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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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The Skies Belong to Us

The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking - Brendan I. Koerner

I don't read much non-fiction. When I do, it's often for research. Every once in a while I pick up a non-fiction book that looks interesting to me and give it a read. And more often than not I find myself engrossed in the story. Probably I should see this as a sign that I need to read more of these stories. Enter The Skies Belong to Us.


The cover, the promise of love and hijacking, these are the things that first attracted me to The Skies Belong to Us. More than any other type of narrative non-fiction, my favorite are those stories told about events or people I knew nothing about. And really, who knows about Roger Holder and Cathy Kerkow? Who remembers the eruption of skyjacking in the sixties and seventies? It was a time when a plane was hijacked every week, when airport security was non-existent, a time when you could actually commandeer a plane, fly halfway across the world, and find asylum in a far away land. That's exactly what Holder and Kerkow did.


Koerner's book is half Holder's and Kerkow's story, half an exploration of the history of skyjacking. He balances the two extremely well. And it is abundantly clear Koerner has done his research. I found myself wanting to know more, especially about some of the other hijackings Koerner mentioned; more than once I had to stop reading to perform an Internet search.


The only misstep Koerner takes in this book, in my opinion, is that he provides too much insight into the subjects' point-of-view. Yes, Koerner conducted significant research and did several interviews, and he may have had an idea what these individuals were thinking and seeing, but in a work of non-fiction it comes off as reaching too hard. Some of it seemed too speculative. Aside from this, my only other complaint was that the second half of the book lagged under the weight of court cases and bureaucracy, but that is somewhat to be expected in a book such as this one. Besides, when you have such a phenomenal, high-paced start, you can't expect the whole book to maintain that level of suspense.


The Skies Belong to Us is so well researched and presented that it left me with only one question, one Koerner himself presents in the final pages. That is, where is Cathy Kerkow?