R.E. Swartwout: Another ‘Blue’ Poet And Mystery Writer

The King’s Bargemaster Bill East shows the 1930 Cambridge cox R.E. Swartwout the tides on the Thames.

I have to confess that I was surprised to find that the winning Oxford stroke of the 1937 Boat Race, David Michael de Reuda Winser, whom HTBS wrote about on 12 December, was not only a prize-winning poet, but also a novelist and a crime writer. He took his knowledge of the Boat Race and used it in his short-story “The Boat Race Murder”, published in 1940.

Doing some more research, I discovered that David Winser was, however, not the only Blue who was a published poet and mystery writer. Among the Light Blues, we will find Robert Egerton (known as ‘R.E.’) Swartwout, who was coxing the winning Cambridge crew in 1930. Swartwout rowed and coxed at his American school Middlesex School in Concord, New Hampshire, before he was admitted to First Trinity, Cambridge. I am not sure when he came to First Trinity, but it was probably in the mid-1920s. When he published his Rhymes of the River in spring 1927, he writes that “These verses have all appeared during the past few years in the Granta […]”. This collection of light verse is not easy to come by, but it is not impossible. (You will find one bookseller having a copy for sale here.)

Below is a short, funny clip of R.E. Swartwout getting tips on how to cox his crew from Putney to Mortlake by the King’s Bargemaster Bill East, the well-known, old professional sculler and Doggett winner, who had been contracted for decades to help the Light Blues to find ‘the best way home’.

SHOWING THE BEST WAY HOME

Swartwout only coxed Cambridge against Oxford on the Thames once. Nevertheless, he did use his knowledge about the Boat Race in his novel The Boat Race Murder (1933); yes, the same title David Winser used for his short-story seven years later. While it is impossible to find a first edition of this mystery novel by Swartwout, there are plenty of so called print on demand copies available.

There are also some other non-fiction books available by R.E. Swartwout, but otherwise I am sorry to say that I have not found a lot of information about him on the web. (I have noticed that some websites and old newspaper articles misspell his name, ‘Swartout’.)

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