In an America torn apart by the Vietnam War and the demise of the idealism of the '60s, airplane hijackings were astonishingly routine. Over a five-year period starting in 1968, the desperate and disillusioned seized commercial jets nearly once a week, using guns, bombs, and jars of acid. Some hijackers wished to escape to foreign lands, where they imagined being hailed as heroes; others aimed to swap hostages for sacks of cash.
Their criminal exploits mesmerized the country, never more so than when the young lovers at the heart of Brendan I. Koerner's The Skies Belong to Us pulled off the longest-distance hijacking in American history. A shattered Army veteran and a mischievous party girl, Roger Holder and Cathy Kerkow commandeered Western Airlines Flight 701 as a vague protest against the war. Through a combination of savvy and dumb luck, the couple managed to flee across an ocean with a half-million dollars in ransom, a feat that made them notorious around the globe.Koerner spent four years chronicling this madcap tale, which involves a cast of characters ranging from exiled Black Panthers, to African despots, to French movie stars. He combed through over 4,000 declassified documents and interviewed scores of key figures in the drama - including one of the hijackers, whom Koerner discovered living in total obscurity.
Yet The Skies Belong to Us is more than just an enthralling yarn about a spectacular heist and its bittersweet, decades-long aftermath. It is also a psychological portrait of America at its most turbulent and a testament to the madness that can grip a nation when politics fail.
©2013 Brendan I. Koerner (P)2013 Tantor
He was a very good narrator - perfect for this story.
This is a terrific audiobook. The narrator is fantastic and the subject exceeded my expectations. When I came across this audiobook I was a little torn because the title and description suggested that it would lean bit too much towards the story of a single hijacking and the two main characters, as opposed to a look at the dawn of air hijackings. But it was a perfect balance. The first 40%, or so, sets the stage, introducing the characters, but also providing great backdrop about the outbreak of hijackings in the late 60's and early 70's - something I was looking for. But it is told in a way that is interesting - not analytical - but conveying the atmosphere of the time. And then the author (and narrator) gradually tell more and more of the story of the two main characters - drawing you in to their specific tale. This takes up the balance of the audiobook - about 60%. . . and by this point you're primed to go inside the telling of a single hijacking. This is a very entertaining audiobook; it's not a heavy academic study - it's an enjoyable listen, providing the right balance of context, and a "what's going to happen next" tale. Oh, and it's the perfect length for an audiobook.
Brendan Koerner has tapped into a fascinating piece of US history – what he calls the “golden age of hijacking” on US planes. Hundreds of planes were hijacked in America in the late 1960′s and the early 1970′s, and many planes were hijacked on the same day by coincidence. Koerner paints the picture of a time totally opposite of flight today. There was little security at airports, there were no bag checks, and passengers could pay for their flight after they boarded. In our post-9/11 world, envisioning this former era is near impossible.
The story here focuses on Roger Holder and Cathy Kerkow, a pair of skyjackers who committed the longest hijacking in American history. I felt the details of their specific story sometimes dragged here – Koerner spends a lot of time covering their pre- hijacking and post-hijacking lives. I began to lose interest with all the meandering details – other than the fact that they hijacked a plane, I’m not sure if either of these people lived a life remarkable enough to write about.
Where The Skies Belong to Us shines in its portrayal of this Mad-Max-in-the-sky time period. The sheer number of successful skyjackings from the 1960′s and 1970′s are astonishing. The young flight industry’s attempts to deal with security on planes while also rushing to accommodate the demands of each plane hijacking are almost humorous. The naivety here is remarkable – at one point, the head of the FAA discuss the impossibility of searching each passenger pre-flight. I found the variety of skyjackers and their motives to be more interesting than the specific story of Holder and Kerkow. There were a variety of reasons people skyjacked, and a huge spread of types of people involved, and many of the skyjacking plans were simple and poorly executed (yet often successful). As with the best non-fiction today, this story is too bizarre to make up.
A wildly complex and important story is told with clarity. The characters are real - not just because they're real people, but they FEEL real. I feel like I know Charlie Wilson personally, with all his (many) flaws and triumphs.
I'd have to say Charlie. There's something about him that just awes me.
Besides the obvious of being able to listen while I do other things to pass the time, this specific narrator was able to provide clarity to a complex story without doing any silly voices. His narration and pacing are excellent.
I literally clapped at the end, while driving. I cheered. This book is amazing.
On the road quite a bit either solo or with kids in the car. Love finding entertainment for that broad range.
This history is so strange and I really find it hard to believe this really happened. I was born after the "golden era of skyjacking" and have slipping memories of traveling before 9-11. Koerner does a wonderful job telling a larger picture in between chapters going deep with the lives of two skyjackers.
Of the over 40 books I've listened to in the past 12 months, this is one of the top 3 I've recommended to others.
This book delivered beyond expectations. When we finally ended up with Eldridge Cleaver in Algeria and he turned out to be as human and avaricious as those he fought against (who knew?) I was utterly delighted. As an older baby boomer, I'm ready for more books that peek into those times, without the rose coloured glasses! It's also an enjoyable study of individuals and the times, with connections to our present time as well.
I was a teenager when the hijacking epidemic occurred and I forgot that it was that prevalent. Back then just like it is to a degree today, the airlines, if they are not forced to do something in the name of safety, will not do it if it will cost them money.
When they finally go through with their plan. It's absolutely insane and doesn't make a whole lot of a sense a Kerkow, who was not the crazy one, had to have realized that, but she went along anyway.
It kept me interested. I'm too young to remember the rash of hijackings that occurred in the 1960's and 70's, so while this isn't necessarily a detailed historical overview, it was very interesting to me.
This was very informative and entertaining at the same time!. The history about who, what, and why are the causes of the lines at the airport. I didn't realize that hijacking was going on for so long and how it progressed into the safety features we now have in place.
This story, which details a part of American history about which I had no idea, was captivating and well-paced. While I agree with some previous reviewers that the leading players were a bit underwhelming, I have to give Mr. Koerner credit for making them as dynamic as they possibly could be. I will also second that he transitioned seamlessly between this actual account, the spirit of the generation, and historical records. .
One of the main themes of this book is that hijacking was all the rage for a brief window of our history during which it completely consumed the media, economy, and politics. Once managed, it completely vanished from thought. The book mirrored this phenomenon for me- while listening, I enjoyed it thoroughly (even purchased copies of the book as holiday presents for my in-laws and uncles); however, a month out, it feels like a distant memory.
Mr. Shapiro did a good job reading, though given the lack of dialogue in general, I can't say he "brought the story to life."
I should disclaim that I am not a huge nonfiction reader, nor can I say I am passionate about aviation, true crime, the 60s, etc- so for me to enjoy this book as much as I did, I must applaud the author and narrator. This would be a great book for someone trying to break into nonfiction!
The author is brilliant in his unfolding of this crazy time period and his weaving in Roger Holder and his girlfriends successful hijacking in 1973 as a the eventual main storyline. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to understand these decades better, the political landscape of the time (visible through the governments reaction and essentially "do-nothing" attitude) and this immensely entertaining retelling of so much CRAZY drama:)
He intimates the subtle opinions of himself and the writer. Obviously anyone looking back on this period of history has to wonder how they could let this "trend" get so out of control! Rob Shapiro does a GREAT job at implying how ridiculous the situations are. Something I think the writer carefully let seep into the book.
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