Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"The Skies Belong to Us" by Brendan Koerner

The Skies Belong to Us by Brendan Koerner was an excellent book in which he did the trick of taking an interesting topic, finding particularly fascinating subjects within that topic and then crafting a great narrative out of it. Subtitle to the book is Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking and it's noted on the book jacket that "over a five year period starting in 1968, commercial jets were hijacked at a rate of nearly once a week."

Koerner writes in the book of how the majority of hijackers wanted to go to Cuba and his cover subjects Roger Holder and Cathy Kerkow went much further forcing 1972 L.A. to Seattle flight to eventually take them to Algiers. Theirs was a fascinating story with Holder a disillusioned and somewhat unstable Vietnam veteran and Kerkow seemingly a footloose party girl from Coos Bay, Oregon. In this regard, it was particularly fascinating reading towards the end of the book about what became of Kerkow through her experiences.

 In relation to other adventure-related books I've read, The Skies Belong to Us is up there among my favorites, in the some company as Unbroken by Laura HillenbrandThe Wave by Susan Casey and Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer.

Part of what made the book so good was the research that Koerner appeared to put into it, with 31 pages of notes and citations at end of book and one thought that I had while reading is it just felt very "cinematic" to me and brought to mind how the movie Argo came out of the Wired Magazine story "The Great Escape" by Joshuah Bearman.

Additionally, I've seen several interesting pieces with Koerner about his book including an interview by Alex Heard for Outside Magazine and saw just tonight that there was a 50-minute podcast with Koerner for Longform.