The Free Life: The Spirit of Courage, Folly, and Obsession

Anthony Smith, Author Pushcart Press $28 (0p) ISBN 978-0-916366-95-7
Three young balloonists drowned in the North Atlantic 25 years ago, just 30 hours after their triumphant, well-publicized takeoff from a field in East Hampton, N.Y., in a balloon they called ``The Free Life.'' Theirs was to have been the first balloon crossing in history. Two of the three, Pamela Brown and Rod Anderson, were inexperienced adventurers who sought a daring route to money, fame and thrills; the third-the pilot-was Malcolm Brighton, a well-known British balloonist intrigued by the challenge. The author (The Dangerous Sort), Brighton's friend and a balloonist himself, here tries to reconstruct what happened from fragmentary records and interviews with friends and family. It becomes clear that in their zesty determination the two amateurs ignored warnings about the balloon's faulty construction, and that Brighton evidently knew the vessel was imperfect but trusted his skills to compensate for its defects. A moving meditation on risk-taking, luck and folly. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/14/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
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