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