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Bugatti queen : in search of a French racing legend

by Seymour, Miranda.

Format: Print Book 2004
Availability: Available at 1 Library 1 of 1 copy
Available (1)
Location Collection Call #
CLP - Main Library Mezzanine - Non-fiction GV1032.N53 S49 2004
Location  CLP - Main Library
Collection  Mezzanine - Non-fiction
Call Number  GV1032.N53 S49 2004
"Even if you have never thrilled to the drone of powerful cars jockeying for position on a racetrack," writes London's Literary Review, "Miranda Seymour's biography of the daring female driver Hellé Nice will have you riveted to your seat." Indeed, the story of this record-shattering woman--known as "Hellish Nice" to her fans and "Hell on Ice" to her rivals--provides a fascinating and unexpected view of Europe and America in the years between the wars. Transcending her provincial background, and taking the name "Hellé Nice," Hélène Delangle made her way into the Parisian demimonde of the 1920s as a nude model, ballerina, and cabaret dancer. But it was on the racetrack, thrilled by the combination of machinery and speed, that Nice would realize her destiny, becoming the "fastest woman in the world." Catching the attention of the formidable Ettore Bugatti, designer of the world's most desirable cars, Nice gained admission to the exclusive male club of drivers. Her readiness to pose for the camera with seductively half-closed eyes and a radiant smile, coupled with her willingness to risk her life for a record or a win, made Hellé Nice an irresistible commodity for Bugatti's marque. Impenitently promiscuous, her many lovers ranged from engineers and mechanics to aristocrats of the racing world such as Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Count Bruno d'Harcourt. A racer of thrilling audacity, Hellé Nice competed in numerous Grand Prix, was the only woman to drive the treacherous American dirt tracks and speedbowls in the 1930s, and set new land-speed records until a notorious accident in Brazil nearly ended her racing career. Her comeback impeded by the war, she lived out the Occupation in the South of France. In 1949, she was mysteriously denounced by a hostile fellow driver as a Gestapo agent. Eventually, Hellé Nice would die in obscurity, the shadow on her reputation causing her name to be written out of racing history. Drawn from a remarkable cache of newly discovered papers, Miranda Seymour's Bugatti Queen sheds new light on both the treacherous world of international racing and life in Occupied France, while revealing the story of a fearless and passionate woman who lived for challenge.
Published Reviews
Booklist Review: "Seymour, a biographer of Robert Graves and Mary Shelley, isn't the most likely candidate for resurrecting a forgotten woman race-car driver, but the instant she learned of Helene Delangle, a daring young Frenchwoman who transformed herself into Helle Nice, the fastest woman in the world, she was on the case. Sexy and audacious, Nice broke world racing records and lived a glamorous and cosmopolitan life, yet she died in abject poverty, disgrace, and obscurity. Determined and lucky, Seymour, a writer of insight and lucidity, found long-lost archives (including stunning photographs) that enabled her to bring beautiful, athletic, and fearless Nice to spicy life as she chronicles her Parisian career as a stripper and much-adored cabaret dancer whose ferocious competitive urge led her to the racetrack, where her delicious smile, elegance, and verve won her the backing of men such as Ettore Bugatti. Seymour vividly describes just how difficult and addictively thrilling it was to drive those magnificent machines, and how terribly dangerous. Bravo to Seymour for her dazzling portrait of an intrepid woman and racing diva. Surely a movie is in the works. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review: "Hell? Nice (1900-1984) has been called "the greatest female race car driver of her time." Through a new discovery of obscure scrapbooks, biographer Seymour (Robert Graves; Mary Shelley; etc.) remembers the famous and multifaceted woman whose journey through life took her to the extremes of fame and poverty. Seymour imagines the missing details, offering a suspenseful read full of intense rivalries, love affairs and family drama. From a humble upbringing in a French village, Nice became a nude model; a legitimate, admired dancer; a cabaret star; and, finally, a race car driver. Nice won the first Grand Prix for women (in 1930), although she prided herself on open competitions. "All I ever ask for," she said, is "just to show what I can do, without a handicap, against men." Although it's clear Nice excelled in driving, Seymour is quick to infer that she was used primarily as a marketing tool by the media; both the press and the public adored her. Yet after suffering a car accident, supporting her lover's costly art projects, being overshadowed by younger drivers and being accused of being a Nazi sympathizer (though this was never confirmed), Nice died penniless, friendless and mostly forgotten. Nice's passion for life will attract readers not interested in race cars-her compelling life becomes the book's driving force. Photos. Agents, Anthony Goff and Henry Dunow. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Additional Information
Subjects Nice, Hellé, -- 1900-1984.
Automobile racing drivers -- France -- Biography.
Women automobile racing drivers -- France -- Biography.
Publisher New York :Random House,2004
Edition 1st U.S. ed.
Language English
Description xix, 323 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Bibliography Notes Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 1400061687
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