Tabor’s largely speculative narrative lacks the dramatic force of such other recent high-altitude stories as Jon Krakauer’s...

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FOREVER ON THE MOUNTAIN

THE TRUTH BEHIND ONE OF THE MOST TRAGIC, MYSTERIOUS, AND CONTROVERSIAL DISASTERS IN MOUNTAINEERING HISTORY

A former contributing editor to Outside magazine tries to ferret out the truth behind a 1967 expedition during which seven climbers died on Mt. McKinley.

They died alone, without radio communication, and left behind no journals. So the author, a climbing enthusiast, must resort to educated supposition to reconstruct their final days, which occurred during a week-long July “hurricane” atop North America’s highest peak. The fatal McKinley climb resulted from an uneasy merger of two groups. Because National Park service regulations required a minimum of four per party, a three-man Colorado team led by Howard Snyder was forced to combine with a nine-man crew put together by 22-year-old Joe Wilcox, the expedition’s titular leader. Relations between the groups quickly deteriorated and only got worse as fatigue, bad weather and poor communication took their toll. The three Coloradoans reached the summit on July 15, then headed down the mountain; five from Wilcox’s team summited on July 18. By that time, a massive storm had moved in, trapping seven of the climbers in two separate camps above 17,000 feet. The desperate efforts of park ranger Wayne Merry were thwarted by the ignorance and inaction of his superiors, writes Tabor in a scathing assessment of the National Park Service’s dismal response to the crisis. In the aftermath, crusty mountaineering legend Brad Washburn, Park Service officials and Snyder combined to blame the tragedy on “tactical errors” by Wilcox, who was one of only two men from his original group to survive. The author’s scrutiny of the post-mortems makes for more compelling reading than his inconclusive attempt to reconcile the contradictory accounts of events published by the warring Wilcox and Snyder.

Tabor’s largely speculative narrative lacks the dramatic force of such other recent high-altitude stories as Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air (1997) or Ed Viesturs’ No Shortcuts to the Top (2006), and the dearth of answers may leave readers unsatisfied.

Pub Date: July 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-393-06174-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2007

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One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

BACK FROM THE DEAD

A basketball legend reflects on his life in the game and a life lived in the “nightmare of endlessly repetitive and constant pain, agony, and guilt.”

Walton (Nothing but Net, 1994, etc.) begins this memoir on the floor—literally: “I have been living on the floor for most of the last two and a half years, unable to move.” In 2008, he suffered a catastrophic spinal collapse. “My spine will no longer hold me,” he writes. Thirty-seven orthopedic injuries, stemming from the fact that he had malformed feet, led to an endless string of stress fractures. As he notes, Walton is “the most injured athlete in the history of sports.” Over the years, he had ground his lower extremities “down to dust.” Walton’s memoir is two interwoven stories. The first is about his lifelong love of basketball, the second, his lifelong battle with injuries and pain. He had his first operation when he was 14, for a knee hurt in a basketball game. As he chronicles his distinguished career in the game, from high school to college to the NBA, he punctuates that story with a parallel one that chronicles at each juncture the injuries he suffered and overcame until he could no longer play, eventually turning to a successful broadcasting career (which helped his stuttering problem). Thanks to successful experimental spinal fusion surgery, he’s now pain-free. And then there’s the music he loves, especially the Grateful Dead’s; it accompanies both stories like a soundtrack playing off in the distance. Walton tends to get long-winded at times, but that won’t be news to anyone who watches his broadcasts, and those who have been afflicted with lifelong injuries will find the book uplifting and inspirational. Basketball fans will relish Walton’s acumen and insights into the game as well as his stories about players, coaches (especially John Wooden), and games, all told in Walton’s fervent, witty style.

One of the NBA’s 50 greatest players scores another basket—a deeply personal one.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1686-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading...

CONCUSSION

A maddening, well-constructed tale of medical discovery and corporate coverup, set in morgues, laboratories, courtrooms, and football fields.

Nigeria-born Bennet Omalu is perhaps an unlikely hero, a medical doctor board-certified in four areas of pathology, “anatomic, clinical, forensic, and neuropathology,” and a well-rounded specialist in death. When his boss, celebrity examiner Cyril Wecht (“in the autopsy business, Wecht was a rock star”), got into trouble for various specimens of publicity-hound overreach, Omalu was there to offer patient, stoical support. The student did not surpass the teacher in flashiness, but Omalu was a rock star all his own in studying the brain to determine a cause of death. Laskas’ (Creative Writing/Univ. of Pittsburgh; Hidden America, 2012, etc.) main topic is the horrific injuries wrought to the brains and bodies of football players on the field. Omalu’s study of the unfortunate brain of Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who died in 2002 at 50 of a supposed heart attack, brought new attention to the trauma of concussion. Laskas trades in sportwriter-ese, all staccato delivery full of tough guyisms and sports clichés: “He had played for fifteen seasons, a warrior’s warrior; he played in more games—two hundred twenty—than any other player in Steelers history. Undersized, tough, a big, burly white guy—a Pittsburgh kind of guy—the heart of the best team in history.” A little of that goes a long way, but Laskas, a Pittsburgher who first wrote of Omalu and his studies in a story in GQ, does sturdy work in keeping up with a grim story that the NFL most definitely did not want to see aired—not in Omalu’s professional publications in medical journals, nor, reportedly, on the big screen in the Will Smith vehicle based on this book.

Effectively sobering. Suffice it to say that Pop Warner parents will want to armor their kids from head to toe upon reading it.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8757-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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