This book came in with a few others from a donor who has given us many items (books and ephemera) on “road travel,” much of it published prior to the creation of the interstate highway system after World War II.  This is an exception, and I almost missed the fact that it was written by Julian May, a prolific writer of science fiction.

Minimal searching led me to discover that Julian May (born in 1931, and still writing) wrote more than 250 books for children and young adults from 1956-1981, including at least nine (9) of them in this “Popular Mechanics Career Book” series.  The title on Automobiles shown here was published in 1961.  Others she wrote were on Atomic Energy (1957), Chemistry (1957), Electronics (1957), Geology (1958), Rockets (1958), Jet Aircraft (1959), Marine Science (1959), and Astronautics (1961).

This book is a mix of fiction and fact in doses I have not seen before.  According to the back of the book, the series “is aimed at introducing boys and girls to science careers.  These books are the product of careful research, but they are much more than a compilation of scientific information.  Through each book runs an exciting story which features Randy Morrow, his younger brother Sam and their friends.  As the fiction line unfolds, the boys and girls discover the wonderful world of science and learn of the career possibilities in various fields of science.”

It is heavily illustrated with technical drawings.  Here’s an interesting bit of “meta” writing in the story (clearly the author is speaking through her character), which takes place at a drag race:

Sam looked at his father curiously.  “You seem to know an awful lot about hot rodding all of a sudden, Dad.  Don’t tell me you’re going to write a book about that!”

Mr. Morrow took out his pipe and started to pack it with tobacco.  He winked at Sam.  “I’m a professional writer, Sam.  And I take my inspiration where I find it.  Hot rodding is one of the most popular hobbies for young men–and it leads a lot of them into careers in the automotive industry.  I don’t think I’ll write a book on hot rods–but I have been thinking seriously about about some magazine articles on automotive careers.

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