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Skyjack: The Hunt For D.B. Cooper (2011)

Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper (2011)
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3.14 of 5 Votes: 5
ISBN
0307735796 (ISBN13: 9780307735799)
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English
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random house audio
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Skyjack: The Hunt For D.B. Cooper (2011)
Skyjack: The Hunt For D.B. Cooper (2011)

About book: Introduces a Zany Cast of Crazies That Only Deepens the Mystery ...This book was reviewed as part of Amazon's Vine program which included a free advance copy of the book.The first time I ever learned about D.B. Cooper was elementary school back in the 1970s ... it was the first story in a compilation book of "strange but true" stories/mysteries that I got at a Scholastic Book Fair. While I recall all the other stories having rudimentary drawings to visually entertain elementary school-level readers, the Cooper story was both creepy and intriguing to me because it included the actual police sketches of the hijacker (with and without the sunglasses). The story was compelling enough to remain dormant in my memory over the years only to be recalled from time-to-time (when the worn "Cooper" bills were found in 1980 and a few years later when the goofy "In Pursuit of D.B. Cooper" movie was released). I was hoping, after almost 40 years and the added benefit of an exponential increase in technology, Geoffrey Gray's SKYJACK: THE HUNT FOR D.B. COOPER would lead me to believe the case was going to be solved, but ... nope. On the surface, the entire story of Dan (D.B.) Cooper is fraught with a romantic sense of mystery and brash daring. An innocuous middle-aged man in a suit, identifying himself as Dan Cooper, carries a briefcase onboard a Northwest Orient plane in November 1971 and calmly executes a hijacking mid-flight. Adding to his boldness, the hijacker demands that the plane land for refueling, $200,000 (in twenties) and four parachutes. As the plane is back in flight, presumably for Mexico, a sudden jolt in cabin pressure caused by the lowering of the plane's aftstairs reveals hijacker has taken the loot, jumped from the plane ... and vanished. Who was D.B. Cooper? Did he survive the jump? What happened to all the money? They are basic questions and after 40 years, there are still no definitive answers. Aside from attempting to answer these basic questions, exactly what Geoffrey Gray may be attempting to accomplish with his book has several possibilities: introducing a new generation of people to a fading mystery, exposing the folklore surrounding the case, document the impact the case has/had on those involved, covering old ground with a fresh perspective and drawing parallels between several colorful characters and mystery-man Cooper. SKYJACK may also be an effort to satiate the authors own obsession with the case, an obsession that Gray documents as being part of a curse that has driven many to ruin. SKYJACK is, at times, colorful and entertaining but I struggled with its delivery and in the end; I did not feel that it put a dent into solving the mystery or answer the basic questions. Geoffrey Gray divides SKYJACK into three parts (the Jump, the Hunt and the Curse) in an attempt to corral a storyline that continually jumps back and forth from past to present and involves recurring individuals. Rather than starting with the hijacking itself, we are introduced, from the onset, of the man the author suspects is D.B. Cooper and the background that supports the author's opinion. When the author finally starts detailing the hijacking itself, we are then diverted to the background data on another person suspected of being Cooper. This see-sawing of events between past and present proved to be a cumbersome read at times. I found that once the events of the actual hijacking were covered, a reading rhythm could be established and came to the conclusion that the division of the book into three parts was either unnecessary or illogically done. What the gist of the book reveals is that while most Americans have moved on, the Cooper case remains an open investigation and there exists a sub-culture totally devoted to solving what appears to be the perfect crime ... at any cost. Gray journeys into this sub-culture and introduces us to a world that is colorful, yet dreary. We meet wacky people obsessed with the case, some more interested in identifying Cooper and others looking for the loot. Each of these people, like the author, has a theory as to who D.B. Cooper really is (ranging from an ex-parachutist to a transgendered former Northwest Orient Airlines purser) and what happened when he exited the plane that cold November night in 1971. While we get a lot of theories and assumptions, we get no definitive answers and the fact that most of the "suspects" have died only exacerbates the mystery. Even a new crop of amateur sleuths utilizing DNA technology can't seem to crack the case. What we discover is that the obsession to find D.B. Cooper and chasing all the dead ends usually takes its toll on health and finances of those involved (the "Cooper Curse"). Even the boy who found a portion of Cooper's ransom in 1980 was not immune from the "curse". The case of D.B. Cooper appears destined to be shrouded in mystery forever ... like the true identities of the sailor and the nurse kissing in Times Square on VJ Day or to some degree, the identity of the Zodiac Killer. While SKYJACK does provide some good background on the case and documents the continuing effort to find the truth, it does not generate any ground-breaking information. I find SKYJACK to be more revealing in that it gives us a glimpse into the depressed, circus-like world of those obsessed with everything and anything related to D.B. Cooper and his ransom. UPDATE: 8.1.2011: odd coincidence or perfect timing? With the pending release of Gray's book only a week away, the D.B. Cooper case made headline news this past weekend as "significant new evidence" regarding the case is being examined by the FBI. Maybe the author's desire to assist in solving this mystery will become a reality. In hindsight, the reading of this book prior to the recent news provided an exciting combination.

