The Promise of the Grand Canyon

John Wesley Powell's Perilous Journey and His Vision for the American West

Viking: July 3, 2018.

A timely, thrilling account of a man who, as an explorer, dared to lead the first succesful expedition down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon — and, as an American visionary, waged a bitterly-contested campaign for environmental sustainability in the American West.

When John Wesley Powell became the first person to navigate the entire Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon, he completed what Lewis and Clark had begun nearly 70 years earlier — the final exploration of continental America. The son of an abolitionist preacher, a Civil War hero (who lost an arm at Shiloh), and a passionate naturalist and geologist, in 1869 Powell tackled the vast and dangerous gorge carved by the Colorado River and known today (thanks to Powell) as the Grand Canyon.

With The Promise of the Grand Canyon, John Ross recreates Powell's expedition in all its glory and terror, but his second (unheralded) career as a scientist, bureaucrat, and land-management pioneer concerns us today. Powell was the first to ask: how should the development of the west be shaped? How much could the land support? What was the role of the government and private industry in all of this? He began a national conversation about sustainable development when most everyone else still looked upon land as an inexhaustible resource. Though he supported irrigation and dams, his prescient warnings forecast the 1930s dustbowl and the growing water scarcities of today. Practical, yet visionary, Powell didn't have all the answers, but was first to ask the right questions.


Entertaining... Ross peppers the text with quotes that place readers right alongside the ace through nearly every moment of his life. Obviously this is exciting material to work with — after all, Rickenbacker was a man who drove in the first Indy 500 and dueled with the Red Baron's flying circus — but Ross is never fawning in this thoroughly enjoyable and downright rollicking read.

Booklist, starred review

Ross has a knack for exciting, visual narrative, and the life-defining moments of race and dogfight... A highly entertaining portrait, which reveres its subject as a hero defined by his high-speed feats.

Publishers Weekly

John Ross is that rare soul who writes narrative history with the verve and timing of an accomplished novelist. Enduring Courage — a heroic portrait of the aviator ace Eddie Rickenbacker of Ohio — is a bona fide page turner. The Indianapolis race car scenes and World War I dogfights ripple with excitement. I couldn't put it down.

Douglas Brinkley, bestselling author, Professor of History at Rice University, and historian for CBS News

Daring, beautiful, and masterfully told, Enduring Courage puts you shoulder-to-shoulder with one of the great American spirits of all-time, Eddie Rickenbacker, who does in each chapter what the rest of us dream to do with our lives.

Robert Kurson, New York Times bestselling author of Shadow Divers

Whether it's the Indianapolis 500, a World War I dogfight, or a struggle for survival on a life raft in the Pacific, John Ross puts you there in the midst of the turbulent, often unbelievable life of Eddie Rickenbacker — the irascible, death-defying hero who helped set the dizzying pace of our modern, machine-driven age. As Ross says in the Introduction to Enduring Courage, 'Hold onto your seats.'

Nathaniel Philbrick, New York Times bestselling author of In the Heart of the Sea and Bunker Hill

To say Enduring Courage is inspiring is totally inadequate praise. It is also gripping, electrifying, insightful — and full of new information about a legendary American hero. I have seldom been so glad to read a book.

Thomas Fleming, New York Times bestselling author of Conquerors of the Sky

Before Charles Lindbergh, before Chuck Yeager, before Neil Armstrong, there was Eddie Rickenbacker, American aviation's first mega-celebrity. In Enduring Courage, John F. Ross gives readers a brilliant and compelling biography of a man who led a remarkable life, illuminating as well a more innocent and hopeful period in American history, when the common man could make for himself a very uncommon future. This is an unforgettable treasure of a book.

Dr. Richard P. Hallion, former U.S. Air Force Historian and author

Richly detailed and dramatically told, Enduring Courage helps us perfectly understand how Eddie Rickenbacker became one of our greatest — if not THE greatest — aviation heroes of all time. Ross's meticulous research skillfully guides this real-life tale to a magnificent, completely satisfying landing.

Christina Olds, bestselling author of Fighter Pilot

Audio Excerpts

Introduction to Enduring Courage, read by Edward Hermann.

John F. Ross talks about Eddie Rickenbacker, WWI, and audiobooks, among other things.

The Early Days of Racing & Flight