Thursday, February 16, 2012

7. Flight into Danger by Arthur Haley and John Castle

This is another book I picked up in the Maritimes.  I've learned since finishing it that it is the novelization of the teleplay of a very succesful 1956 TV movie on CBC that launched Arthur Haley's career.  I don't know if this is the first, but it certainly strikes me as the classic tale of the amateur or retired pilot forced to land a passenger airplane.  Here, a severe case of food poisoning in the salmon that is served for dinner jeopardizes the health of many passengers as well is incapacitating both pilots.  Luckily, there is a doctor on the plane and even more luckily, George Benson, a truck salesman who flew fighter planes in WWII.  This is a very straightforward, tight and exciting little thriller.  There is no bigger plot or unexpected twists, no real drama among the passengers or the ground control.  Just a man who hasn't flown for 13 years and only flew single-engine fighters when he did being coached from the ground by an expert pilot while passengers are slowly dying and the odds of him actually landing the bird are extremely low.  I found it quite thrilling and tore through the second half.  The lesson here is that you don't need a lot of bells and whistles if the story is exciting and you can tell it in an effective way.  Good stuff.

(Note, while I found several images online of the same cover, they were from Pan books.  This Totem imprint was published by Collins and sold, I believe, only in Canada.  Here is the little blurb from them on the inside back cover (backispiece?):

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