I love Jews, like cars, and hate Nazis. But I didn’t know the first used the second to beat the third in a Grand Prix race in 1938, just as the world was careening toward war. Neal Bascomb’s Faster tells the zippy story of how it happened, the eccentrics who pulled it off, the machines they built to do it, and the gory roads they took to get there.
One of the pleasures of this book is that it has the best collection of proper nouns I’ve ever seen. Tazio “the Maestro” Nuvolari wins a motorcycle race with two broken legs, Louis “the Old Fox” Chiron woos the wives of tycoons, Count Carlo Felice Trossi smokes a pipe and owns a castle, Stanislaw Czaykowski gets buried with his charred Bugatti steering wheel, and Alice “Baby” Hoffmann leaves a pharmaceutical heir for a driver, and then another. Anatol is her pet monkey.