Text by Bob Silva with a foreword by Larry Schwabenland
Book Review by Richard Parks, Photographic Consultant Roger Rohrdanz
A nice compliment to drag boat racing history is the paperback book Drag Boats of the 1960's, by Don Edwards with Barry McCown. The quality of the paperback book is very high and makes a great coffee table book for the den or living room. In fact, one of the objections to this book is that it wasn’t expanded and made into a hard bound edition as it is that good of a book. It addresses a need to explore and record the history of the famous drag boat racing era of the 1960’s in the United States. This was a period of time when boat racing was as good as or better than the same era in drag car racing, with men and women as adventurous and talented as any in automobile racing. In fact, many of the boat racers were also into car racing and shared their talents in both fields. A great advantage in the making of the book is that Don Edwards and Barry McCown have so many of the old boat guys still alive who are capable of sharing photographs, text, stories and their vivid memories. Boat racing itself is a hazardous sport and a hall of fame list of great racers died or were seriously injured as they set records and won championships. It is altogether a different kind of sport than car racing. The novice can suppose that the only difference between drag boat racing and drag car racing is the surface to be run on and that the cars have wheels while the boats have hulls. There are a lot of similarities between the mechanical abilities and engines, but the differences are startling. The traction on land may be difficult and dangerous, but on water the drag boat racer faces a millisecond between making the right decision on the slippery and unpredictable water and possible death or serious injury.
I once asked Don Edwards if it took more courage to race on water than on land. He didn’t answer right away, perhaps because courage isn’t quite the word he would have used. There is a thrill and excitement that racing on water brings that is totally different than what a land racer might face. He did tell me that his goal was to race for four or five years and then give it up, for as he said, “Boat racers often don’t survive much past that time.” It isn’t that a boat racer is good or bad at his craft as the set of variables in boat racing is simply unbelievable. Perfect water can still be fatal, as can wind, current and simply too much air under the hull. Drag boats go faster when they are up out of the water, with only their prop and a bit of the rear of the boat “dragging” in the water. Too much boat in the water creates too much friction and drag, while too much boat in the air can lead to speeds that will force air under the craft and send it airborne. Drag boat racing is intense and fast. The times are comparable to land drag car racing, but far more intense and dangerous. Some boat racers have left drag boat racing and gone on to success in car drag racing; notably Eddie Hill and Jerry Toliver. Fewer car drag racers have made the switch into boats. Another interesting point is the rugged individualism of these zealous men and women who brave boat racing. They are their own men and women. They are not tolerant of being told what to do. They readily take advice, but they refuse to be dictated to. In a way, they are the rebels of our generation, skilled and talented to undertake a hobby that so many of us are loathe to follow.
Drag Boats of the 1960’s is a paperback book measuring 10 ¼ inches across by 8 ½ inches in height, by 3/8 inches in thickness. The front and back covers are on the highest quality waxed paper and quite appealing. Drag Boats of the 1960’s has cross-over appeal with boat racing enthusiasts, as a coffee table book, as a historical work and for those interested in speed. The interior pages are also on the highest quality waxed paper, capable of showing off the photographs to their finest degree. Drag Boats of the 1960’s has 126 pages, with 52 color and 124 black and white photographs. There are five posters and a three page list of the National Drag Boat Association (NDBA) 100 Mile per hour club members. The photographs are of very good quality, though a few were taken from newspaper clippings or from a distance by non-professionals. All of the photographs are part of the rich history and heritage of the NDBA and drag boat racing during the Golden Era of drag boat racing. The captions are full and complete and stand alone in telling the story. There is minimal text, which for a historian is a loss, for the more we can document an event with text and photographs, the better we understand the times we are studying. There is a half page of acknowledgements and a half page about the authors of the book. Larry Schwabenland wrote the two page foreword and Don Edwards wrote a two page introduction. There is no list of contents, no chapters and no index. In a pictorial the authors can get away without a table of contents or chapters, but without an index the serious reader or historian has to spend a lot of his or her time searching through the book looking for names, dates and places. An index is a very valuable tool and so many authors overlook this part of a book. An index will turn a good book into a great one and a so-so book into a very good book. The binding is glued and not cloth bound, so be careful in how you open the book because glued bound books tend to come apart over time.
The publisher is Iconografix and Drag Boats of the 1960’s was printed in China. The book retails for $30 and you can order the book directly from the authors. The cover and book design is by Don Perry and the ISBN number is 13-978-1-58388-222-1, or 10-1-58388-222-7. The only contact point that was listed was www.iconografixinc.com. You can also try to Google the authors or contact a book store nearest you. Autobooks/Aerobooks in Burbank, California might have some of the books on hand. The book itself is a serious attempt by Don Edwards to tell his story and the stories of his friends and to a great extent he succeeds admirably. This is a book that should be in any serious admirer of motorized boat racing history. It is well done; the photographs are very good and were chosen with care. Some of the men and women who are mentioned include; Bones Noteboom, Bob Garner, Mary Rife, Larry Schwabenland, Barry McCown, Rich Hallett Senior, Rudy Ramos, the Bale Brothers, Tommy Fults, Bob Ellis, Eddie Weinberg, Ray Caselli, Mickey Thompson, Jack Davidson, Gary Gabelich, Don Edwards, John Edmunds, Rene Andre Maddox, Tom Weeda, Louie Unser, Ted Phillips, Jean Jennewein, Ed Will, Buzz Coates, Eric Rickman, Bob Valenzuela and many more drag boat racers are in the photographs. The engine builders that were mentioned included; Dave Zeuschel, Ed Pink, and Keith Black. Some of the photographers in the book were; Clyde Parkhurst, Bob Foley, Chris Blevins, Mary and Roger Squire, Jack Cool, Leo Wildman, Harlan Orrin, Marshall Lewis, Dick Castillo, Bob Senior, Don Edwards and Bob Garner. Larry Lee painted some of the boats of the era. Chuck Stearns is mentioned as a champion water skier. Lee Taylor is mentioned for his water speed record attempts. This is a fine book and I give it a 6 out of 8 spark plugs. Add this one to your library.
I rate this book a 6 out of 8 sparkplugs.
Pick One Up Today!
The publisher is Iconografix and Drag Boats of the 1960’s was printed in China. The book retails for $30 and you can order the book directly from the authors. The cover and book design is by Don Perry and the ISBN number is 13-978-1-58388-222-1, or 10-1-58388-222-7. The only contact point that was listed was www.iconografixinc.com.