Editorial: ‘The Jackhammer Elegies’

Jan 02, 2013

This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310) Issue # 989 Originally published 1/7/2013 Novel pays homage to engineering profession and is a great airplane read, Mark Zweig writes. The week before Christmas, I had to go on two business trips – one to Florida and one to Southern California. While the seats are terrible (unless you’re 4’10” tall and weigh no more than 85 lbs.), one positive aspect of flying is that you get to read books. Even though I have an iPad (courtesy of my former business partner, who said it would “change my life”), I prefer the portability (and the fact I don’t have to turn it off on takeoff or landing) of a real book. For this trip, I grabbed a new novel entitled The Jackhammer Elegies, sent to me by the book’s author, Stefan Jaeger, an ASCE staffer. I’ll start by telling you that it’s a great read. Jaeger clearly demonstrates his knowledge of the engineering business in this exciting, 450-plus page work. I’m frankly jealous of what he’s created here, as one of my personal goals in life has been to write a novel on this business. He beat me to the punch – and did a beautiful job of it. All of Jaeger’s characters are fully developed human beings that could be people you and I know. Over the course of the novel you get the idea they may be based on real people somewhere. I don’t want to give the plot away, but if you like seeing a successful, smart engineer as the main character (I know I do!) this book is for you. What I most enjoyed about Jaeger’s writing is his lack of overly detailed, tedious descriptions of everything – a trap some fiction writers fall into and a problem that wastes the reader’s precious time. He is also a master of vocabulary and avoids the temptation to use big words when smaller ones will do and minimize the use acronyms (here he departs from our business!). The Jackhammer Elegies combines elements from Robert Ludlum and John Grisham with a strong dose of the engineer as hero. Buy the book. You can get it on Amazon.com. And let’s all hope Jaeger is hard at work on a sequel! Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com.

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