Book Review: A Life Awheel: The ‘Auto’ Biography of W. de Forte
As a history buff, I love learning all about the events (and cars) of the past. It’s no secret, however, that nonfiction history books can be very dry and hard to read. Books about automotive history often are major offenders, with some authors not sure if they should focus on the technical specs of a car, like horsepower and torque, or on the emotions attached to driving it.
Richard Skelton Wilberforce de Forte’s fascinating story about the life of an [imaginary] automotive journalist looks to walk the line between an entertaining story about a life infused with cars and a technical look into what made the cars of the past so great. We received a copy of this narrative from Veloce Publishing of the United Kingdom, and it’s certainly an entertaining read.
A Life Awheel: The ‘Auto’ Biography of W. de Forte
By Wilberforce de Forte & Richard Skelton
Product Details: Paperback, 288 pages, 9 x 6 inches
Publication Date: April 2016
Publisher: Veloce Publishing Ltd
Also from Veloce Publishing: Learn more about the vintage Morgan brand and its unique vehicles
At the start of the book we are introduced to Wilberforce de Forte, who wrote this book about his life surrounded by cars after he is stranded in bed following a pretty terrifying racing accident in Belgium. With a 75-year career around the best cars in the world, de Forte certainly has many tales to tell about not only the cars and how they are built, but about the experience of driving them in various conditions and the emotions they cause.
The chapters of the book are organized by time period, such as World War II, the immediate Post-War era, and relatively modern offerings. Each chapter contains designated sections written about a particular model, vehicle, or topic, and several of the sections are pieces that de Forte actually “wrote” for automotive publications. Those are sorted into the era of the cars he is discussing, rather than the actual time that the article was written in. From British-made classics, to American muscle cars, new Japanese sports cars, and motorcycles, there is a model represented for pretty much any car fan.
At the end of the book, de Forte once again reflects on his long career and considers what comes next for the auto world. Driverless cars get a mention, as do car bloggers that are taking the reins of automotive journalism. The whole tome is a love letter to automobiles, and finishing the book makes you feel happy and ready to get behind the wheel.
The copy of A Life Awheel we received is a glossy paperback with fairly thick pages that give the tome a decent amount of heft. The full color cover portrays Wilberforce de Forte surrounded by vehicles, and he certainly looks like he’s ready to command a forward charge with them to conquer the reader.
The inside of the book is black and white, and there are a fair amount of illustrations for key points in the text. In the interest of space, the lines are arranged quite close to one another. I’m one of the unfortunate readers that occasionally needs reading glasses when examining text that is very closely packed for a long period of time, and this book required me to wear them all the time. Each page has clear headings, and chapters all start with quotes from various sources. All in all, it is a very well-put-together book.
First things first, this is a fake autobiography. I knew this heading into it because I had a handy dandy press release to help me out. It is possible that I might not have noticed it before I purchased the book if I was simply shopping for myself. There is a note from the publisher on the opening acknowledgements page, but if you’re like me and breeze over that on your way to the meat of the book, it is very possible that you could have read a sizable part of this book, possibly the whole thing, without being corrected. It’s nothing bad against the book, as whether or not it’s real does not change the way you enjoy it, but it’s an important point for people who might be searching out more of Wilberforce de Forte’s writings.
As stated earlier in this review, A Life Awheel is from a British publisher, so sometimes the language can be a tad confusing for a Yankee to read. I was fortunate enough to have spent time studying in the UK during my college years, so I was familiar with a portion of it, but some of the slang is older because of the time period it was written about and the age of the narrator. It will not prevent you from progressing through the book, but just be aware going in that you will emerge from the other end with some new additions to your phrasebook.
The book itself is a great way to learn about the history of the automotive industry in a fun, engaging way. It pretty much runs from the very beginning to the present day, so you get the sense of how cars have evolved and how the public’s driving needs have changed. Wilberforce de Forte is an engaging narrator, even if at times he does wander a bit from the point, making a journey that could have been incredibly tedious much more enjoyable. If you are new to the world of cars, or even if it’s an old hobby, this book will give you perspective on the industry as a whole and give a base understanding of some of the world’s most iconic vehicles.
A Life Awheel is available through the publisher’s website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, AbeBooks, and other retailers.
Product provided for review by publisher.
- Rebecca BernardEditor
A Dayton native, Rebecca got her start blogging at the curiously named Harlac's Tongue while studying abroad in the UK. She loves tooling around town with her Ford Focus named Thomas Jerome Newton to the song they're playing on the radio. On any given weekend, you can find her with her camera at area festivals, concerts, and car shows, shopping at flea markets, or just taking a hike in an area MetroPark. See more articles by Rebecca.