An overlong but still worthy aviation history.



A history of the obsessive pioneers of flight.

Bestselling historian Rose (Men of War: The American Soldier in Combat at Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, and Iwo Jima, 2015) emphasizes that when the Wright brothers made the first heavier-than-air flight in 1903, airships had been carrying passengers since the Montgolfier brothers first launched their balloon in 1783. Until well into the 1930s, many entrepreneurs believed that dirigibles—spacious, quiet, capable of flying long distances—were the wave of the future compared with cramped, noisy, accident-prone propeller-driven craft. After a brief account of a successful 1936 flight of the Hindenburg, “the ultimate transoceanic cruiser” that would be destroyed in a spectacular crash just a year later, Rose rewinds the clock to 1863, when German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (1838-1917) first flew in a balloon and was inspired. After retirement, he devoted himself to building powered airships, immense craft lifted by flammable hydrogen (helium, much safer, was wildly expensive). He created the world’s first commercial airline in 1909. The difficulty of control in bad weather and the danger of hydrogen proved to be insoluble problems. Airships suffered a dismal safety record, although Zeppelin’s passenger airline, under his successor, led a charmed life until the Hindenburg disaster. Rose’s intriguing second subject does not appear until the author reaches the 1920s, when Juan Trippe (1889-1981) joined other businessmen investing in the first airlines. As the author shows, the competition in the U.S. was already cutthroat, but few airlines existed south of the border, and he began acquiring exclusive rights to fly to the Caribbean and later South America. Flush with profits—from airmail contracts; passengers came later—he persuaded Boeing to develop a flying boat capable of crossing the ocean. The resulting “clippers” became the epitome of glamorous air travel during the 1930s. By 1940, when the book ends, Trippe’s Pan American World Airways was the world’s largest international carrier, and the Zeppelin was history. Technical and business details dominate the narrative, but the primary story is often riveting.

An overlong but still worthy aviation history.

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8997-7

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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