HERO IN DISGRACE by Howard S. Abramson

HERO IN DISGRACE

The True Discoverer of the North Pole, Frederick A. Cook
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Another entry in the endless furor over who really discovered the North Pole. New navigational computations in 1989 by polar expert Wally Herbert have badly damaged Admiral Robert Peary's claim to priority at the Pole; now Abramson, editor of Traffic Week, strides into the fray to champion Peary's much-maligned opponent. Was Dr. Frederick Cook a cheat and scoundrel, as Peary's supporters claim? Not so, says Abramson, who marshals strong evidence that Cook did indeed reach the Pole on April 21, 1908. Moreover, contends the author, his hero was innocent of the mail-fraud charges that later landed him in Leavenworth for 14 years. This slate-cleaning highlights a biography that too eagerly paints a halo over Cook while planting a pitchfork in the paws of Peary and his crowd. Evidence mounts that Peary was indeed a fake, and his sins--adultery, egotism, greed--are old news. But was the public's acceptance of his claim the result of ``one of the most dastardly media campaigns in history?'' Are respected explorers Donald MacMillan and Peter Freunchen Peary stooges? Is the National Geographic Society, which supports Peary's claims, a den of pseudoscientists? So seems to claim Abramson, who comes off as more boxer than scholar. A biography that stands on solid ground when celebrating Cook's virtues--respect for Eskimos, love of adventure--but otherwise sinks into the mud that has all but obscured the beauty of the polar quest. (Twenty-four photographs and two maps--not seen.)

Pub Date: June 17th, 1991
ISBN: 1-55778-322-5
Page count: 288pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1991