Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Brief Comments on Two Chapters Dealing with Early American Automobile Racing in John F. Ross' "Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed"

I must confess that I came to this book with an attitude of negativity. You see dear Friend David Lewis, now deceased, wrote a definitive biography of Rickenbacker and it seems that his book had no legs compared to the book By John F. Ross. I ask myself, why do non-academics get their boos out their in far broader exposure than academics like Lewis, or that matter Charlie Hyde whose work on Detroit during WWII was over-shadowed when compared to a journalistic version.

But I must say I was pleasantly surprised when reading Chapter 3 -- "Death on the Track" and Chapter 4 "Airplane vs. Automobile." It goes to show you what careful prose and an absence of footnotes can do to make history come alive. I thoroughly enjoyed Ross' analysis of drivers and why they drove -- the exhilaration of speed and the weighing of risk. The personalities were well characterized and the nature of early road and track racing well described.  I don't find "Captain Eddie" such an engaging personality, but I remember how David Lewis was so energized in talking about Rickenbacker and his life.

So what conclusion can we draw from my reading?  Academics -- work on who your market is and on your prose.  When do you stop digging and start explaining? You will never find every last bit of material on any subject, but how you cast it -- that is the rub!

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