Kirkus Star


Email this review


The author of Fate Is the Hunter and The High and the Mighty unrolls his adventures in the air, in Hollywood, in far-flung exotic places with irony, heart, and unsparing honesty. The stars of his life-story are his swashbuckling father, a great business success and world-traveler, and his long-suffering first wife Eleanor, an arthritis victim and drug addict (painkillers); his supporting players are a host of early birdmen and such luminaries as Duke Wayne, Clark Gable, William Wellman, and Sterling Hayden. Born in Nebraska, Gann went to work in a silent-film processing factory at 14, saved up strips of undeveloped film, joined them, and shot his first film, Sweet Sixteen--which was a local hit. After washing out of Culver Military Academy, he was dispatched around the world by his father on company business (phone equipment), then returned to try and find himself a place in the New York theater. The March of Time sent him into Hitler's Germany to film the persecution of Jewish schoolchildren, a task aided by a saucy Dutch beauty. A stint of filming in an open cockpit led him into his great love, flight; into work as an airline copilot; and at last into ferrying secret equipment for the Air Force during World War II. At the same time, he began selling juvenile books, then writing his best-sellers, whose sales drew him to scriptwriting in Hollywood--source of much loot, more heartbreak, and little satisfaction. Meanwhile, he'd had a variety of air adventures, including a long search for a downed passenger plane in the Arctic. He later novelized his adventures as a yachtsman, and also wrote about the San Francisco police department, about Jewish history (he is Scotch-English and views himself as a kind of neo-pagan), and still more about the early days of flight. A long, bitter divorce by his wife of 35 years and the death of his eldest son on a supertanker have marred his recent years. Gripping as ever.

Pub Date: Sept. 28th, 1978
Publisher: Knopf