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Peter Mallory's Blog

By pmallory - Posted on 04 March 2015

3 March 2015

Several times a year I am asked by authors and publishers to review, proof and fact-check an upcoming rowing book.

While I was researching The Sport of Rowing, my good friend and muse, Ted Nash, would often remind me, “Now you must get this right, Peter. Books last centuries, and once we’re gone what you have written will become the truth for future generations. That’s a big responsibility.”

Big, indeed! And for all rowing authors. So the proofing and fact-checking I am anxious to do. The reviewing can be a bit more uncomfortable for me. You see, this old rower is a passionate perfectionist, which can make for quite an uncompromising reader.

But I was delighted to proof, fact-check AND review Olympic Odyssey by Emory Clark of the 1964 Olympic Champion Men’s Eight from Vesper Boat Club in Philadelphia.

Emory's crew is well worth remembering. They came at a crucial moment for rowing, and if there were ever a prize given for the most magnificently motley crew in history, that Vesper boat would certainly get my vote.

Vesper 6-oar Boyce Budd has held many an audience spellbound with his retellings – the last 500 meters alone can take 10 minutes to describe, with everyone on the edge of their seats – and Stroke-oar Bill Stowe told the whole story from his own inimitable point of view in his 2005 book, All Together. Even so, Emory’s book is a significant and marvelous addition to the historical record. I only wish we could hear from everyone, but, alas, several teammates have already passed, including mentor Jack Kelly and coach Allen Rosenberg.

An eight-oared shell is a unique creation, at once a singularity while also being a collection of nine individuals, and in Vesper’s case nine absolutely unforgettable individuals, from diverse backgrounds, and by no means entirely friends. How to get nine distinct people to act as one for six minutes? Their’s is a story that is SO improbable, far stranger than fiction, and it’s worth examining in all its facets.

And Emory’s book is gorgeous, with images throughout that look like they are from the scrapbook you hoped your mother would have made for you, full of photos and letters and telegrams and medals and newspaper clippings. Wonderful stuff, all in color. I get excited just looking at the pictures.

A very personal story from a man who did extraordinary things without necessarily feeling extraordinary while he did them. Emory brings us along on the journey. Hugh and Stan, the Amlongs, Boyce, Knecht, Stowe and Bob Zimonyi were our teammates, we collected all those Olympic souvenirs, and the telegrams were congratulating us! Great stuff.