Speed Kings by Andy Bull: A Review

speed kingsEver wonder how something got started? Have you ever been curious to understand how something came to be? No? Well… okay maybe I am just the only history nerd here who has always been fascinated on the concept of the beginning. Everything has a beginning and I have always been interested in the understanding the beginning of things, places, or events in time. Understanding beginnings has always been a fascination as to where something started, how it came to be and using that to understand where we are going. It is hard to believe that the Winter Olympics has only been around for around 100 years, and that events like bobsledding haven’t been around since the beginning of time. With the thrill of flying down a mountain at dangerous speeds, it is easy to imagine how the sport of bobsledding became such an enticing sport. Speed Kings by Andy Bull gives an in-depth look at the beginning of bobsledding and the US Olympic Team that would help put it on the map.

Speed was in during the 1930’s. The world unknowingly was on the brink of war, but everyone was addicted to the new sport that only the adrenaline junkies would dare to take on; bobsledding. The First Winter Olympics held in the US in 1932 at Lake Placid was the event of the season. Of course, the US also needed a team to lead the new exotic, dangerous sport for their first Olympics on American Soil. Enter 5 unlikely men; Jay O’Brien, the playboy; Tippy Grey, the Hollywood has-been; Eddie Eagon, world champion boxer; Rhodes Scholar the thrill chaser, and Billy Fiske, the heart of the team, to make up the team that would lead America to greatness. Overcoming the struggles of local and international trouble, these men would come face to face with their own mortality and what could happen if they were to succeed. Speed Kings is the ultimate tale of fame and fortune staring men who were born to fail.

Speed Kings was a bit of a challenge for me. Reading this book was like eating an Abba Zaba (it is candy made of taffy with a peanut butter center), the candy is delicious but the process of consuming this appetizing treat is a difficult one that not everyone can muster. It could be my lack of knowledge and enthusiasm when it comes to historical books about sports, or it could be the lack of connection I had with this book, but something was off. It reminded me a lot of the long, dull history books I read at university; a pain to read and enjoy with the writer trying to get as much information into one book as possible. These writers, unfortunately like Andy, are so focused on covering every bit of detail that the story that it went this way and that way, which read little like being thrashed around in a storm. I forgot half of the time what kind of book I was reading, there was barely any mention of bobsledding in the first 100 pages. Was this a book about bobsledding or was this book about some crazy guy getting married to some other crazy girl? What is going on? There was so much going on I felt that the book should be titled, “Gossip surrounding the 1932 Winter Olympics”.

But it goes without saying that Andy loves detail. How much do you ask? Well it was on the cusp of having too much back story and detail for my liking. There was so much detail and back story that I was already a bit bored with the book before we got the main event. There is at least 50-60 pages of back story I could have easily cut of this book that was irrelevant to the main event itself.  By the time I got to the most exciting part of this book, I felt like I walked through 20 miles of thick mud to reach the promise land. I was tired, bored, and frankly had to motivate myself to continue on. I did finish this book and the last half of the book was really good, but between the writing and the overwhelming amount of information leading up, I did not like it as much as I could have. I thought the book was okay. It had elements that I loved reading about, and there were parts that I did not like as much. I had very strange déjà vu moments of being back at university reading all those history books, which some were actually good and quite fascinating. I am use to reading the “sand paper” like books but not something that I would pick up outside of a classroom or research I was doing for a project. For shame, it had so much promise and potential.

I was so excited to read this and dip my toe into the sports history genre and see where it would take me, but I think I am going to take my toe back out. I am thinking that maybe I should just stick to the historical fiction or wartime books instead of sports. I like watching sports and going to sporting events but reading about them… nah, I’m good.  But if you love reading books about major sporting events, then maybe this book right up your alley. If you enjoy reading about how sports and teams came to be than by all means you should read this book, or buy this book for someone who does. This book is perfect for the sports fans and history sports fans alike, but it is just not for me.

What is everyone reading? Have you read Speed Kings? What did you think?

Happy Reading!

Disclaimer: I was sent Speed Kings for free from Avery/Penguin Random House. This review is of my own work, and I did not copy or refer to any other reviewers/writers/bloggers for this post. All content provided on “A Comfy Chair” is for informational purposes only. I make no representation as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site. I will not be liable for any errors or omissions in this information nor for the availability of this information. I will not be liable for any losses, injuries, or damages from the display or use of this information.

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