Bodybuilding's Best Ever Writer


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(Originally published in the October 2017 issue of Flex and reprinted with Peter's permission.)

In some circles there is an ongoing debate about who is bodybuilding's best ever writer. We can go way back to the '40s, with outstanding authors like Earle Liederman, Charles A. Smith, and an anonymous guy called The Observer, who was hysterical. Then progressing through the '60s to the '80s, wordsmiths like Dick Tyler, Rick Wayne, Jack Neary, Mike Mentzer, Bill Reynolds and Jeff Everson proved their writing chops. Coming into modern times, standouts like Bill Reynolds, Lonnie Teper, Julian Schmidt, Jeff O'Connell, Greg Merritt, Jim Schmaltz, Ron Harris, John Romano and Shawn Perine continue their craft. My personal pick is Dave Draper, 1965 Mr. America and 1970 Mr. World, who was a main player of that '60s and '70s Golden Era at Gold's, Venice, in partnership with Arnold & Co.

Dave's recent book Iron in My Hands is a soft cover collection of 73 weekly columns he originally posted on over the past five years.

Some writers write with their heads, producing clinically well-thought conclusions that deliver the goods. In another stream, there are those who write from the heart, bringing a passion to the page with a flair and agenda they believe in.

And then there are the very few who write from their soul, revealing their very being and innermost beliefs. It's a leap of faith and an achievement to open your soul for public scrutiny and be able to elicit only praise. Dave Draper does that exquisitely. He just doesn't just give soulful soliloquies, he gives you his soul. An excavatory analogy is while most of us scribblers are content to scratch the surface--frackers that we are--Dave goes deeper: deeper than a Chilean miner.

Within the 376 pages of Iron in My Hands, Dave opens that old-school, best-school soul. You join him in the gym as he offers training gold, collected from nearly 60 years of experience. Along the way he peppers us with priceless anecdotes, deep insights, in-the-trenches gems of knowledge, humor--much of it self-deprecating--and reflections on life and the world in general. It really is a tour-de-force relayed with a flow of words that are mesmerizing and addictive.

You truly never want page 376 to loom into view. In essence, you climb onboard to experience an intimate fly-on-the-wall pilgrimage into Dave's world of Iron in His Hands. Let him take over and he offers you his soul to a level where you almost end up lifting the bars with him, like two pianists on the same seat tinkling their ivories...and playing the piano as well of course.

But be ready for surprises as in the tapestry of work the iconic Blond Bomber weaves-- he has the dexterity to switch knitting patterns and accost you with wit and flair. Consider the following passage.

"The road is clear, my grip is tight. No more lost, misplaced, replaced or wasted time. In fact, I don't wear a watch, nor do I have a calendar hanging over my desk. I live for the moment. I'm free.

"Freedom means doing whatever you want, whenever you want, without restraint or interference ..... Excuse me, my beeper just went off. This'll only take a sec.

"Yes, hi ... a quart of milk and a loaf of bread, return the book to the library, pick up dry cleaning before five, check the PO box, stop at Triple A for maps, grab some cardboard boxes from the Safeway dumpster, don't forget the prescription at the pharmacy, a sack of cement from ACE Hardware for the deck project. What deck project? Is that all?"

A phrase of Dave's that always sticks in my mind is, "Lift weights for fame, glory and money and you miss the point entirely. If you don't understand what I'm saying, I can't explain it." When I first read that I said to myself, "I wish I'd written that .... y'know I probably will."

Well, I never did until now. And so I prove that as a writer you can surely copy Dave, but you'll never duplicate or exceed him. Iron in My Hands is a must read. Digest it and learn how to train and how to live.

Peter McGough
... for Flex Magazine...

Link to Dave's author page on (books and excerpts)

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