Steve McQueen was the kind of guy who could say stuff and get away with it. Stuff like, "this Mercedes is an outstanding lady's (sic) car, but it will also take some manhandling". Basically, he's cool in an ever-so-slightly naff, 1970s sort of way. For reasons that are probably related - the environment, feminism etc - the very fast, mildly unsafe, deep throated rattling cars and motor-bikes he loved all through his life are also cool but quite non-PC.

What better subject for a book than McQueen and his petrol-guzzling motors then?

On a serious note, McQueen's association with cars and bikes is well known. Basically, this is his story told from every possible car or motorbike angle you can think of. That includes iconic moments like McQueen's character's motorbike jump over a wire fence in 'The Great Escape' and the legendary sequence from 1962's 'Bullitt' - the granddaddy of the modern car chase (and also the ancestor of the aesthetics and feel of the 'Grand Theft Auto' series).

Obviously, given the rather narrow scope, this book also goes a little deeper than only doing the highlights; there is a lot of 'niche' detail. There are also highly detailed accounts of the biggest motorised scenes of his career - including the insights of people like Bud Ekins, the stuntman who stood in for McQueen on the most dangerous scenes. We learn that in 'The Great Escape' sequence, McQueen didn't actually do the jump himself - Ekins did - but that he was a good enough bike-rider to play a chasing German as well as the hero.

You also get the story of McQueen's background in motors, his large collection of cars and bikes and his observations on them, and the anecdotes and explanations behind almost every one of his on-screen appearances with a mechanised co-star. Short, magazine style panel articles that bring particular facets of his motorised life into focus and (eg a one page insert titled 'How Good Was McQueen? A Fellow Actor/Racer Remembers') fill the book up nicely.

There's a lot going on but it works well, partly because bringing it all together is Matt Stone, editor of 'Motor Trend' magazine, who is a passionate, informed and engaging writer capable of keeping the pace up and maintaining the right tone. Aside from that, slick production values, classic photography of beautiful cars and people, and interesting anecdotes make this solid coffee table material that will keep both the casual leaf-through reader and the serious aficionado more than happy.

An enjoyably light read.

Brendan Cole