by Richard "Lucky" Luckman
149 pp. (Autobiography)
(Available at Amazon.com)
Champion by Choice is the autobiography of Richard Luckman, who became a powerlifting phenom in the early 1970s while in prison for armed robbery. The story is full of potential; my problem was that the powerlifting-focused book I wanted to read is very different from the general life history that Luckman wanted to tell.
The book starts briskly enough, with a short but frank history of Luckman's troubled young-adulthood, which landed him in jail. And Luckman does a great job of explaining how, once incarcerated, he found focus and self-worth through a growing interest in powerlifting. Luckman's straightforward, blunt descriptions of his competitions lack suspense, but that's OK: we still get a solid sense of the difficulties and rewards of being a world-class athlete while in prison.
But by the mid-1970s — or almost exactly 50% of the way through Champion by Choice — Luckman largely lost interest in competitive lifting. And his autobiography loses focus as a result: the entire second half meanders through Luckman's romantic interests and work history through the decades after he left prison. Some of this is amusing, but the constant string of "and then I went here, and then there, and then here . . ." becomes numbing.