New York Times Book Review’s "100 Notable Books of 2023"
"Absolutely gripping… a perfectly splendid read—I highly, highly recommend it” -- Douglas Preston, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Lost City of the Monkey God
A sixty-year saga of frostbite and fake news that follows the no-holds-barred battle between two legendary explorers to reach the North Pole, and the newspapers which stopped at nothing to get–and sell–the story.
In the fall of 1909, a pair of bitter contests captured the world’s attention. The American explorers Robert Peary and Frederick Cook both claimed to have discovered the North Pole, sparking a vicious feud that was unprecedented in international scientific and geographic circles. At the same time, the rivalry between two powerful New York City newspapers—the storied Herald and the ascendant Times—fanned the flames of the so-called polar controversy, as each paper financially and reputationally committed itself to an opposing explorer and fought desperately to defend him.
The Herald was owned and edited by James Gordon Bennett, Jr., an eccentric playboy whose nose for news was matched only by his appetite for debauchery and champagne. The Times was published by Adolph Ochs, son of Jewish immigrants, who’d improbably rescued the paper from extinction and turned it into an emerging powerhouse. The battle between Cook and Peary would have enormous consequences for both newspapers, and help to determine the future of corporate media.
BATTLE OF INK AND ICE presents a frank portrayal of Arctic explorers, brave men who both inspired and deceived the public. It also sketches a vivid portrait of the newspapers that funded, promoted, narrated, and often distorted their exploits. It recounts a sixty-year saga of frostbite and fake news, one that culminates with an unjustly overlooked chapter in the origin story of the modern New York Times.
By turns tragic and absurd, BATTLE OF INK AND ICE brims with contemporary relevance, touching as it does on themes of class, celebrity, the ever-quickening news cycle, and the benefits and pitfalls of an increasingly interconnected world. Above all, perhaps, its cast of characters testifies—colorfully and compellingly—to the ongoing role of personality and publicity in American cultural life as the Gilded Age gave way to the twentieth century—the American century.
About the Author
Darrell Hartman has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The Paris Review, Travel + Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, and Granta. He holds a B.A. in literature from Yale University and is a member of The Explorers Club in New York. A native Mainer, he now lives with his wife, Dana, in the Catskills region of New York.
New York Times Book Review’s "100 Notable Books of 2023"
Winner of the 27th National Outdoor Book Award for Outdoor Literature
“Diligently researched and crafted…a juicy yarn about two towering egos and their race to the ends of the earth.” —The New York Times
“Mr. Hartman adroitly re-animates a colorful and courageous era in American history.” —The Wall Street Journal
“A first-rate title for readers fascinated by history and all who love a good dishy true story.” —Booklist
"Polar controversy fuels the rise of the New York Times in this energetic debut from journalist Hartman...It's as bracing as a blast of Arctic air" —Publishers Weekly
“Engrossing...[Hartman] is a natural storyteller who breathes life into the most obscure details, keeping readers invested as the tale progresses.” —Kirkus *Starred Review*
"This two-tiered tale of furred explorers and ink-stained wretches is a rollicking good narrative from the Gilded Age and the early 1900s. Through immersive research, Darrell Hartman has uncovered a fascinating time capsule from a frenzied, romantic era when the grand enigma of the North Pole captivated newspaper readers around the world—and Arctic wanderers were celebrated as the knights-errant of their day." —Hampton Sides, New York Times bestselling author of On Desperate Ground and In the Kingdom Ice
“The Battle of Ink and Ice tells the absolutely gripping story of the greatest disputation in the history of exploration: the battle between Cook and Peary over the discovery of the North Pole. But what takes this story to another level is the role that two big newspapers played in the controversy, taking opposite sides. The book paints unforgettable portraits of the outrageous, incendiary and drunken James Gordon Bennett Jr., publisher of the New York Herald, versus the upstanding and capable Adolph Ochs, founder of the modern New York Times. Beautifully written and researched, this book is a perfectly splendid read—I highly, highly recommend it.” —Douglas Preston, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Lost City of the Monkey God
"It’s hard to say what milieu drew the more outlandish and deceitful characters at the turn of the twentieth century: the small, cutthroat club of polar explorers or the dog-eat-dog world of New York newspapers. That the fate of each depended so deeply on the other is the brilliant insight that provides the narrative fuel for Hartman, who thanks to his painstaking research and his lucid, fast-paced prose has pulled off one of the most engrossing split-screen dramas since Erik Larson’s DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY." —Julian Sancton, author of Madhouse at the End of the Earth
"In his debut book, Hartman paints a rich, luminous panorama of a turn-of-the-century global drama, from the bleak pack-ice of the Arctic to the glittering capitals of Europe to the smoke-filled newsrooms of New York. A riveting juxtaposition of gilded glamor and grim struggles for survival. A talented adventure writer, Hartman shows us what happens to people (good, bad, and everything in between) when they push themselves to their personal and professional limits." —Steven Ujifusa, author of A Man and His Ship and Barons of the Sea