Monday, September 19, 2011

More Heroes of Modern Adventure, by Bridges & Tiltman

T. C. Bridges and H. Hessell Tiltman released More Heroes of Modern Adventure after the success of their initial volume of adventure stories. This volume avoids the major adventurers (save the Everest crew), and sticks to an odd lot, focusing on Americans, of people who have done exciting things. The Royal Geographical Society would largely turn their nose at much of this crew, as many pursue the ends of the for fame or fortune, or simply as part of a job. The stories are at times a bit jumbled, told in 30s newsprint style, and are sometimes entertaining merely for their inclusion, such as "The Saviour of Death Valley," (a local who ends up rescuing the fools who wander into Death Valley) or "Dodging Death in War-Stricken China" (about a man who sells arms to Nationalist troops and then leads a brigade while drawing a very nice paycheck). A lot of these read as an extended human-interest story, with the element of danger hammed up.

The Everest piece (published in 1930) is a better reflection of the American perception of the climbs than of the climbs themselves. Though they get most of the facts correct, much of the analysis is fraught. According to the book, one of the main problems of high altitude climbing on Everest is not eating enough food (Actually, Norton came to the conclusion that the climbers were severely dehydrated more than anything.), both Mallory and Irvine were "crackpot" cragsmen, running out of oxygen isn't a problem at high altitude because climbers can acclimatize just fine, and so forth. I don't recommend seeking this book out for its Everest material. If you can get into the style and try not to analyze too much in the stories, the book itself can be an entertaining bit of nostalgia. After all, who doesn't want to read about blowing up icebergs or driving the fastest car ever?

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