I wonder if any of the publications raving over "Nothing Like It In the World" (New York Post, Usa Today, Time) have actually read the book. Because I have, and although I might buy it as a reference book, I have to wonder about the redundancy factor.
For one out of many examples, look at how similar these two paragraphs, twenty-three pages apart, are:
Page 322: "When Casement's men of the UP laid four and a half miles of track in a single day, Crocker said that 'they bragged of it and it was heralded all over the country as being the biggest day's track laying that ever was known.' He told Strobridge that the CP must beat it, and Stro go the materials together and laid six miles and a few feet. So Casement got his UP men up at 3 A.M. and put them to work by lantern light until dawn and kept them at it until almost midnight, and laid eight miles. Crocker swore he would beat that."
And on Page 346: "Jack Casement's men had laid down four and a half miles of track in a single day. 'They bragged of it,' Crocker later said, 'and it was heralded all over the country as being the biggest day's track laying that ever was known." Crocker told Strobridge that the CP must beat the UP. They got together the material, talked to the men, and did it, spiking down six miles and a few feet in a single day. Casement had come back at them, starting at 3 A.M., working by the light of lanterns until dawn, and at the end of the day, the UP had advanced the end of track eight miles and a fraction."
The book is filled with instances like this. By chapter thirteen I started to wonder if nobody went back through the draft and said–oops, um, Ambrose, I think you already used this anecdote a few times.
I wouldn't presume to question Stephen Ambrose's authority or expertise. He has, after all, written dozens of best-selling nonfiction books. I'm just saying it was a little like two copies of the same book had been unbound, the pages shuffled a few times, then stitched back together.