It’s hard to imagine a more comprehensive look at the Red Knight program—and at aerobatics in general.


An exhaustive history of the Red Knight solo air show.

The titular aerobatics demonstration program began in 1958, the result of a propitious combination of historical variables. Just after World War II, the Royal Canadian Air Force was eager to show off its jet fighters and display its combat readiness to Canadian citizens and the world at large. Two significant anniversaries were fast approaching, furnishing the program with celebratory reasons to showcase its skills: the 50th anniversary of the first time that a Canadian flew a powered aircraft (1909) and the 35th anniversary of the RCAF itself (1924). Debut author Corrigan devoted a quarter-century to researching and writing this history, which charts with painstaking meticulousness the full 12 years of the program’s operation. The jet that it used was the Canadair T-33A, which was eventually painted with Day-Glo red paint to increase its visibility and help avoid collisions, which led a photographer to give it the moniker “Red Knight.” The show became increasingly popular; tens of thousands of spectators could attend a single demonstration, and it expanded to include additional planes and a tour of the United States. Although largely billed as entertainment, the low-altitude precision flying was extremely dangerous as well as physically grueling for the men in the cockpits—on three occasions, pilots died. Lt. Brian Alston was the last, and his accident in 1969 was the principal reason that the show was finally retired. Despite its brevity, this is a mesmerizingly detailed history—a fact that’s impressive and exasperating at the same time. Corrigan buries the reader under minutiae, which sometimes makes the book as a whole seem more like an encyclopedic reference work than a remembrance to be consumed all at once. However, his diligence will reward the truly interested reader, and his diagrams and illustrations are helpful, descriptive tools. Also, the author ably highlights the extraordinary physical demands that the flight missions made on the pilots; the centrifugal force of some of the more daring maneuvers was punishing, indeed.

It’s hard to imagine a more comprehensive look at the Red Knight program—and at aerobatics in general.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5255-1536-1

Page Count: 386

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2017

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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