An effective tribute to an innovator unjustly overshadowed by his litigious peers.

Shulman moves on from polemical exposé (Owning the Future: Staking Claims on the Knowledge Frontier, 1999) to polemical biography, profiling a nearly forgotten aviation pioneer whose story proves that even when men were men, there were still lawyers.

The author lets us know immediately where his sentiments lie in the rivalry between the Wright brothers and Glenn Curtiss, all three of whom, it seems, parlayed an eighth-grade education about as far as it could go a century ago. Shulman finds Curtiss (1878–1930) to be a true inventor with the heart of a hero, while Orville and Wilbur were so obsessed with nailing down the broadest possible patent benefits stemming from their singular triumph at Kitty Hawk in 1903 that they ultimately spent far more time mounting vituperous litigation to suppress the state of the art than they ever did to advance it. While aspects of that rivalry remain unresolved and controversial to this day, there is no doubt that Curtiss, credited with some 500 inventions that contributed to the rapid evolution of aircraft over three decades, was hounded undeservedly through the entire period by the brothers and their law firms. The author ably evokes an age when innovation was hot in the wind: both Alexander Graham Bell and Henry Ford had occasion to seek out the school dropout from Hammondsport, New York, the former to collaborate with Curtiss on aviation experiments, the latter to commiserate from experience with his own battle against predatory patent attorneys. With help like this, and the ability to get as much out of a gas-powered reciprocating engine as any man alive in his time, Curtiss persevered, set speed and distance records as his aircraft evolved in capability, invented the seaplane, and even, as part of a prize-winning flight down the Hudson River from Albany to New York City, delivered the first “airmailed” letter.

An effective tribute to an innovator unjustly overshadowed by his litigious peers.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2002

ISBN: 0-06-019633-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2002


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview