It was a big year. Four books. Two non-fiction, one for adults, one for middle-schoolers; and two fiction, one a book I wrote a while ago, and the other a paperback edition of The Astronomer, which had only come out in hardcover.
Two are out already:
Going Deep: John Philip Holland and the Invention of the Attack Submarine, published in June, is the third in my series about innovators of the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries. Holland, like Wilbur Wright and Henry Ford, the protagonists of the earlier books, is a fascinating character, a man who toiled for three decades to turn his vision to reality only to see his business snatched away. What is so interesting about these three men is that each represents a different face of an innovation cycle eerily similar to the one in which we are now immersed. And anyone who thinks the current cycle is more robust should consider that the one in which Holland participated gave us the automobile, the airplane, the submarine, the structure of the atom (including the discovery of the electron by J. J. Thomson, which is the basis of just about everything we do these days), wireless communication, Einstein’s relativity, and Freud’s theories of the unconscious mind.
Here are the publisher’s notes for Going Deep:
From Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea to The Hunt for Red October, readers the world over have demonstrated an enduring fascination with travel under the sea. Yet the riveting story behind the invention of the submarine—an epic saga of genius, persistence, ruthlessness, and deceit—is almost completely unknown.
Like Henry Ford and the Wright brothers, John Philip Holland was completely self-taught, a brilliant man raised in humble circumstances, earning his living as a schoolteacher and choirmaster. But all the while he was obsessed with creating a machine that could successfully cruise beneath the waves. His struggle to unlock the mystery behind controlled undersea navigation would take three decades, during which he endured skepticism, disappointment, and betrayal. But his indestructible belief in himself and his ideas led him to finally succeed where so many others had failed.
Going Deep is a vivid chronicle of the fierce battles not only under the water, but also in the back rooms of Wall Street and the committee rooms of Congress. A rousing adventure—surrounded by an atmosphere of corruption and greed—at its heart this a story of bravery, passion, and the unbreakable determination to succeed against long odds.
Got terrific reviews in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, Wall Street Journal, and some amazing quotes from naval experts and submarine officers:
“Going Deep is a detailed and thoroughly absorbing history of early submarine development. Goldstone reveals the rivalry between two visionaries, John Holland and Simon Lake, and the surrounding intrigue in the competition to build submarines for the US Navy. A fascinating read.” Paul Varnadore, former United States Submarine Commanding Officer.
“A readable, compelling, and intriguing story of the development of the U.S. submarine industry at the turn of the 20th century.” Joel I. Holwitt, Execute Against Japan: The U.S. Decision to Conduct Unrestricted Submarine Warfare.
“With humor and grace, Lawrence Goldstone describes how entrepreneurs with new ideas (the submarine, in this case) struggled for recognition and acceptance among purblind government bureaucrats, ambitious politicians, and the conservative institution of the Navy. This is a well-crafted, highly-readable account of the complexities, compromises, and nuanced relationships between the individuals, ideas, and institutions necessary for innovators to succeed.” Justin L. C. Eldridge, Naval Historian.
“We think of our times, as an unrivaled era of innovation but the Gilded Age at the turn the 20th Century was its equal. Lawrence Goldstone writes in brilliant fashion of this period and the cast of geniuses, tycoons, politicians and scoundrels that made it vibrate. Going Deep tells the story of an incredible invention, the attack submarine, and the humble genius, John Philip Holland, who battled for decades to convince a skeptical world (and the Navy’s Old Guard) of the value of his creation. As told by Goldstone, Holland’s life soars with singular achievement and ends, as genius often does, in near obscurity. Goldstone has brought John Philip Holland back to the vital center of his times. An insightful, important and enthralling book.” Mark Obenhaus, The Age of Aerospace.
“Going Deep not only narrates the development of the first submarines in exacting detail; it also sheds light on the murky processes of 19th and early 20th century naval acquisitions. The uninitiated often think that new weapons systems just sort of ‘appear’ in the fleet as they're invented. Lawrence Goldstone does us all a favor by reminding us that this is never the case. Going Deep is a good read, and a welcome addition to the literature on a weapons system that fundamentally changed naval warfare.” James C. Rentfrow, Home Squadron: The US Navy on the North Atlantic Station.
