Peter Snell and the Kiwis Who Flew
Vern Walker
David Ling Publishing

Vern Walker was a decent runner, fit to compete with many of those he writes about in this fascinating book.

That means there is plenty of the personal touch, which adds to the flavour of a fine publication.

As the title suggests, this is the story of the greatest era in New Zealand athletics, when Olympic and Commonwealth Games medals were won, world records gathered at a range of distances.


It was a time when New Zealand athletics was cloaked in fame, a large part of it down to the work of the celebrated coach Arthur Lydiard, to whom this book is dedicated.
Walker brings the characters to life.

Peter Snell, John Davies, Barry Magee, Bill Baillie the best known of them, but also others like the gritty marathoners Jeff Julian and Ray Puckett and the gifted but flawed Neville Scott, whose descent to a sad final few years is recounted - "to be a world class athlete and have a fondness for the amber fluid were restless bedfellows. Liquid courage became his prop".

Marise Chamberlain, still the only New Zealand woman to win an Olympic track medal, is remembered fondly, along with her tears, on the Olympic dais in Tokyo in 1964.

Along the way you encounter the great names from around the world and Walker has developed a knack for taking the reader to the great occasions.

True, this is a labour of love, but that term doesn't do it full justice.

The book is full of little snippets of information to fill the picture of the athletes and the times.

There are rarely seen photos, piles of numbers. It is a statistician's delight.

As Snell put it, "I'm so pleased he's done it because it opens up all the memories, many of which I'd forgotten."


This book would be a welcome addition to the library of anyone with a love of New Zealand sport.

For athletics lovers it is a must.