From death-obsessed WW I flying ace to boozing, womanizing member of the ""Lost Generation""; from critically acclaimed author of a best-selling memoir (War Bird) to eccentric textile mill owner and controversial advertising innovator, Elliott White Springs led a life that combined immense variety and disturbing superficiality. Davis, author of some 50 books, including Old Hickory, 1977; Sherman's March, 1980, and The Long Surrender, 1985, has here produced a volume whose early effective chapters will remind many readers of Black Sun, Geoffrey Wolff's 1976 biography of Harry Crosby--another WW I vet obsessed with death. The later segments of the book, filled with paeans to Springs' business acumen, are unfortunately all too reminiscent of a corporate report to the shareholders. Though Davis is largely uncritical of his subject, readers in the 1980's are almost certain to find many of Springs' actions--especially his relations with the workers in his mills--paternalistic and insensitive. And what seemed ""daring"" in his Springmaid ads of the 40's and 50's seems merely sexist and adolescent today. His carryings-on with showgirls and winners of the factory ""beauty contests"" he sponsored are less amusing than the author seems to think: some readers will be more repelled than entertained by these mid-life shenanigans. A smoothly written though somewhat overextended recounting of what was--despite Springs' immense wealth and popular recognition, and his biographer's attempts to lend color and significance--a largely wasted life.