comparisons between the Australian Holdens and a range of imported vehicles. There is also a romantic sub-plot involving Jimmy, ‘a one-woman man’, and his girlfriend, who naturally wants him to give up racing.
I found the story a little dull. Some of the contemporary views about cars and racing are interesting, but the racing plot never grips and the story builds to a predictable climax. A crime element would have added some drama. It is easy to see why the series never went beyond four books.
The cover is mainly interesting these days because of the dated racing car. It is not a spectacular cover and it does not really grab attention. Compared to the Horwitz crime and war covers of the time, this one seems very dull and lackluster. It is also not particularly well done.
Probably one for historical racing aficionados only!
Thanks to Graeme Flanagan’s excellent Australian Vintage Paperback Guide for the publishing details.