Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glen Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies

12 CDs. unabridged. 14¾ hrs. Recorded Bks. 2014. ISBN 9781470397395. $123.75; 2 MP3-CDs. library/retail eds.; Playaway digital; digital download. HIST
In 1903, the long-held dream of powered human aviation was finally fulfilled by Wilbur and Orville Wright at Kitty Hawk, NC. But the Wrights, whom Goldstone (Inherently Unequal) takes pains to portray as distinct and complementary personalities, were obsessively litigious and more intent on defending their patents than continuing to pioneer, demanding licensing fees from any other aircraft maker or exhibition flyer. When Glen Curtiss, a former motorcycle racer and consummate tinkerer and engine maker, began producing airplanes of superior design, he became the foremost target of the Wrights' ire and the primary defendant in a protracted patent dispute. It is against this backdrop of legal wrangling that Goldstone recounts that extraordinary decade of aeronautical innovation and competition during which aviation moved from experiment to spectacle to commercial enterprise. Narrator Jonathan Fried does a clear and lively job, never getting bogged down in the occasional technical descriptions.
VERDICT This is an absorbing, well-written history rich in fascinating personalities. Recommend to anyone interested in American aeronautics. ["A superbly crafted retelling of a story familiar to aviation buffs, here greatly strengthened by fresh perspectives, rigorous analyses, comprehensible science, and a driving narrative," read the starred review of the Ballantine hc, LJ 1/14.]

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