George Mallory and his climbing partner Sandy Irvine disappeared on Mount Everest in 1924, igniting years of speculation as to what happened to the pair. Even the discovery of Mallory's body in 1999 left many unanswered questions, and some continue to wonder if Mallory and Irvine were in fact the first to summit Everest, twenty-nine years before Hillary and Norgay. While the mystery of Mallory's death made him famous, he was a fascinating character in life as well. He was one of the most talented mountain climbers of his day, but he was also an intellectual, a writer, and a teacher, as well as a close friend of many of the radical thinkers of the Bloomsbury group.
Following Mallory's death, his wife went to his friends to discuss who should write his biography. His long-time friend Lady Mary Anne O'Malley (née Cottie Sanders, the future novelist Ann Bridge
) wrote a manuscript, but the climbing establishment didn't think a woman should be the one to write Mallory's biography. Mallory's friend David Pye eventually ended up publishing the biography in 1927, but he collaborated with O'Malley and used a large portion of her manuscript in his book.
Pye's biography is the only published biography written by a contemporary and friend. Unlike other biographies of Mallory, this one does not get much into the details of dates and places. Pye barely mentions Mallory's children, discusses his wife Ruth just a bit, and completely avoids any question of his homosexual experimentation while at Cambridge (for that, see Gillman's excellent biography The Wildest Dream: The Biography of George Mallory). This book focuses more on Mallory's personality, his interactions with his friends, and his thinking. In many ways it is more of a character sketch than a traditional biography, and reads like a novel.