Bascomb, Neal 1971(?)-
Bascomb, Neal 1971(?)-
Born c. 1971, in St. Louis, MO. Education: Miami University (Oxford, OH), B.A. Hobbies and other interests: Adventure travel, SCUBA diving, skiing.
Home—New York, NY. Agent—Scott Waxman Literary Agency, 524 Sheridan Sq., Ste. 2, Evanston, IL 60202.
Writer, journalist, and editor. Euromoney magazine, London, England, former writer; worked as a journalist in Dublin, Ireland, and Paris, France. St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, editorial assistant, then editor. Cofounder of a literary agency; founder of a publishing company.
Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2003.
The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less than Four Minutes to Achieve It, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2004.
Red Mutiny: Eleven Fateful Days on the Battleship Potemkin, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2007.
Angels of Justince, Orion (London, England), 2007.
The Perfect Mile was optioned for a film by Universal Films and Spyglass Entertainment.
Neal Bascomb is a journalist and editor who turned to book writing with a pair of nonfiction works dealing with two very different types of competition. In Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City he portrays the contest to build the world's tallest building during the 1920s, focusing on two rival architects, both of whom ultimately lost to the Empire State Building. With The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less than Four Minutes to Achieve It, Bascomb examines the race to break the four-minute mile in the early 1950s.
Higher focuses on two men: William Van Alert, the architect who was commissioned by Walter Chrysler to build the tallest skyscraper ever, in downtown Manhattan, and Van Alert's former friend and partner, Craig Severance, who was the architect for the Manhattan Company Building, which later became the Trump Building. This competition turned one-time colleagues into fierce rivals. Bascomb tells the story of this personal rivalry as well as the background stories involving the problems and perils in skyscraper construction, financing, and the difficulties of finding appropriate sites. Booklist contributor Keir Graff remarked that "Bascomb's book is nicely rounded" because of such details, and that he is able to more broadly inform even "as he ratchets up the tension of the race." In the end it was a late entrant to the race, the Empire State Building, that became the tallest building in the New York skyline of the time.
A contributor for Publishers Weekly commented that Bascomb "gives his tale a fresh sense of capitalist drama in his evocation of the nascent worlds of skyscraper engineering, architecture and construction," while Jamie Reynolds, writing for Architecture, called Higher "compelling" and a "must read for any fan of Gotham and its neck straining heights."
Bascomb presents a different race against time in The Perfect Mile, a "classic 20th-century sports story," as a contributor for Publishers Weekly noted. By the early twentieth century three men from different countries were competing against each other to break the four-minute mile and become the fastest man on Earth. Roger Bannister of England was both an athlete and medical student; Australia's John Landry was a runner known for pushing himself to the breaking point; and Wes Santee of the University of Kansas used strategy to help him in his attempts, claiming he would be the first to break the human speed record. The three faced each other in momentous races and competed against others in races, as they kept pushing the time closer and closer to four minutes. In the end it was Bannister who broke the record first, but Landry broke Bannister's record in turn. At the time, this competition shared worldwide headlines with the Korean War, the coronation of a British queen, and the climbing of Mount Everest by Edmund Hillary.
Melissa Rose Bernardo, in a review for Entertainment Weekly, wrote that "there's much joy and inspiration to be found" in The Perfect Mile, with each attempt at the sub-four-minute mile "more emotional than the last." Kenny Moore of Sports Illustrated also commended the book, but was critical of some aspects. As Moore wrote, The Perfect Mile is "a fascinating and frustrating account," but background information about the relative training methods of the three runners is omitted in favor of an "overreliance on old newspaper accounts." Moore further noted that Bascomb's "hand on the prose tiller is occasionally unsteady" but concluded that "such drawbacks are almost forgivable because this was one of sport's great hunts." Kate Hoey, in a Spectator review, noted that Bascomb's book takes the reader back "to the days in athletics when running was not just about winning but about the ‘nobility of the pursuit.’"
Red Mutiny: Eleven Fateful Days on the Battleship Potemkin tells the story of the true events surrounding the overthrow of the Russian battleship Potemkin in 1905. It begins with Afanasy Matyushenko, who works as a weapons machinist on the brand-new battleship. Afanasy suffers hard conditions, danger, and poor treatment on the ship, and ultimately decides to take control of his life. With a number of his shipmates, he overthrows the crew and sets out in an attempt to outrun the rest of the Russian navy. For eleven days they held out, until finally they surrendered and returned home. Afanasy traveled abroad before ultimately going back to Russia, where he was eventually hanged. Henry Willems, in a review for Library Journal, called the book an "accurate and very readable history of a subject about which little has recently been written." Paul E. Richardson reviewed the book for Russian Life, stating: "This is a well-crafted story of adventure, hapless revolutionaries and the simple desire for justice in the face of oppression."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Architecture, February, 2004, Jamie Reynolds, review of Higher: A Historic Race to the Sky and the Making of a City, p. 90.
Booklist, November 1, 2003, Keir Graff, review of Higher, p. 467.
Economist, May 1, 2004, review of The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less than Four Minutes to Achieve It, p. 85.
Entertainment Weekly, April 16, 2004, Melissa Rose Bernardo, review of The Perfect Mile, p. 82.
Kirkus Reviews, August 15, 2003, review of Higher, p. 1051; February 15, 2007, review of Red Mutiny: Eleven Fateful Days on the Battleship Potemkin.
Library Journal, October 1, 2003, Glenn Masuchika, review of Higher, p. 68; May 1, 2004, Larry R. Little, review of The Perfect Mile, p. 118; May 1, 2007, Harry Willems, review of Red Mutiny, p. 89.
Military History, May, 2007, Robert Guttman, review of Red Mutiny, p. 72.
New Yorker, December 15, 2003, Adam Gopnik, "Higher and Higher," p. 112.
New York Times Book Review, May 2, 2004, David Horspool, review of The Perfect Mile, p. 21.
Publishers Weekly, September 29, 2003, review of Higher, p. 53; March 8, 2004, review of The Perfect Mile, p. 65.
Russian Life, May 1, 2007, Paul E. Richardson, review of Red Mutiny, p. 61.
Spectator, May 8, 2004, Kate Hoey, review of The Perfect Mile, p. 44.
Sports Illustrated, May 24, 2004, Kenny Moore, review of The Perfect Mile, p. 7.
Washington Post Book World, Jonathan Yardley, review of The Perfect Mile, p. 7.
Neal Bascomb Home Page,http://www.nealbascomb.com (November 3, 2004).