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Skylark: The Life, Lies, and Inventions of Harry Atwood, by Howard Mansfield, University Press of New England, Hanover, N.H., 1999, $24.95.

Harry Atwood, who was one of the Wright brothers’ first students, broke several flying records for distance and speed and garnered the label “King of the Air” from newspaper reporters. But Atwood was not only an aviator, he was a lot more–some good, some not so good. Skylark is the story of two lives: Harry Atwood, the aviator, inventor and con man who chased the dream of flight and sold blue sky to gullible backers; and Katrina Atwood, his daughter–now 78–who is still trying to understand the father who abandoned her so many years ago.

Atwood, who held several patents and designed small and large airplanes, inspired many to invest time and money in a variety of ill-fated projects. Initially hailed as an economic savior in several declining New England towns, he was later despised as a fraud and charlatan when his elaborate projects failed, and his investors’ dreams died with them. Skylark provides a new perspective on a controversial figure.

Arthur H. Sanfelici