Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Book Review: Fireball

I just finished reading a book about actress Carole Lombard and the 1942 Nevada plane crash that cost her life and the lives of 21 other people, Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3. The book was published about a year ago.

It's a good biography, although almost all of the information about Carole Lombard is old news, including the rumor that she took the plane after completing her war bond tour instead of the train because she was worried about husband Clark Gable's supposed flirtation with a co-star named Lana Turner. That rumor has been around forever, and Turner, to her credit, refused to dignify it. As an aside, that's the problem with many biographies of show business people: The major characters are dead, so unscrupulous authors have a tendency to repeat rumors, or, as in the case of the infamous Kenneth Anger of Hollywood Babylon fame, literally make shit up, relatives and libel laws be damned. You kind of have to take many of these books with a grain of salt.

The main value of the book is the discussion and description of the circumstances surrounding the plane crash itself. I don't believe any other book has gone into this kind of detail about it. For that reason, I recommend it.

I do have a few complaints, however. There is sloppiness with the editing and with some of the facts. I found a number of typographical errors which never should have made it into print. What really irritates me is the continued misspelling in the book of McCarrAn Field--it's NOT McCarrEn Field. How hard is it to look up the correct spelling? The field, now one of the busier airports in the country, was named after Senator Pat McCarran. There is no excuse for that typo. The author is at times careless with his facts. For example, The Misfits filming was in the Reno-Dayton area of northern Nevada, which is well over 400 miles from the site of the Flight 3 crash. Matzen asserts in his book the filming was "not far" from Mount Potosi. Four or five hundred miles is not anywhere near close to the site of the crash. It is things like this that create questions on how much of this book can be trusted.

Perhaps if a paperback version of this book comes out some of these egregious mistakes will be corrected. I am not holding my breath.

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