Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Booklist Review of Wright Brothers Wrong Story

Oct 18, 2018 by

Wright Brothers_cover
The idea that Orville and Wilbur Wright were equals in ushering in the era of manned flight is a myth, posits Hazelgrove (Al Capone and the 1933 World’s Fair) in this intriguing recasting of the brothers’ now-legendary story. “The truth was,” he declares, “that Wilbur was the primary inventor and pilot”; Orville was “a glorified mechanic assisting his older, smarter, genius brother.” This fact was buried due primarily to two factors: the famous photo of the 1903 flight at Kitty Hawk, which immortalized Orville’s turn in the plane and thereby eclipsed Wilbur’s subsequent longer ride, and Wilbur’s early death from typhoid fever in 1912, which gave his brother 36 years to shape their story. Hazelgrove makes a strong case, citing numerous primary sources, notably Wilbur’s correspondence with engineer and aviation researcher Octave Chanute… Hazelgrove’s original take on two of the pioneers of human flight will greatly interest flight buffs and popular-history aficionados — Publishers Weekly

For more than a century, Wilbur and Orville Wright have been touted as equal partners in the invention of the flying machine and of the concept of manned flight. Yet in this intriguing, well-researched treatise, Hazelgrove (Shots Fired in Terminal 2: A Witness to the Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting Reflects on America’s Mass Shooting Epidemic, 2017, etc.) rejects that notion in favor of a more logical one: Wilbur was the genius behind the theory of putting a man in a machine that could soar like a bird, and Orville followed his brother’s instructions, assisting in the mechanical aspects of building the first airplane. The author also points out that it was just by chance that it was Orville’s turn to test the plane when the first photograph was taken. This coincidence made many assume that the brothers were operating on the same level, but as Hazelgrove demonstrates convincingly, they were far from it. Not only does he discuss the events at Kitty Hawk; the author delves into the Wright family dynamics: of the father who knew Wilbur was the brighter of the two boys; of how they remained at home their whole lives along with their sister, who only married late in life; and of the impact the death of their mother had on the children. Hazelgrove also ponders the sexualities of the three siblings and Wilbur’s grave illness, which may have given him the time in bed necessary to dream of flying. 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

Hazelgrove sets out to revise the commonly received story of aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright. Hazelgrove contends that Wilbur was by far the dominant brother, the real innovator, and that Orville did not contribute as much to the brothers’ success as conventional history has held. Having outlived Wilbur by several decades, Orville reworked history to make his own role equal to his brother’s. Family friend Fred Kelly, the Wright brothers’ official biographer, Hazelgrove contends, had a hand in this revision, changing Wilbur’s “I” to “we.” A little literary mathematics reveals that this official biography mentions Orville 25 percent more often than Wilbur. Hazelgrove also speculates on the brothers’ sex lives and the haracter of their sister Katharine, who kept house for their widowed father and was the only one of th4 siblings to graduate from college. Another conspirator appears to be Orville’s secretary Mabel Beck, who fiercely guarded all access to Orville. Hazelgrove’s biography will surely add controversy to the history of
these singular siblings who changed the world.

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Born in Richmond, Virginia, and carted back and forth between Virginia and Baltimore, I blame my rootless, restless personality on my father. He was and is a traveling salesman with a keen gift of gab, great wit, a ready joke, and could sell white tennis shoes to coal miners. [read more...]

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