Among the many virtues of John Lancaster’s delightful The Great Air Race
is how vividly it conveys the entirely different world of aviation at the dawn of the industry, a century ago . . . My favorite book about Antarctic exploration is The Worst Journey in the World
, by the British writer Apsley Cherry-Garrard, a survivor of a doomed expedition in 1910. The Great Air Race
has the same horrific but heroic fascination. Page by page you think, What else can go wrong? Page by page, you want to learn more . . . This is Lancaster’s first book. But he deftly pulls off some tricks that are harder than they seem. He embeds social, economic and political history as he writes—for instance, how coast-to-coast air travel fits into the history of wagon trails, railroads and highways connecting the continent . . . I have read a lot about aviation and the aircraft industry over the years, but almost everything in this tale was new to me. You might take it on your next airline flight, pause to look out the window and spare a thought for those who helped make it all possible.
— James Fallows - New York Times Book Review
Although the race took place during peacetime, Lancaster is in solid military-history territory… The race itself was fraught with peril, and the author recounts in great detail the inherent struggles of trying to fly cross-country when there were no navigational aids, and the weather could prove deadly. In the end, there were numerous crashes, injuries, and fatalities, and Lancaster covers all of it, making for thrilling reading. The book also includes outstanding photographs. An excellent read for those interested in aviation, the military, and American history.
— Colleen Mondor - Booklist
A dramatic account of the massive 1919 cross-country air race, ‘the likes of which the world had never seen.’… In this well-researched text, Lancaster delivers an expert description of the planes (mostly ex-WWI fighters) and biographies of the volunteers… Entertaining fireworks during the early days of flight.
— Kirkus Reviews
[An] energetic and entertaining history of ‘the greatest airplane race ever flown,’ a 1919 round-trip race between San Francisco and Long Island. . . . Lancaster brings to vivid life the eccentric cast of racers. . . The result is a high-flying history of aviation’s white-knuckle early days.
— Publishers Weekly