The High and the Mighty is taut and scarey

Ernest K. Gann’s The High and the Mighty is to aviation novels what Gone with the Wind  is to Civil War novels.

A commercial airline is leaving Honolulu for San Francisco. The crew meticulously checks everything that could possibly go wrong , knowing that failure of some tiny, unseen part somewhere could trigger a series of small failures that could plunge everyone on board to their deaths.

They take off

At 35, Sullivan, is a seasoned pilot. His co-pilot took to the air in 1917; aside from a brief period after a crash in which his wife and son and all but one other passenger perished, Roman has been flying ever since.

The other three crew members and the 16 passengers are standard Hollywood issue: a pair of newly weds, a couple splitting up, a whore with a heart of gold, a dying man, an all-business millionaire. Their stories cover the long blocks of time when nothing is happening in the cockpit.

A pilot himself,  Gann writes with precise, spine-chilling detail about the plane’s operation and the mental and emotional courage of the crews that keep them flying.

Gann’s story is  implausible in a predictable, hollywood way, but peopled with characters so vividly drawn that the tale is unforgettable.

The High and the Mighty
by Ernest K. Gann
William Sloane Associates, 1953
342 pages
1953 bestseller # 6
My grade:  B
© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni
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Linda Aragoni

I'm passionate about helping people learn through the medium of nonfiction writing. Although I occasionally have an idea of my own, I mostly build education tools by recycling and repurposing other folks' ideas.

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