Friday, April 18, 2014

The Romance of Flight and Patent Litigation

We don’t review books here at Legal History Blog, but we also don’t complain when publishers send us review copies.  This week we received Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies, by Lawrence Goldstone, an epic account of patent litigation enlivened by the romance of invention and flight, published by a subsidiary of Random House.  Although I only dipped into it before passing it along to our patent maven here at Georgetown Law, I’m happy to reproduce the press’s somewhat breathless copy, in case anyone out there wants to punch up their summary the next time they confront an author’s questionnaire.  Surely, there’s a happy medium between this and the usual fare for a scholarly book?  Maybe something with about a third the adjectives.
From acclaimed historian Lawrence Goldstone comes a thrilling narrative of courage, determination, and competition: the story of the intense rivalry that fueled the rise of American aviation.
The feud between this nation’s great air pioneers, the Wright brothers and Glenn Curtiss, was a collision of unyielding and profoundly American personalities. On one side, a pair of tenacious siblings who together had solved the centuries-old riddle of powered, heavier-than-air flight. On the other, an audacious motorcycle racer whose innovative aircraft became synonymous in the public mind with death-defying stunts. For more than a decade, they battled each other in court, at air shows, and in the newspapers. The outcome of this contest of wills would shape the course of aviation history—and take a fearsome toll on the men involved.

Birdmen sets the engrossing story of the Wrights’ war with Curtiss against the thrilling backdrop of the early years of manned flight, and is rich with period detail and larger-than-life personalities: Thomas Scott Baldwin, or “Cap’t Tom” as he styled himself, who invented the parachute and almost convinced the world that balloons were the future of aviation; John Moisant, the dapper daredevil who took to the skies after three failed attempts to overthrow the government of El Salvador, then quickly emerged as a celebrity flyer; and Harriet Quimby, the statuesque silent-film beauty who became the first woman to fly across the English Channel. And then there is Lincoln Beachey, perhaps the greatest aviator who ever lived, who dazzled crowds with an array of trademark twists and dives—and best embodied the romance with death that fueled so many of aviation’s earliest heroes.

A dramatic story of unimaginable bravery in the air and brutal competition on the ground, Birdmen is at once a thrill ride through flight’s wild early years and a surprising look at the personal clash that fueled America’s race to the skies.
Do you think they'll let me play "Cap't Tom" in the movie?

1 comment:

Lawrence Goldstone said...

Sorry you were offended with the publicity material. I would prefer, of course, that you read the actual book before commenting, but I could see that you were having far too good a time. It is standard, however, in works of narrative history, such as mine, where the publisher is hoping to attract a general audience, that a certain degree of, shall we say, enthusiasm, is pretty much the only way to do it. For the record, I've seen equal hyperbole in any number of scholarly works, so this sort of language should not be foreign to you. As to playing Cap't Tom--if you are willing to parachute from 5000 feet holding on to a ring, with no other means of attachment to the apparatus, the job is yours.