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.
“A first-rate title for readers fascinated by history and all who love a good dishy true story.”
"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"
“Engrossing...[Hartman] is a natural storyteller who breathes life into the most obscure details, keeping readers invested as the tale progresses.”
—Kirkus *Starred Review*
"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
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.
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.