Friday, November 26, 2010

On the Coffee Table: Peter L. Dixon

I just finished The Olympian, a novel by Peter L. Dixon. The book chronicles the adventures of Winter Wolf, a fictional Olympic swimmer at the 1932 Games in Los Angeles. His event, the 1,000 meter freestyle, was the author's invention as well, though there are many real-life characters who make cameos: William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies and Johnny Weissmuller, among others.

Swimming is really only a small part of the book. In essence, the narrative is a whirlwind tour of 1930s coastal California. It is a fun read, but I have to say that character development is rather clunky. Dixon is at his best when writing about the water, not surprising from a man who has written highly-acclaimed non-fiction books about surfing. His love for the ocean is abundantly clear and the elegance with which he writes about boating, diving, swimming and lifeguarding stands in contrast with the otherwise obvious narrative. His characters are like-able, but not particularly nuanced, nor are the relationships between them.

Here's one for Mock: one of the real-life cameos is Buster Crabbe, a genuine '32 Olympic gold medalist. In his Hollywood career that followed, he is the only actor to have played Tarzan, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, the top three comic book characters of the 1930s, according to Wikipedia.

Photo via Michael May's Adventureblog

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