In this fact-based historical novel, a journalist seeks to uncover the secrets of the men who dominated Grand Prix racing in Europe prior to the second world war.
It’s 1968 when American writer Joe Deutsch arrives in Venice to interview journalist Johnny Finestrini for a book he’s writing on the giants of Grand Prix motor racing in Germany and Italy during the 1930s. The characters the two men discuss are so vibrant and colorful that one can hardly believe they were all real, let alone that so many died in fiery tragedy. There was Bernd Rosemeyer, the young German who represented everything Hitler wanted his Reich to be; Tazio Nuvolari, the “Flying Mantuan,” whose familial tragedies eliminated any fear of death on the track; and Achille Varzi, a stylish man seemingly born to be a champion. Finestrini, who wrote about them all for Italy’s Gazzetta, tells Deutsch about the pressure from Mussolini himself to turn Nuvolari and Varzi’s rivalry into something more harmonious in print. Varzi’s love for Ilse—a morphine addict and the wife of one of his competitors—led to his eventual downfall, but Deutsch believes that there’s more to the story than a beautiful siren leading a great man into an addiction even more dangerous than his desire to win. But does the tricky, manipulative Finestrini know, and will he tell? Experienced journalist and debut novelist Martini spent a decade researching the real men whose stories form the basis of this work of fiction, and it shows in the both epic and intimate details that make this story spring to life. In Martini’s prose, one can almost hear the tires screeching around the track, from the dry deserts of Libya to the damp mountains of Italy, from the sparkling streets of Monaco all the way to the shores of the United States. Amid the pungent fumes of gasoline, readers will also feel the sense of dread as the world inched closer to war.
A sprawling, adrenaline-drenched story that will appeal even to readers who know next to nothing about auto racing.