Petrol in my Blood - book review of a true story
Petrol in my Blood - by Eric Jackson
Have you ever read a really thrilling autobiography and thought 'yeah, right. I bet that tale has been embellished - that could never happen'?
Well, here's one which is full of adventure that I can really vouch for. Why? Because this book was written by Eric Jackson who, as well as being a pretty amazing adventurer, also happens to be my dad. So can you expect a certain element of bias in this review? Quite probably! But as the editor of the book (so blame me if you find typos) I have an absolute wealth of press cuttings, books, magazines and photographs to fully demonstrate that these exciting, true events really did take place.
Of course, there's also the fact that the majority of these adventures took place during my own living memory. This is my own father. I wasn't present when many of the events in this exciting book took place - I was safe back home in Yorkshire when my dad was lost in the Congo, or was en route to Timbuktu - but I knew, or have met - many of the people in the stories who were there at the time. If anyone can judge any book to be an accurate reflection, that person is me and that book is Petrol in my Blood.
The title of this book
I know that the author, Eric Jackson, agonized long and hard over the title but eventually chose this because it is so representative of his fascinating and unusual life.
My only problem with it is that it could give the impression that this book is of interest only to people who are interested in cars, motoring and motorsport. That is so far from the truth.
The autobiography covers eighty five years and yes, some of the craziest and most dangerous adventures are to do with various driving exploits (but only some) but let me give you an example.
During his life, my dad has been shot at in various countries throughout the world. Yet he was only shot (seriously) once. Where on earth in this wide world? In Barnsley, Yorkshire. After a chess game...
This book has had great comments from people who are interested in history - after all the narrative begins in 1924 and describes ordinary - and sometimes extraordinary - life for an average child, for a teenager before and after the Second World War.
It then goes on to describe a trip to New York in the 1950s and the reactions of two young men as they encountered gangsters, drug addicts and a New York American-Irish cop.
Oh, and don't miss the story about the attack in the men's room of a seedy Detroit bar...
I live in a tiny apartment and yet I have one closet that is full of memorabilia. I can hardly close the door.
Every time I open the door, newspaper cuttings, photographs and pages from the manuscript fall out. There are only a fraction of these that actually made it into the final publication - at just short of three hundred and fifty pages, the volume is pretty full and we couldn't cram more in.
They are fascinating though - a pictorial history in their own right. What's more, I can tell you that there are hundreds, probably thousands, of stories that didn't make it into the book. And that's not because they weren't exciting enough - just the opposite.
There's one story that I remember from my childhood and I asked my dad on the phone 'are you going to put that in the book?'
The reply was 'not bloody likely. I don't know how many years I've got left but I damned well don't want to spend them in an Egyptian jail'.
That gives you some idea of his 'literary style' - he writes the same way as he talks. There was another example that was a really funny story and that was banned too. He tells me that I can add the Egyptian story once he's 'pushing up daisies'. With this other, I apparently have to wait until a certain ex-Ford Motor Company employee and a certain lady have shuffled off their mortal coils. Should be fun.
He did what?
As you read through the book, which has been described as 'an adventure masquerading as an autobiography' you'll probably wonder if these things really happened. They did. Along the way, you'll meet:
- Ken Chambers - Eric Jackson's co-driver on many exploits - urbane and sophisticated ... and an expert forger
- The hotel manager in Monte Carlo - and his reaction to the rather naughty 'Guinness Girls'
- Entertainer Liberace - and discover the English music hall song he was taught by my old man
- His heroes - Jackie Stewart, Walter Hayes and Peter Procter
- Jim Orr - an American con man, arrested in Florida thanks to my dad being wired up by the cops
- Owen McCallum - the big game hunter with a huge.....
- My stepmother Kathy - who had to put up with my dad in real life during the five years this book took to write
- Oh, and quite a few celebrities ... lots of wild animals ... drunken boy soldiers with automatic rifles ... Somalian bandits ... armed guerrillas ... officious border guards in a gun-happy mood ... a bunch of cannibals ... and more
Ouch! Nine lives
Actually,I've worked out that he has had quite a few more than nine lives.This was just one... this is what his rally car looked like after 'the big one'. In the book, he says:
'Well, it had to happen one day ... this old fart lost it and the car went end over end over end over end...'
We thought that after this one, he'd be paralyzed for life or at least have to spend the rest of his days in a wheelchair. He was in Odstock Hospital, in the spinal injuries unit, for what seemed like forever. But here's a quote about when he finally left the hospital - walking.
I walked past the beds at the hospital for the last time wishing the patients well but knowing that a number of them would never walk again. I felt very sad.
They say that if you fall off a horse you should get back on so I had one more go at rallying at the ripe old age of fifty - and they say that rally drivers are at their best when they are between eighteen and twenty years of age. I entered the World Cup Rally...— Eric Jackson
Meet t'owd fella
A couple of years ago, three men decided to attempt a record-breaking attempt - yes, the record of driving from London to Cape Town - which my dad had held since 1963. This was to raise money for Help for Heroes; that fantastic charity that cares for servicemen and women who have been wounded in the service of the British Army. As an ex-army man himself, this was something my old man was happy to support. See him here:
Now this is where we argue
You see, my dad was all in favor of these guys breaking his record - mostly because of the charity they were supporting. And I shouldn't really argue ...
Think back, if you're old enough, to what a 1963 Ford Cortina was like. You're not old enough? Well, in those days, cars had no air-conditioning, they had hard metal dashboards, no carpets, no GPS, no four-wheel drive ... the two drivers had no computers, no cellphones, no diagnostic laptops ... no satellite tracking thingies ...
The three drivers who broke the record, in their four-wheel drive Land Rover, however plus plenty of ...
I'll stop now. If my dad sees this,I'll get told off.
If you want to order the book directly from the publishers use the link below.
Paperback and hardback available and it ships worldwide.
More about Eric Jackson
- Around the World in Forty Three Days
In September 1963, two men embarked upon a journey. They intended to drive around the world in record time in a completely untested car. Read their story and see original photographs.
- Drivers Slash International Speed Records at Monza: ...
Five drivers broke nine international speed records in 1966 at the old banked circuit at Monza. Read about the difficulties - and the fun - experienced by Jackson, Chambers, Beckhart, Bowler & Maclean
- London to Cape Town record
In 1963, two men set off on an adventure - driving from London to Cape Town. Eric Jackson and Ken Chambers aimed to break the driving record. There were many adventures and dangers along the way.
This is the record that my dad broke (smashed, actually). Note that this car too had three drivers.They also had a film crew.