OK, it's time somebody stepped up, came out and just plain said, "Enough already."Non-fiction authors, please, please, please, STOP trying to write historical narratives like Erik Larson. Please stop the slice-and-dice multiple-narrative juggling gimmick in which stories are divvied out in tiny spoonfuls, shifting back and forth over long spans of time and interrupted in mid-action in embarrassing Dan Brown Da Vinci Code cliffhanger style, and then resumed several chapters and dozens of pages later after five other narratives have been dribbled out and interrupted, and by which time I've forgotten who the hell these people are and what they are doing in the resumed narrative(s). Does every non-fiction book have to play like Pulp Fiction nowadays? If someone kept opening the door to my bedroom like this every time I was having sex it wouldn't take me very long to get royally pissed. Simply put, you are interrupting my enjoyment, authors and authoresses. And I'm a terrible multitasker; I love seeing a thought played out fully to its conclusion. I happen to believe that a good story--which this is--does not need this kind of treatment, nor does it have to be this glib and snarky (another regrettable contemporary tendency). In addition, there's a bit of the Gonzo at work here, with Gray injecting himself into the story (fairly well, I think), but this is not great Gonzo (for that, see "Among the Thugs" by Bill Buford, which I recently reviewed). But, God, I wish for the days when historical narratives (yes, with multiple centers of interest) could be told in a more linear and serious fashion without the gimmickry. John Toland, alas, is dead.I honestly didn't want to know this much minute detail about the lives and mundane adventures of crackpot suspects like Duane Weber or Kenny Chistensen or Barb Dayton (in fact I wish the Duane and Jo Weber narrative, which figits and frets about in an annoying and maddening conspiratorial frenzy but which goes absolutely nowhere and is confusingly told, had been omitted entirely). The screwball antics of the scientists and Cooper cultists I also found plodding and padded; I just wanted to know the results of what they found out and not have to read about their fumblings for page after page. I'm sorry, but however much they amuse author Gray they bored me. I enjoyed the book most when it stuck to the known facts of the case, and particularly those relating to the primary suspect, Richard Floyd McCoy, and also to the speculations about Cooper's likely landing sites and the fate of his stolen money. I understand the point of the author's inclusion of so many suspects is to show how infused the legend of Cooper has become in the pop zeitgeist ; that so many people continue to obsess over the case and that various loonies have come to believe that they themselves *are* Cooper or that their friends and relatives believe them to be so--even after the FBI has ruled them all out. It is an interesting phenomenon. It's so interesting that it might have been enlightening to have some psychological explanation included by experts. But it's not here.With a reshuffle and heavy editing, this could be a great rundown of the D.B Cooper case, since all the facts are here and they are fascinating. (Rather than summarize the case, I'll refer you to Wikipedia). I think, though, the author--faced with not much to work with--decided to turn his book into a kind of kaleidoscopic comic extravaganza commentary on Americana, which is not a book I cared to read. Actually, the book is a good--and yes, recommendable--overview of the D.B. Cooper case (though I suspect artistic license at play in various details), and will reward any reader who doesn't mind having his or her head batted around like a ping pong ball.
