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Jaime Filer graduated with a kinesiology degree from York University, where she was a varsity athlete. She’s also a former competitive bodybuilder who competed in drug-tested events throughout North America. If something new is trending in fitness, chances are Jaime’s already tried it!
Muscle Smoke and Mirrors Book Review
Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors:
Volume III, Book 1
Randy Roach is a famed bodybuilding historian who has a stellar reputation in the hardcore underground world as someone who calls a spade a spade and tells it like he sees it. The first two volumes of his Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors series have become encyclopedic in nature; Roach recounts events, dates, and people with impeccable accuracy and incredible detail. Volume I is 566 pages, Volume II is almost 700 pages, and Volume III is 208 including appendices.
To quote Clarence Bass’s review of the Volume III, Book 1 prologue, “What began as primarily an expose of bodybuilding nutritional supplements has come to encompass competing corporate empires, international governing bodies, huge gym chains, Arthur Jones and Nautilus, medical and nutritional politics, international rivalries, motion pictures, anabolic steroids, super athletes, the sex appeal of muscle, and more.” Roach leaves no stone unturned in Volume III when it comes to calling out the controversy of a corrupt era in our sport. He goes into detail where not a lot of other authors would go for fear of upsetting the higher-ups. Roach clearly has no fear, as he brings up the countless feuds between the IFBB and the AAU, and even the fights between Joe Weider and Arnold (which no one ever talks or hears about). He was and is clearly relentless when it comes to seeking out as many facts and opinions as possible from as many sources as possible, to bring the readers the most accurate information he can. He’s passionate about attention to detail, and his enthusiasm for the sport of physical culture is reflected in all three volumes.
What I found so interesting about this book is the discussion of different historical periods, all under the umbrella of bodybuilding. For example, he talks about the Cold War and the Iron Curtain in Russia, the movie 10 starring Bo Derek and Dudley Moore, ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and even the Ben Johnson Olympic steroid scandal. He talks in depth about the popular culture news stories of the time period, and how they may (or may not) have affected our little subculture. Sometimes, however, he jumps around too much from topic to topic, and it may be hard for the reader to keep track of the overarching point Roach is trying to make. I found some parts of the book difficult to follow, but then again, if I had as much knowledge as Roach, my brain would be moving at a hundred miles an hour and it would be hard to type one sentence at a time, let alone stick to one particular theme per chapter.
What I really love about this book, though, is that it dares to go where no one else has gone. Roach isn’t scared to ask the controversial questions:
- Did Arnold’s comeback in 1980 hurt bodybuilding?
- How did Franco’s comeback in 1981 affect the sport?
- Who was the new guard in the early 1980s?
If you’re a truly die-hard fan of the sport, these are questions you have been discussing over the water cooler since time immemorial. These are questions all hardcore bodybuilders ask, and Roach finally gives you the answers.