Synopses & Reviews
The Map of My Dead Pilots
is about flying, pilots, and Alaska, a place where aviation has come to be synonymous with the myths and legends of the Last Frontier. Colleen Mondor spent four years running dispatch operations for a Fairbanks-based commuter and charter airline—and she knows all too well the gap between the romance and reality of small plane piloting in the wildest territory of the United States. From overloaded aircraft and wings covered in ice to flying sled dogs and dead bodies, commercial piloting in Alaska is about living hard and working harder.
Ultimately, it is the pilots themselves—drawn to the career for reasons ranging from desperation to cool-handed professionalism—who capture her imagination. From the cockpit to the bar to long hours spent at the “Company,” Mondor brings to light the camaraderie it takes to stay sane at a job that demands all your heart and soul and never truly lets you go. In fine detail, Mondor reveals the all-too-casual nature of aircraft accidents, the tragic history of Alaskan flying, and a world that demands a close communion with extreme physical danger and emotional toughness.
The Map of My Dead Pilots is an engrossing narrative whose gritty, no-holds-barred style is reminiscent of the works of Ken Kesey and Tim OBrien.
"I know that the first two letters of 'memoir' spell 'me,' but the kind of memoir I like best is one that goes beyond being simply a personal account and instead tells a larger story. The Map of My Dead Pilots by Colleen Mondor does exactly that. . . . This isn't a neatly narrated, chronological account with a clean beginning and a clear end. Rather, in lyrical, impressionistic prose she relates the stories she tells of the pilots she knew—some still living and some now dead—to the myth and the reality of Alaska.
It's a story of danger, of loss, of courage, of unsavory landing strips and forbidding mountains, of delivering mail and making mercy flights, of adrenaline and prayer, of unpredictably changeable winds and oncoming storms, of snow, of difficult decisions, of good fortune and bad luck, and, always, of the unbelievable cold. But it's also about why we choose the lives we do, how we rewrite our pasts to make sense of ourselves to the person we've become, what we choose to remember, and how and why we forget what we do: It's about myth-making, storytelling and memory. . . ." --Nancy Pearl, NPR's Morning Edition "Strap yourselves in. Map of My Dead Pilots is one hell of a ride, one of the best Alaska books ever. In gorgeous, literary prose that nails the rhythms of a barroom conversation and plumbs the depth of the human soul, Colleen Mondor writes a one-way ticket into the world of Alaska aviation. If Shakespeare and Hemingway teamed up to write an Alaska reality show, it might go something like this." —Nick Jans, twenty-year resident of arctic bush Alaska and author of The Last Light Breaking and The Grizzly Maze "The Map of My Dead Pilots is that other kind of memoir—galvanizing, exhilarating, fresh. The ridiculously daring pilots of the Alaskan frontier are here, of course—meticulously rendered, artfully arranged. But undergirding it all is Mondors own tremendous passion for a particular place and time, her enormous skills as a storyteller, and her brave (lets call it sublime) commitment to writing down what cannot be forgotten. Dont miss this book. Please dont."—Beth Kephart, National Book Award finalist and author, most recently, of You Are My Only “If its said that dead men tell no tales, then, thank goodness, Mondor is around to do so. . . . Mondor, who walks the tightrope between admiration and detachment with a deft and agile balance, presents an equitable yet passionate memoir that virtually flies off the page.” —Booklist starred review "In The Map of My Dead Pilots, Mondor does a great job of giving readers a well-documented, frank, and clear idea of the harrowing nature of flying in Alaska. Its not “Northern Exposure meets Air America” as the flap copy reads—its actually something much more interesting. Highly recommended." —Omnivoracious.com
The Map of My Dead Pilots is about flying, pilots, and Alaska, the beautiful and deadly Last Frontier. Author Colleen Mondor spent four years running dispatch operations for a Fairbanks-based commuter and charter airline, and she knows all too well the gap between the romance and reality of small plane piloting in the wildest territory of the United States. From overloaded aircraft to wings covered in ice, from flying sled dogs and dead bodies, piloting in Alaska is about living hard and working even harder. What Mondor witnessed day to day would make anyones hair stand on end. Ultimately, it is the pilots themselves—laced with ice and whiskey, death and camaraderie, silence and engine roar—and their harrowing tales who capture her imagination. In fine detail, this series of stories reveals the technical side of flying, the history of Alaskan aviation, and a world that demands a close communion with extreme physical danger and emotional toughness.
Northern Exposure meets Air America in this exposé of the daily life and death insanity of commercial flying in Alaska.
About the Author
Colleen Mondor is a longtime columnist and reviewer for Bookslut and book reviewer for Booklist whose essays have appeared in several journals and aviation magazines. She currently owns an aviation business. She lives in the Pacific Northwest. Her blog can be found at chasingray.com.