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The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking


The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking Cover

ISBN13: 9780307886118
ISBN10: 0307886115
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Publisher Comments:

In an America torn apart by the Vietnam War and the demise of sixties idealism, airplane hijackings were astonishingly routine. Over a five-year period starting in 1968, the desperate and disillusioned seized commercial jets nearly once a week, using guns, bombs, and jars of acid. Some hijackers wished to escape to foreign lands, where they imagined being hailed as heroes; others aimed to swap hostages for sacks of cash. Their criminal exploits mesmerized the country, never more so than when the young lovers at the heart of Brendan I. Koerner’s The Skies Belong to Us pulled off the longest-distance hijacking in American history.

A shattered Army veteran and a mischievous party girl, Roger Holder and Cathy Kerkow commandeered Western Airlines Flight 701 as a vague protest against the war. Through a combination of savvy and dumb luck, the couple managed to flee across an ocean with a half-million dollars in ransom, a feat that made them notorious around the globe. Koerner spent four years chronicling this madcap tale, which involves a cast of characters ranging from exiled Black Panthers to African despots to French movie stars. He combed through over 4,000 declassified documents and interviewed scores of key figures in the drama—including one of the hijackers, whom Koerner discovered living in total obscurity. Yet The Skies Belong to Us is more than just an enthralling yarn about a spectacular heist and its bittersweet, decades-long aftermath. It is also a psychological portrait of America at its most turbulent, and a testament to the madness that can grip a nation when politics fail.



About the Author

BRENDAN I. KOERNER is a contributing editor at Wired and the author of Now the Hell Will Start, which was optioned by filmmaker Spike Lee. A former columnist for both The New York Times and Slate, he was named one of Columbia Journalism Review’s “Ten Young Writers on the Rise." Visit www.theskiesbelongto.us and follow him at @brendankoerner.

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cblaker, November 9, 2014 (view all comments by cblaker)
This book is the story Kathy Kerkow, a free-wheeling hippie and Roger Holder an unstable Army vet who for vague reasons decide to hijack an airplane. The author uses their story to illuminate a period of air travel much different than ours. From the early sixties to the seventies, an almost complete lack of security procedures allowed unstable characters to hijack airplanes in the US and around the world. For someone, who has mostly only seen post 9/11 air travel, it was difficult to believe how lax things were in air travel. When the skyjacking first began in the sixties, the FAA and the airlines rejected security checks and x-rays, considering them too time-consuming and costly. The airlines felt that the public would reject any sort of bag checks and would not put up with delays involved in security screenings. Boy, how times have changed.
Roger Holder goes AWOL from the Army after two difficult tours in Vietnam. He hooks up with Cathy Kerkow, an easy-going hippie who he had a chance encounter with as a child. Holder's pot-addled mind takes this as a cosmic sign. While living together, Holder with the help of horoscopes and hash, hatches a plane to hijack a plane and use the passengers to gain the release of Angela Davis, a well-known sixties radical charged with murder conspiracy charges.
Amazing, Holder and Kerkow are able to hijack a flight headed to Seattle. Holder convinces the pilots he has a bomb and that the Weather Underground is forcing him to hijack the plane. If the pilots don't do as he says, the Weathermen will blow up the plane (did I mention the Weathermen are supposedly high acid). Somehow the pilots buy it, and Holder and Kerkow are able to get ransom from the airline and land in Algiers, thereby pulling off the longest skyjacking ever.
I really enjoyed reading this book. The story shuttled between Holder and Kerkow and a general history of skyjacking. If you're interested in 60s radicalism, air travel, or well-written long-form journalism, I'd definitely recommend this book.
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Product Details

Koerner, Brendan I.
Broadway Books
United States - 20th Century
Crime - True Crime
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
8 x 5.15 x 0.79 in 0.56 lb

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » General
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » General Medicine
History and Social Science » Crime » General
History and Social Science » Crime » True Crime
History and Social Science » Politics » General
History and Social Science » US History » 20th Century » General

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Product details 336 pages Broadway Books - English 9780307886118 Reviews:
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