by Jeremy Scott
This is the story of Richard Byrd, all-American hero, arctic explorer and society swell. Set against the backdrop of roaring twentiesA" New York, at its centre is a race to be the first to fly to the North Pole - a perilous feat at the edge of technological possibility. Byrd's competitors in the race are Roald Amundsen, Scott's South Pole nemesis, now bankrupt and tarnished by dubious business dealings - and a crazed Italian airman named Umberto Nobile. Amundsen, Ellsworth and Nobile are setting off from Spitzbergen when Byrd arrives with a plane donated by Edsel Ford. Byrd takes off, returning 15A hours later having apparently won the race. The news of his extraordinary achievement is flashed around the world making Byrd the most famous man in America - President Coolidge personally awards him the Congressional Medal of Honor. Byrd goes on to success after success. Amundsen and Nobile, by contrast, are ruined. But things can still get worse. The following year Nobile flies to the Pole on a mission sanctified by the Pope. The airship crashes on the drifting ice and Nobile and his group are with stranded with nothing to eat but each other.
Ironically, Amundsen responds to an appeal to rescue him. His mission ends in tragedy and horror. Years later the posthumous discovery of Byrd's 1920s diaries produces a revelation that throws the whole story into the most darkly ironic of lights and changes our view of history. Was his fame the proceed of a pact with the devil?
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Date of Publication: 13/10/2011