The middle school book was out in April. Higher, Steeper, Faster: The Daredevils Who Conquered the Skies is the story of early years of flight, told through the incredible exploits of exhibition flyers who took incredible risks—and often died—to advance both the science of flight and their own careers. There were no test pilots in those days, so these flyers pushed the boundaries of their own skill and capabilities of the aircraft without any sense of whether either would hold up under the stress. It was because of these brave and reckless men and women that aviation—like airplanes they flew—hurtled forward at breakneck speed.
Aviator Lincoln Beachey broke countless records: he looped-the-loop, flew upside down and in corkscrews, and was the first to pull his aircraft out of what was a typically fatal tailspin. As Beachey and other aviators took to the skies in death-defying acts in the early twentieth century, these innovative daredevils not only wowed crowds, but also redefined the frontiers of powered flight.
Higher, Steeper, Faster takes readers inside the world of the brave men and women who popularized flying through their deadly stunts and paved the way for modern aviation. With heart-stopping accounts of the action-packed race to conquer the skies, plus photographs and fascinating archival documents, this book will exhilarate readers as they fly through the pages.
I’ve got three trade reviews so far…all starred. Yippee.
First is a starred Kirkus—not easy to do:
The author's passion for his subject infuses this richly detailed history of the daredevil years in flying. The introduction opens in 1915 with 50,000 spectators at San Francisco's Panama-Pacific International Exposition, watching Lincoln Beachey, "the greatest, most celebrated aviator in the world," attempt his famous Dip of Death maneuver. The narrative then goes back to fill in history about gliders and balloons before moving to its focus, the years from Kitty Hawk in 1903 to the end of this era of exhibition flying in 1915. Set mainly in the United States, the graceful account highlights a steady stream of breathtaking flights, mostly by white men but also a few white women. Fliers continuously broke altitude, speed, and distance records in exhibition contests that took the place of test flights. To make performances more exciting, they eventually added dangerous stunts like spins and corkscrews. Many pilots became celebrities, attracting huge crowds, inspiring newspaper headlines, and competing for cash prizes. Hundreds died while performing, which only made exhibitions more popular. Numerous black-and-white photographs show fliers, feats, and progress in airplane design, while diagrams help explain the physics of flying. Short sidebars add pertinent facts and anecdotes. For those who love history, aviation, or stories of great daring, this is pure pleasure.
Next star is Publishers Weekly, which also made it a featured book.
In prose as riveting as the developments it investigates, Goldstone (Drive!) covers the history of early aviation up to 1915 in his first book for young readers. After grabbing attention with the crowd-thrilling stunts of Lincoln Beachey, “the greatest aviator America has ever seen,” Goldstone provides background on ballooning, parachutes, and gas-powered airships before launching into the main tale: the daredevils of flight’s first decade. As he chronicles limit-testing feats that astounded audiences, he points out that airplanes were not tested before they were flown in exhibitions and how radically airplanes changed in those early years: “By 1915, not one single feature of the original Wright Flyer [made famous by Orville Wright in his famous 1903 flight] remained in use.” Goldstone deftly combines captivating descriptions of the personalities—male and female—with discussion of the many improvements and ever-present hazards of early flying. Though questions about who actually built and repaired these fragile machines and how pilots were licensed aren’t addressed, Goldstone’s book enthralls.
And...School Library Connection:
Even though the Wright Brothers are a household name, a number of other daredevils successfully conquered the skies. “Birdmen” such as Lincoln Beachey, Glenn Curtiss, Alberto Santos-Dumont, and women, such as Matilde Moisant and Harriet Quimby, risked their lives to forge a path for the modern aircraft and aerospace industries. Readers will breathlessly follow the race to conquer the sky as these early aviators perform daring stunts and break achievement records that seem unbelievable today. Written in a conversational style for young readers by the author of more than a dozen highly acclaimed titles for adults, the book is also richly illustrated with historical photos, and includes intriguing factoids.
The original novel is Deadly Cure, which also got terrific trade reviews, including a starred Publishers Weekly. I'll be putting up more on that one soon.
© Lawrence Goldstone.