TRASHY TUESDAY: FEVER HEAT AND CAR RACING
Racing car novels were not a big part of the Australian men’s adventure paperback market. Horwitz dipped their toe into it with their Johnny/Frank O’Hara series (below) and Jon Cleary had success with the more upmarket The Green Helmet (1955), which Horwitz also published in paperback form, but there were few other local attempts at building a sub-genre around it.
Car racing themes were occasionally woven into crime paperbacks, such as Carter Brown’s Madam You’re Mayhem (Horwitz, 1957), J E Macdonnell’s The Last Assassin (Horwitz, 1970) and David Bower’s Danger Circuit (Horwitz, 1963), but again these were few and far between.
American car racing books occasionally made their way to Australia under various local imprints, including Angus Vicker’s Fever Heat, which I just got a copy of, but they do not seem to be overly popular.
Originally published in America in 1954 by Dell (First Edition 13), Fever Heat was released in Australia by Original Novels in 1955. Set in the “special world of the stock-car racers … filled with the stench of burning rubber, the tearing shriek of metal against metal”, it seems to be a fairly standard racing car tale by Vicker (pseudonym of Henry Gregor Felsen, who wrote a handful of books in the hot rod genre).
Original Novels were an imprint of the Original Novels Foundation, which mainly reprinted books from America in the 1950s. The Original Novels series ran from1953 to 1957 and published around 60 books.
As with most of the Original Novels, the cover for Fever Heat featured new cover art work by an unnamed artist based on the original American edition (below). As can be seen, the Australian edition features a sharper more detailed depiction of the cars, and moves the girl into a more prominent position. The use of a red coat draws more attention to girl than on the original and heightens the sense of danger, although it begs the question as to why she is so close to the track.
I actually prefer the Australian reworked cover, which is quite a good 1950s cover, not as provocative as some, but still quite effective. A good example of the limited stock car/racing car genre.
Here is a link to an earlier article I did on the Frank O’Hara novels: SPIN OUT! By Frank O’Hara (Horwitz,1962) | Site (murdermayhemandlongdogs.com)
Thanks to my brother Steve for the copy of Fever Heat.