The Playboy and The Rat reviewed

F1 reviewsPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

The appearance of this new book on 1976 world championship rivals Niki Lauda and James Hunt is obviously timed to coincide with the release of Ron Howard’s film on the same subject next month.

Although I have seen Rush, due to an embargo I’m not allowed to tell you anything about it just yet. But I can tell you whether you should pick up The Playboy and The Rat in the meantime.

Author Roy Calley, a BBC journalist, has previously written several books on Blackpool Football Club and one on James Hunt’s 1976 season. He’s not the only person jumping on the Rush bandwagon: Tom Rubython, another Hunt biographer, has a book on the 1976 title rivals coming out soon called Rush to Glory. You see what he’s done there.

The Playboy and The Rat covers the careers of both drivers in 200 pages. The inevitable problem of trying to tell the careers of two drivers, both larger-than-life personalities with successful careers, is the difficulty of fitting everything in. But in trying to cover so much ground in so little space it doesn’t do justice to the story it’s trying to tell.

The style is more storybook than biography: loose and conversational rather than direct and concise. Although reasonably detailed it too often glosses over important episodes, giving the same light treatment to even the most significant passages.

the-playboy-and-the-ratIt’s conspicuously short on quotes, and those which do appear aren’t cited. There’s no list of reference material and no indication any original interviews have been conducted.

The Hunt chapters in particular seem to draw very heavily on Gerald Donaldson’s excellent 2003 biography, which is the place to start if the anticipation of Rush has got you in the mood to read more about this period. Follow that up with either or both of Lauda’s punchy autobiographies For the Record and To Hell and Back.

Although the author clearly knows this subject well the Playboy and The Rat doesn’t get anywhere near as close to it as previous books such as these have done.

F1 Fanatic rating

Rating two out of five

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The Playboy and The Rat

Author: Roy Calley
Publisher: JMD Media
Published: June 2013
Pages: 204
Price: ??12.99 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781780910536


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25 comments on “The Playboy and The Rat reviewed”

  1. I also find the title of the book extremely uncalled for…

    1. Please explain why…

      1. Clearly, he’s not a playboy.

      2. In literary sense, a rat is one of the lowest forms used to describe a human being. The character is usually put forward as a backstabbing/jealous/thieving person. Usually, “the playboy” is more like a cunning, handsome, sexy good person. The title demotes Nikki Lauda as a person and makes a reader consider him as bad person in the book.
        There…It has been explained.!

        1. The title demotes Nikki Lauda as a person and makes a reader consider him as bad person in the book.

          I don’t think this book would be picked from the shelf by a non-F1 follower. F1 fans know what the Rat stands for and thereby would not consider Niki a bad person.

    2. @lexblair Lauda was widely referred to as ‘The Rat’ during his career, it’s not as if the author was the first person to call him that.

      1. @keithcollantine Exactly but wouldn’t it have been better to use his other nickname “the computer”? Just for the sake of keeping some objectivity.

        1. Not sure I’ve ever heard Niki referred to as “the computer”. He’s always been known as the Rat in my experience.

        2. Traverse (@)
          4th August 2013, 18:53

          Maybe they could’ve reached a compromise and referred to him as ‘The Mouse’, thus referencing both ‘The Rat’ and ‘The computer’ in an obscure way…

          All silliness aside, his nickname was ‘The Rat’, everyone called him ‘The Rat’, so therefore the title ‘The Playboy and The Rat’ makes sense and is perfectly justifiable.

          1. @hellotraverse and @JRS Well I’ve always known him as the computer, weird. Perhaps this is a more local name they gave him here in Belgium because that’s what my dad always called him. Well if “the rat” is the more common name then yes it is the only correct title.

            Who knows in 2031 we are reading “The fingerboy and Teflonso”. God even the knicknames have become dreadfull ;-)

        3. @force-maikel He’s far more widely known as The Rat.

      2. I am fully aware of that, but it doesn’t make it any more appropriative, TBH.
        It was degrading back then and it still is, IMO

        1. He was known as the rat; as far as we know he did not find it offensive. It was a nickname which probably became slightly endearing. Just because you find it offensive is beside the point. It is a catchy title based on fact. I don’t understand why people get offended on other peoples behalf.

    3. thatscienceguy
      5th August 2013, 14:22

      His airline even had “Niki the Rat” as one of its mascots, complete with signature red cap.

  2. Due to an embargo I won’t be buying any cinema tickets or DVDs of Rush.

    1. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1)
      4th August 2013, 17:41

      eek! :-)

    2. @tomsk Why do you object to them having an embargo? It’s not as if you can pay to see the film yet so what different does it make?

      1. Mostly envy… and the length of this one – seems like I’ve been reading “I’ve seen Rush! But can’t say anything about it” for months and months.

        1. As happens with all movies.
          The Senna film debuted in Brazil almost a full year before I got to see it in the cinema.

  3. Read Tom Rubython’s book In the Name of Glory 1976 (The Greatest Ever Sporting Duel) about a year ago. Excellent book with lots of believable quotes and great photos by Rainer Schlegelmilch. Makes me wonder about the necessity of another book by the same author on the same subject. Not really -$$$:) Anyway In the Name of Glory is a great read and a book that deserves to be in all F1 fan’s libraries.

  4. Sorry… Why was he called the rat? (before my time)

    1. His facial features resembled to that of a rat(his teeth jutted out of his mouth).. I’m not joking.

      1. Traverse (@)
        5th August 2013, 16:17

        You’re one to talk, Mr ‘Rooney’ :P

  5. Steph (@stephanief1990)
    5th August 2013, 21:07

    I was unlikely to be interested in a book about Hunt anyway so I’m glad I don’t have to bother buying this given the poor review.

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