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Reviews
Wendy
Oh how quaint, those long lost days of the monthly air hijack that ended either in Cuba, or in a parachute jump with a satchel full of cash. Back in the early 70s, before metal detectors and pat-downs became a rite of passage in airports, the hijack was practically a spectator sport. And, so the legend goes, it was all started by a John Doe known to the media as D.B. Cooper.My first encounter with the D.B. Cooper urban legend was in a book I had as a kid about unsolved mysteries. I remember the details pretty well: a nondescript guy in a business suit hijacks a plane with a (fake) bomb, demands $200,000 in cash and a parachute, lowers the aft stairs of the in-flight 727 and leaps into the stormy night, never to be seen again. Even back then, I remember my 10-year-old self asking "what's the mystery? He's dead." The stolen cash never appeared in circulation again (though a few bundles were found buried on a beach near the probable drop site in 1980). Everyone who ever came forward, it seems, had a history of mental illness. Just because a few kooks swear they are the long-lost princess Anastasia doesn't prove their story--same with Cooper. There's just not enough evidence to prove anything at all. But that doesn't stop author Gray from tracking down and interviewing every last kook...and that's the REAL story here. If you were looking for the "definitive" D.B. Cooper solution, this book doesn't deliver on that front. However, if you're a fan of This American Life-type stories in which the weirdness of the journey is more fulfilling than any neatly tied solution, this book might be a fun ride. The book starts out with a straightforward narration of the D.B. Cooper case, but as the author/investigator hits more dead-ends, he begins to follow crazier and crazier leads, ending with (I thought) a fitting meta-moment where (view spoiler)[the narrator hides in a backwoods cabin, overcome with paranoia, and helps one of his kooky witnesses search for a D.B. confession in a handwritten recipe for cheesecake (hide spoiler)]
Matt Isenhower
No, the mystery has not been solved, and it probably never will be. For those of you who don't know, in 1971 a well-dressed man hijacked a Northwest 727, extorted $200,000 from the airline, then strapped on a parachute and jumped from the moving passenger jet over the Oregon wilderness, never to be seen again. Although Grey spends the first part of the book going over the details of the crime itself, the real story comes in the later part: the strange loners who top the suspect list, the weirdos and crackpots who believe they have the missing piece to solve the puzzle and no one is listening to them, and the obsessives who spend their lives and fortunes trying to find that missing piece. To this day, if you travel to the woods near the supposed "jump zone," you will find Cooper scholars combing the thickets for clues. As both a "true crime" narrative and a portrait of non-criminal psychological aberration, the book is fascinating.
Paul Pessolano
“Skyjack” by Geoffrey Gray, published by Crown Publishing.Category – True CrimeIf you lived in the 70’s it is highly unlikely that you never heard of D.B. Cooper. Cooper may have committed the perfect crime, that is if he lived.D.B. Cooper hijacked (skyjacked) Northwest Orient flight 305 and demanded $200.000 ransom for the plane and passengers. The plane was a Boeing 727 that had an “aftstairs” that could be used for boarding and deplaning. When Cooper obtained the ransom and parachutes he let the passengers off the plane and kept the crew on board. They were given a flight plan and somewhere over the Pacific Northwest Cooper dropped the aftstairs and parachuted into the night.The authorities, using the technology available at the time, determined that Cooper parachuted into a very dense and unpopulated area. They came to believe that he most likely was killed by landing in water or injured severely when he either landed in trees or hard ground.The mystery is still with us today. D. B. Cooper has never been found, either dead or alive, and only a small amount of the money has been recovered.“Skyjack” is full of characters that will have you shaking your head. They range anywhere from men who might have been Cooper. There were several that had parachute training, some with expertise in flying, and some who knew the workings of the Boeing 727. Many of these had shady backgrounds that could have possible connections with covert operations of the government.The legend of Cooper lives on as parties are held every year commemorating his deed, and there are still people who are searching the woods looking for some trace of D. B. Cooper.An interesting read, although I found the writing wanting and the flow of the book difficult in some areas. However, if you have any interest in this story, the book will more than wet your appetite as to what happened on the night of November 24, 1971.
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