Just as Jim Bishop was obsessed for years with the hour by hour happenings which he brought together in The Day Lincoln Was Shot, so Walter Lord has- since he was ten, some 28 years -- absorbed every shred of evidence available on the subject of the sinking of the Titanic. And the result is a devastating book, which one reads with complete concentration, and from which one emerges with shredded legends. Here is a story less than heroic -- on the individual score. Here is a moment in time that wrote the end of an incredible era of class differentiation. Here is the shattering of confidence in the invincibility of the experts. For the Titanic was considered ""unsinkable"". People in First Class were supposedly superior on every level -- and some of the qualities that emerged were pretty shabby. The band did not play Nearer My God to Thee. And ""women and children first"" meant those in the First Class. The investigations that followed called only 3 steerage passengers, and nothing was made of their testimony. There were not only too few lifeboats, but most of those that got away were not filled- and almost none of them went back for survivors after the Titanic sank. There were plenty of individual cases of heroism; there were incidents of devotion, self sacrifice, endurance. Tall stories and legends were born that night- and many of them are punctured. Hour by hour- even moment by moment- live again. Illustrated by photographs, many of them never before used. Walter Lord, in The Fremantle Diary last year, resurrected another kind of portrait of a period. This enforces ones feeling that the past can be resurrected with the immediacy of the present. Ladies Home Journal and Reader's Digest may have scooped a lot of the market.