The car of the future turns out to be the car of the past, according to Schiffer (Anthropology/Univ. of Arizona; The Portable Radio in American Life, not reviewed) in this peppy look at the electric car's Edwardian infancy. Schiffer begins with an astonishing statistic: In 1900, 28% of all automobiles produced in America ran on electric power. So why does an effective plug-in car currently seem like a science-fiction dream? Schiffer places this question in historical context, beginning with the 19th-century development of the steam-driven dynamo, which made electricity cheap and plentiful, and of the bicycle, which warmed the public to the idea of personal mechanical transport. In 1897, the first important electric car rolled from Pope's Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Conn., followed by a parade of battery-driven broughams and runabouts from other manufacturers, all of which offered a top speed of about 14 mph and a top distance between recharging of 25 or 30 miles. Henry Ford, meanwhile, was perfecting his cheap, durable gas-driven car, the Model T. Schiffer argues that the battle between gas and electric was, among other things, a skirmish in the war between the sexes, with women opting for the slower, safer electrics. But the truth is that gasoline motors went farther and faster than electric ones; they were also more reliable. Despite the efforts of Thomas Edison, who struggled for years to produce a more efficient battery, by WW I the electric car had become an afterthought. Nevertheless, Schiffer has an upbeat view of the future of electrics. While he admits that a battery that can go 500 miles between recharges would be ``miraculous,'' he foresees stations for rapid battery exchange lining the highways, giving rise to a new generation of nonpolluting drivers. More voltage for pro-electric forces, who can now claim that tradition is on their side. (41 b&w illustrations, not seen)
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)