The Wright brothers launched the age of manned aviation at Kitty Hawk in 1903. However, they did so in near secrecy, primarily because they wished to protect their patent rights. Three years later, a Brazilian investor and aviator living in Paris made a more publicly viewed flight and was acclaimed, temporarily, as the father of manned flight in a heavier-than-air vehicle. Hoffman writes an account of an adventurous epoch and an adventurous, attractive, but strangely melancholy man. While the Wright brothers shunned publicity, Santos-Dumont craved it. He was lively, flamboyant, and a social butterfly, who sometimes seemed to view aviation as a diverting lark. He seemed entirely at home in the freewheeling, stimulating milieu of pre-war Paris. Yet, beneath his bon vivant exterior, Santos-Dumont was driven with a creative passion and was tortured by the militarization of aircraft. Hoffman is a gifted writer whose elegant prose captures a fascinating era and a compelling personality who was never fully at ease with that era or with himself.