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British author Mortimer (The Great Swim) persuasively argues that three aeronautic events in 1910 vouchsafed the primacy of U.S. aviation and the triumph of heavier-than-air flight. Interweaving the events-Walter Wellman's failed attempt to cross the Atlantic in his dirigible, America; the International Balloon Cup Race, which embarked from St. Louis; and the country's first international aircraft contest, held above the Belmont Park racetrack in New York-Mortimer effectively places the reader at the vital center of all three. He enlivens the narrative with interesting details, such as navy department opposition to aviation as a military application and the flying records set and lost daily at Belmont Park. The author excels in depicting both the pilots and the New York City society swells attracted to aerobatic thrills, and he takes a dim view of the Wright Brothers at Belmont Park, portraying them as greedy entrepreneurs who devoted as much time looking for possible patent infringers as offering honest competition to their peers. His evocative final chapter outlines the advances in aviation and its cost in lives. A singular contribution to early aviation history.
—John Carver Edwards