We are delighted to welcome William Hazelgrove back to The Book Stall to discuss and sign copies of his new book, Wright Brothers, Wrong Story: How Wilbur Wright Solved the Problem of Manned Flight.
How could two misanthropic brothers who never left home, were high-school dropouts, and made a living as bicycle mechanics have figured out the secret of manned flight? This new history of the Wright brothers' monumental accomplishment focuses on their early years of trial and error at Kitty Hawk (1900-1903) and Orville Wright's epic fight with the Smithsonian Institute and Glenn Curtis. William Hazelgrove makes a convincing case that it was Wilbur Wright who designed the first successful airplane, not Orville. He shows that, while Orville's role was important, he generally followed his brother's lead and assisted with the mechanical details to make Wilbur's vision a reality.
Combing through original archives and family letters, Hazelgrove reveals the differences in the brothers' personalities and abilities. He examines how the Wright brothers myth was born when Wilbur Wright died early and left his brother to write their history with personal friend John Kelly. The author notes the peculiar inwardness of their family life, business and family problems, bouts of depression, serious illnesses, and yet, rising above it all, was Wilbur's obsessive zeal to test out his flying ideas. When he found Kitty Hawk, this desolate location on North Carolina's Outer Banks became his laboratory. By carefully studying bird flight and the Rubik's Cube of control, Wilbur cracked the secret of aerodynamics and achieved liftoff on December 17, 1903.
"This is an excellent retelling of an American myth. The author manages to turn Wilbur and Orville Wright, two legendary figures in American history, into living, breathing individuals. It is not only a first-rate dual biography but also a study of how myths and legends are created, and how facts can be turned inside out by different writers with different points of view. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book." --David Alan Johnson, author of The Last Weeks of Abraham Lincoln
"Intriguing, well-researched. . . . For anyone curious about the details behind the invention of the flying machine, this engaging book will inform and entertain as it turns an assumed piece of aviation history upside down. Aviation history does a loop-the-loop as the author shares new and exciting insight into the history of the Wright brothers." -- Kirkus Reviews
William Hazelgrove is a best-selling author whose books include Shots Fired in Terminal 2; Madam President: The Secret Presidency of Edith Wilson; Forging a President: How the Wild West Created Teddy Roosevelt; and Al Capone and the 1933 World's Fair. His books have received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and have been included in Book of the Month Selections, Literary Guild Selections, Junior Library Guild Selections, and ALA Editor's Choice Awards. He has written articles and reviews for USA Today and other publications. He has been the subject of interviews in NPR's All Things Considered along with features in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times, Richmond Times Dispatch, USA Today, People, Channel 11, NBC, WBEZ, and WGN. He was the Ernest Hemingway Writer in Residence and runs a political cultural blog, The View from Hemingway's Attic.
This book is the first deconstruction of the Wright brothers myth. They were not -- as we have all come to believe--two halves of the same apple. Each had a distinctive role in creating the first "flying machine."