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November 17, 1985|PAUL DEAN

STORMY GENIUS: THE LIFE OF AVIATION'S MAVERICK BILL LEAR by Richard Rashke (Houghton Mifflin: $18.95). By our standards, Bill Lear should have crashed on takeoff: no college, four marriages, seven children, numerous mistresses, millions made only to be matched by some huge failure, and a total disregard for the parameters we rationalize as social graces and self-discipline. The drug of aviation seems to breed such addicts. The late King Lear was in public much the irascible, oddball, ornery, iconoclastic miracle maker that Howard Hughes was in seclusion. To these rare individuals, these bald geniuses, life is some golden game where responsibility chokes innovation and denying the orthodox provides the freedom for startling development; such as the Lear jet now hanging in the Smithsonian Institution (its position in the museum and aviation history close to Lindbergh's Ryan, the DC-3 and Yeager's Bell X-1), and the Lear name on automatic pilots, direction finders, automatic landing systems, the eight-track tape and 150 patented inventions and designs--and not one of 'em for a battery-powered corkscrew. Here's another pertinent, professional job from biographer Richard ("The Killing of Karen Silkwood") Rashke.

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