The debut biography of a once-famed American World War I fighter pilot.
The story of Kiffin Yates Rockwell (1892-1916)—an American member of the French Foreign Legion, a pursuit pilot, and a war hero—begins, in attorneyTrapp’s lengthy telling, long before the man was born. In fact, it starts with Rockwell’s earliest known ancestor in the area around Caen, France, in medieval times. Trapp goes on to trace Rockwell’s family tree, which included soldiers and preachers, up to and including the American Civil War and the birth of Rockwell’s parents. From there, the story of Rockwell and his brother, Paul, focuses on their patriotic principles, which led them to volunteer for duty in the French Foreign Legion in 1914, when the United States was officially neutral. Paul transferred to a noncombat unit due to ill health, but Rockwell joined the aviation service and, eventually, the all-volunteer Lafayette Escadrille, in which he shot down several German planes before being killed in battle at the age of 24. Trapp describes the arc of Rockwell’s life in detailed and, at times, exhausting measure. However¸ the author’s masterful prose, coupled with impressive research—there are more than 120 pages of footnotes—offers verisimilitude and colorful insights. Not everything works as it should, though; despite Trapp’s early claim that the book isn’t hagiography, his admiration for his subject borders on the obsequious. This is especially true in the first 100 pages or so, in which descriptions of Rockwell’s ancestry overflow with testaments to their intellectual, moral, and financial prowess. The author also displays a fascination with men’s heights, which are listed for most males who appear in the narrative. Toward the end, Trapp indulges in repeating several clichés about millennials who, in his view, fail to measure up to the patriotic virtues of men of Rockwell’s era. Still, despite these flaws, this book presents a compelling narrative of a principled man who gave everything he had in pursuit of his ideals.
Superb prose and research overcome occasional hagiography and political posturing.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)