HIGHER THAN EAGLES

THE STORY OF A FAMILY AND THE SPORT THAT TRANSFORMED THEM

A California mother of six joins one of her surviving sons in recounting their family's tragic and exhilarating involvement in hang gliding—an unusual tale of an eccentric American family, and, perhaps unintentionally, a stern warning to others who long to fly. Bobby Wills stood apart from his sister and four brothers from the start, remembers Maralys, the long-suffering mother of an unbelievably rambunctious, creative, and athletic southern California brood. As a young boy, Bobby had the ambition and hyperactive imagination that led him to spend a year digging elaborate underground tunnels beneath the backyard, dreaming up wind-propelled bicycles, and trying to convince his flight-obsessed brother, Chris, to fly his homemade planes upside down. Subject to extreme bouts of asthma and violently rebellious by nature, Bobby and his equally brutal attorney father traumatized the family with window-shattering brawls as Bobby grew into a headstrong, reckless, and apparently directionless young adult who spent his days building useless inventions in the family garage. Then Chris became intrigued with the new sport of hang gliding, and through him Bobby found his mÇtier. Bobby and his brothers' startling passion for jumping off cliffs attached to giant kites eventually led to national championships, piles of trophies, a Sports Illustrated story, and a successful, family-run hang-glider design company- -until the deaths of Bobby's brother Eric and then Bobby himself from glider crashes brought that chapter of the Wills family life to a close. In alternating chapters, Chris, now a physician, conveys the boyish exhilaration that the brothers experienced in designing and flying gliders, while Maralys expresses maternal wonder at the energy and drive of her remarkable children and at the beauty of the sport they loved. A gripping tale of transformation and redemption—though some may gasp at the cost.

Pub Date: April 15, 1992

ISBN: 1-56352-025-7

Page Count: 268

Publisher: Longstreet

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1992

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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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