Jean Lee Latham Howard Boston - Essay

Howard Boston

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In most history textbooks only passing reference is made to Cyrus W. Field. No reader of Jean Lee Latham's latest fictionalized biography will ever be disposed to dismiss the enterprising Field so briefly. This lively and convincing book brings the man most responsible for the Atlantic Cable unforgettably to life…. The account really takes off … when Field throws himself into the project of tying the Old and New Worlds with a submarine cable. The staggering problems he tackles—and the heartbreaking setbacks he receives—make absorbing reading.

Laying underseas cable and sending messages through it are highly technical operations, but Miss Latham makes them not only crystal clear but exciting. A cable splicing in mid-Atlantic becomes as dramatic an achievement as a delicate surgical operation. Readers of this fast-moving, conversation-packed biography will be genuinely impressed with Field's integrity and perseverance. (p. 28)

Howard Boston, in The New York Times Book Review (© 1959 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), January 18, 1959.

Hero or pirate? This is the question not only history but his contemporaries asked of Francis Drake. According to [Drake: The Man They Called A Pirate], the bold Englishman, servant to Queen Elizabeth, was every inch the patriot…. In his capacity of self-elected protector of England's rights against Spain often the tactics that he used were unorthodox. Alone, he and the men of his ship raided Spanish vessels and harried the Spanish fleet in the Caribbean. But this he did in order to cut off supplies from Philip. The author … stresses the fact that he refused to kill women, children or unarmed men. Sir Francis Drake's life … was one of colorful achievement and this biography does much to convey the richness of event and atmosphere which was the portion of one of Elizabeth's most celebrated knights. (p. 96)

Virginia Kirkus' Service, February 1, 1960.