ATLANTIC FEVER by Joe Jackson
Kirkus Star

ATLANTIC FEVER

Lindbergh, His Competitors, and the Race to Cross the Atlantic

KIRKUS REVIEW

A talented storyteller re-creates the signature moment of aviation’s golden age.

By the spring of 1927, the technology, money and pool of design and piloting talent had reached a critical mass. Clearly someone would soon fly from New York to Paris nonstop and capture the $25,000 Orteig Prize, unclaimed since 1919. By then World War I had transformed the image of aviators from eccentric flying fools to dashing “knights of the air.” The Jazz Age publicity machine, newly augmented by radio and newsreels, prepared to catapult to unprecedented fame whoever crossed the Atlantic first. Notable candidates included the Italian Francesco de Pinedo, Frenchmen René Fonck, Charles Nungesser and François Coli, Americans Charles Levine, Bert Acosta, Clarence Chamberlin, Noel Davis, Floyd Bennett and Richard E. Byrd, the polar explorer already accustomed to the “hero business.” And, of course, a young mail pilot and his plane, Spirit of St. Louis. The glare attending Charles Lindbergh’s triumph has all but obscured his rivals, almost every one of whom was better known, better equipped, more experienced and at least as able. Without diminishing the Lone Eagle’s achievement, Jackson (The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power, and the Seeds of Empire, 2008, etc.) makes clear the “cult of Lindbergh” would have evaporated had he not won, and that a combination of skill, luck and the misfortunes of his competitors allowed him to survive the “Great Atlantic Derby” and relegate his competitors to footnotes. Jackson rescues the stories of these and other fliers, some of them killed, the rest severely marked by the great race. Throughout, he folds in unfailingly apt observations about the psychology of aviators, the peculiar mix of wealth and want that characterized the 1920s, the hunger for heroes, the role of chance and the turbocharging effect of mass media.

With stirring detail and perceptive insight about the pilots and the public, Jackson recaptures the tone and tenor of a frantic era’s national obsession.

Pub Date: May 15th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-374-10675-1
Page count: 592pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2012




MORE BY JOE JACKSON

NonfictionA WORLD ON FIRE by Joe Jackson
by Joe Jackson
NonfictionA FURNACE AFLOAT by Joe Jackson
by Joe Jackson

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

NonfictionFALLING UPWARDS by Richard Holmes
by Richard Holmes
NonfictionCHASING ICARUS by Gavin Mortimer
by Gavin Mortimer
NonfictionWINGS by Tom D. Crouch
by Tom D. Crouch