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
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.
Yes - very engaging
Great Engaging Melodic
I don't blame the reader on this, but there were 5-6 mispronunciations of words or Countries - wouldn't the producer catch this?
If you have ever stood in line at the airport for hours waiting to board your flight and getting really annoyed at the TSA for all the hassle you are being put through, this book is for you.
To me the main story was incidental to the real value to be found between the pages. A sense of why we suffer such indignities just to fly, and maybe a little bit more acceptance in doing so.
I gasped to see the attitude of the Airlines during the time-frame this book covers. Having never flown during those years I was appalled at the refusal of airlines at first to do even cursory checks of passengers for weapons when it seemed every other plane was getting hi-jacked.
I felt the same sense of oh my God what were they thinking while reading this book as I did when I read "And the Band Played On" about the refusal of some individuals to close bath houses despite the very real and present danger of spreading the AIDS virus by not doing so.
Reading about the way the airline handled what became an epidemic of hi-jacking, to me showed the exact same self-serving attitude that was present at the on-set of the AIDS epidemic, albeit with thankfully a hugely different loss of life.
Worth the read, if just to get a little perspective.
I rarely listen to books twice, but this would be a good candidate because it would be worth revisiting the numerous, often brief, tales of hijacking nested within the larger narrative.
The magnitude of the skyjacking epidemic was a complete surprise on every page. The book is very well structured to keep your interest at all times.
The author encounters one of the characters toward the end of the book. That was a surprise.
I'm going to go with "Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking."
One of my favorite listens, so far.
OCD over books, listening to 1 a day; ANY genre, fact & fiction. Influenced by Audible reviewers so I keep mine unbiased - FRONT to BLACK!
As a woman who grew up during the time of plane hijacking, I found this book to be insightful and entertaining. In the years before the advent of the Internet and cable television, we were given very little information about these crimes. I wasn't even aware that there had been so many hijackings until I listened to this book. And I can't begin to tell you how stunned I was to discover that the most successful hijacker in history was a BLACK man! Well, well, well! This book is well-written, well researched, and entertaining. Well worth the cost of the trip!
I read nothing that is popular.
It was just unreal for me to read all about hijacking planes in the 60's and 70's. It is just a weird concept that anyone can board a plane with a ticket without being body search or having to go through security. This time of traveling was like the wild wild west and the gold rush period of time where anything goes.
I'm having a hard time of grasping the events in "The Skies Belong to Us" and paying the terrorist ransom to free the passengers. Each time I travel, I get frisk and TSA always test my wheelchair for any bomb chemicals. I just can't imagine just strolling into an airport, boarding my flight and hopping in my seat as if I was in my car, going to the store.
We hear about people getting carjacked, but hijacking a plane? Then again, every year, we hear someone going on a rampage and shooting innocent people and still arguing on gun control.
Is it love or is it a crime? This book was a recollection of the turbulent sixties and seventies, with emphasis on a particular hijacking. It also discusses the political environment, FAA in cahoots with airlines who don't want to spend money on security, a president forced to act by the plethora of hijackings, often more than one in a single day. Further, Castro gets fed up with multiple hijackings to Cuba and even multiple returnees from the 1980 Mariel boat lift and finally signs the first agreement with the USA since he took over. The only thing missing from this book is D.B. Cooper; perhaps, the author went to great pains in avoiding his mention?
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