Colonel Cody and the Flying Cathedral

Garry Jenkins, Author St. Martin's Press $24 (0p) ISBN 978-0-312-24180-3
Early on in his career as a daring and colorful Wild West showman, Samuel Cody (1867-1913) claimed to have been born in Texas and to be a relative of William Frederick Cody, aka Buffalo Bill. Actually, his name was Franklin Cowdery, and he came from Davenport, Iowa. In 1889 Cody married Maud Lee, and together they set off for England to perform as Buffalo Bill's ""son and daughter,"" but legal entanglements with Bill Cody ended their stint and, effectively, their marriage. With his new love, Lela Davis, Cody toured throughout Great Britain and Europe with his hit Wild West drama, The Klondyke Nugget. But when he grew bored with acting, he turned to other interests--namely kite-flying--and so began an all-consuming passion for flight. Cody became determined to build and fly the first British airplane and, after many failures, on October 16, 1908, he managed to get his plane into the air for 27 seconds. He continued to build and fly planes, including his biplane, ""the flying Cathedral,"" with which he won the 1,010-mile circuit of Great Britain in 1911. Cody was killed in 1913, when his seaplane broke in half at 500 feet. Jenkins, a London-based journalist, does a credible job of evoking the early days of aviation and describing his subject's role in its evolution. However, Cody's contradictory character--part hustler, part inventive genius--never really springs to life. B&w maps and photos. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 07/31/2000
Release date: 08/01/2000
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