Chicago Sun-Times Tobin is interested as much in the personalities of Orville and Wilbur Wright as he is in the technical aspects of their feat. And he outlines their lives with style and brio.
Bookpage A magnificent book about magnificent men.
The Seattle Times Fabulous...fascinating...A tale about the triumph of sweat and labor over might and money. It's hard to think of a better book to bring next time one climbs aboard an airplane.
This extraordinarily well-written and deeply nuanced work is the best of the recent spate of books celebrating the Wright Brothers and the 100-year anniversary of their invention of the airplane. Award-winning biographer Tobin (Ernie Pyle's War) provides a detailed yet truly exciting tale of the brothers' lifelong effort to stand "against the wave of popular doubt about the possibility of human flight." The book's strength resides in Tobin's careful depiction of two main elements of the Wright story. First, Tobin provides the fullest and most sympathetic account yet written of the close-knit Wright family and the impact of its ethic-"the Wrights versus the world"-on the brothers, at the same time that he recaptures the personal qualities that were forgotten after they became aviation icons. ("Will had a devastating dry wit, but there was more fun in Orville.") Second, Tobin is stunningly effective in presenting the intertwining lives of the brothers and an amazing cast of friends and competitors, including such inventors as Samuel Langley, secretary of the Smithsonian and creator of the doomed Aerodrome, and his friend and fellow flight enthusiast Alexander Graham Bell; Octave Chanute, one of the brothers' earliest supporters; and Glenn Curtiss, the brothers' main competitor. Tobin's final chapter, which details Wilbur Wright's historic flight in 1909 circling Manhattan, is a definitive account of the crowning final triumph of the Wrights' career. (Mar.) Forecast: The best yet of all the books celebrating the Wrights' 100-year anniversary, this should stand as the definitive account of their life and times, and will sell accordingly. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Although offering few novel revelations on the Wright saga, this book represents the most forceful argument to date for the brothers' monumental legacy to the history of flight. While several scholars (Herbert Johnson in Wingless Eagle and Seth Shulman in Unlocking The Sky) have depicted the Ohioans as grasping entrepreneurs whose avarice and small-mindedness crippled early aeronautical development, Tobin (Ernie Pyle's War) spotlights the complex characters and questionable motives of their opponents. In profiling such colleagues/competitors as Samuel P. Langley, Octave Chanute, August Herring, Alexander Graham Bell, and Glenn Curtiss, as well as the brothers' numerous European challengers, the author effectively shows that the Wrights had to contend with an entrenched aeronautical oligarchy at home and abroad in order to secure the respect and financial consideration due them. Tobin's vivid and comprehensible descriptions of the brothers' on-site flying and laboratory experiments compare favorably with T.A. Heppenheimer's First Flight and T.D. Crouch and Peter Jakab's The Wright Brothers, and his lengthy passages on their successful European trials are outstanding. Tobin deftly outlines the family environment in which these rather eccentric geniuses grew to manhood and the personal price sister Katharine paid in giving them a loving and supportive base from which to pursue their great preoccupation. This lucidly written and exhaustively researched study is recommended for all aviation collections and all libraries.-John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kitty Hawk was just the beginning for the Wright brothers, explains NBCC Award–winner Tobin (Ernie Pyle’s War, 1997) in his history of their first flight and ensuing efforts to make flying practical and profitable. For Wilbur Wright in 1899, human flight was "only a question of knowledge and skill as in all acrobatic feats." However, as detailed in this bright-eyed narrative, that didn’t mean it was going to be easy. Nor did the Wright brothers have the field to themselves, writes Tobin. Alexander Graham Bell had a team working hard and with considerable success, albeit always in the wake of the Wrights’ continuing ability to build a better airplane. Smithsonian Secretary Samuel Pierpont Langley also had his eye on the prize (though his efforts resembled those of Icarus), and so did others around the globe. At stake was not just the accolade of being the first to stay aloft; the author makes it clear that flight’s potential monetary rewards were always part of the equation, especially for national governments interested in deploying aircraft as tools of warfare. Throughout the first half, Tobin concentrates on all the tinkering and design trials conducted by the various teams involved: Langley’s "aerodrome" and its ride off the rails of a raft and straight into the drink (photos of the event, included here, are deeply amusing), as well the Wrights’ numerous experiments with gliders before they attached an engine to a craft. Then came that wonderful 59-second, 852-foot flight, an astonishing act followed by the comedy of its reporting by journalists who, of course, got all the particulars wrong. The second half follows the work to perfect the machine and the tricky maneuverings to earnsome financial reward for all the effort and expense. A meticulous account of the grinding, day-to-day advances and setbacks, but also infected with the sheer wonder of taking wing. (Photos)