Higher by Neal Bascomb
A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City

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Synopsis

The Roaring Twenties in New York was a time of exuberant ambition, free-flowing optimism, an explosion of artistic expression in the age of Prohibition. New York was the city that embodied the spirit and strength of a newly powerful America. 

In 1924, in the vibrant heart of Manhattan, a fierce rivalry was born.  Two architects, William Van Alen and Craig Severance (former friends and successful partners, but now bitter adversaries), set out to imprint their individual marks on the greatest canvas in the world--the rapidly evolving skyline of New York City.  Each man desired to build the city’s tallest building, or ‘skyscraper.’ Each would stop at nothing to outdo his rival.

Van Alen was a creative genius who envisioned a bold, contemporary building that would move beyond the tired architecture of the previous century.  By a stroke of good fortune he found a larger-than-life patron in automobile magnate Walter Chrysler, and they set out to build the legendary Chrysler building.  Severance, by comparison, was a brilliant businessman, and he tapped his circle of downtown, old-money investors to begin construction on the Manhattan Company Building at 40 Wall Street. 

From ground-breaking to bricklaying, Van Alen and Severance fought a cunning duel of wills. Each man was forced to revamp his architectural design in an attempt to push higher, to overcome his rival in mid-construction, as the structures rose, floor by floor, in record time.  Yet just as the battle was underway, a third party entered the arena and announced plans to build an even larger building.  This project would be overseen by one of Chrysler’s principal rivals--a representative of the General Motors group--and the building ultimately became known as The Empire State Building.

Infused with narrative thrills and perfectly rendered historical and engineering detail, Higher brings to life a sensational episode in American history. Author Neal Bascomb interweaves characters such as Al Smith and Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, leading up to an astonishing climax that illustrates one of the most ingenious (and secret) architectural achievements of all time.
 

About Neal Bascomb

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NEAL BASCOMB is the critically acclaimed author of The Perfect Mile, a New York Times bestseller, Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky, and Red Mutiny: Eleven Fateful Days on the Battleship Potemkin, which won the U.S. Maritime Literature Award in 2007. A former editor and journalist, he has appeared in documentaries on A&E and the History Channel.
 
Published October 21, 2003 by Broadway Books. 352 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Higher

Kirkus Reviews

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The author begins with portraits of two architects, William Van Alen and Craig Severence, former partners who became bitter rivals.

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Publishers Weekly

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He imbues the former three with some terrific detail (including a 22-item list of how many trades, including mail chute installers and asbestos insulators, it took to build a skyscraper) that gives context to the players and incidental characters, including the five Starrett brothers (builders ra...

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Slate

When it looked like One World Trade Center would steal the title from Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building back in 2003, Taiwanese people responded with a philosophical magnanimity worthy of a great global competition: “We know they will build taller towers elsewhere.

Aug 13 2013 | Read Full Review of Higher: A Historic Race to th...

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