By Margot Mifflin
Updated September 17, 1993 at 04:00 AM EDT

The Lives of Beryl Markham

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  • Book

THE LIVES OF BERYL MARKHAM Errol Trzebinski (Norton, $27.50) Although the belittling subtitle of this biography identifies Beryl Markham as aviator ”Denys Finch Hatton’s Last Great Love,” the book itself dramatizes her more meaningful accomplishments. A willful nonconformist who grew up in Nairobi, Markham became an international celebrity first for her daring solo flight across the Atlantic in 1936, then for her 1942 memoir, West With the Night. Trzebinski drops a bomb on the Markham mystique by arguing persuasively that Night was ghostwritten by Markham’s husband, writer Raoul Schumacher. Trzebinski’s portrait of the much romanticized Markham is at once lively- bordering on sensationalist-and sobering: She was a sphinxlike renegade, a deadbeat mom, and, finally, a sour and vengeful alcoholic. Regrettably, the book’s sometimes mangled sentences and punctuation-from-Mars make it the latest example of the publishing world’s growing editorial indolence. With publishers sabotaging their own books before they hit the stores, who needs critics? B+ -Margot Mifflin

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