Synopses & Reviews
"I have a bomb here and I would like you to sit by me."
That was the note handed to a stewardess by a mild-mannered passenger on a Northwest Orient flight in 1971. It was the start of one of the most astonishing whodunits in the history of American true crime: how one man extorted $200,000 from an airline, then parachuted into the wilds of the Pacific Northwest and into oblivion. D. B. Cooper's case has become the stuff of legend and obsessed and cursed his pursuers with everything from bankruptcy to suicidal despair. Now with Skyjack, journalist Geoffrey Gray delves into this unsolved mystery uncovering new leads in the infamous case.
Starting with a tip from a private investigator into a promising suspect (a Cooper lookalike, Northwest employee, and trained paratrooper), Gray is propelled into the murky depths of a decades-old mystery, conducting new interviews and obtaining a first-ever look at Cooper's FBI file. Beginning with a heartstopping and unprecedented recreation of the crime itself, from cabin to cockpit to tower, and uncanny portraits of characters who either chased Cooper or might have committed the crime, including Ralph Himmelsbach, the most dogged of FBI agents, who watched with horror as a criminal became a counter-culture folk hero who supposedly shafted the system...Karl Fleming, a respected reporter whose career was destroyed by a Cooper scoop that was a scam...and Barbara (neé Bobby) Dayton, a transgendered pilot who insisted she was Cooper herself.
With explosive new information and exclusive access to FBI files and forensic evidence, Skyjack reopens one of the great cold cases of the 20th century.
"In 1971, hijacker D.B. Cooper vanished after he parachuted from a Northwest Orient Airlines jet with ,000 in extorted cash. He became a legendary figure, the subject of, among others, a feature film (starring Treat Williams) and at least a dozen books. Since the Cooper case is unsolved, what more is there to say? In October 2007, Gray wrote an article for New York magazine speculating that Cooper had been Kenneth Christiansen, a Northwest Airlines purser and former paratrooper who died in 1994. Now, in this full-scale probe of Christiansen and other suspects, Gray reconstructs the hijacking, the jump, investigations, and aftermath, interviewing retired FBI agents, Northwest officials, passengers, and one of the only living eyewitnesses, stewardess Florence Schaffner, who had direct contact with Cooper on the plane. The solid journalistic approach of the New York article is replaced by an annoying present tense and a fast-paced style with occasional padding, such as this description of Schaffner: 'She is a specimen of red. Red lipstick. Red nail polish. Red uniform... the coral red you find on a necklace.' But by introducing intriguing theories, curious clues, and a parade of characters who claim a Cooper connection, Gray successfully milks the mystery and generates suspense while adding fuel to Cooper's folk-hero reputation. (Aug. 9)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Who was D.B. Cooper? In Skyjack, Geoffrey Gray lures in the reader with this iconic unsolved mystery, and for the next 290 pages explores a story as attention-grabbing as a bag of hot money. D.B. Cooper emerges as the great McGuffin of 1970s America, a prism through which Gray exploits to the fullest with his propulsive writing style, mad commitment to detail, and explores everything from the early years of gender reassignment surgery to the birth of airline security culture to the ghostly legends of the Pacific Northwest's Dark Divide.' Evan Wright, author of Generation Kill
"With verve and assurance worthy of his protagonist, Geoffrey Gray pulls readers along on a kaleidoscopic chase through the cult of Cooper. Both a masterful re-creation of the paranoid 1970s, and an exhilarating firsthand account of an erosive obsession, Skyjack takes us down the rabbit hole with Gray — and what a journey it is." James Swanson, author of Manhunt and Bloody Crimes
"Here is writing and storytelling that is vivid and fresh — a delectable adventure from a talented new author." Gay Talese
"Out of the wild blue yonder comes this pleasing tale of obsession and mystery. Geoffrey Gray has essentially parachuted into the early 1970s and found a nearly forgotten episode that elucidates a swath of our cultural history. The result is a clean, smart whodunit full of quirky characters, imaginative sleuthing, and thrilling surprises." Hampton Sides, author of Hellhound on His Trail
"An exciting journey into the byways of popular culture. This is hardly the first book about Cooper, but it may be the first to treat his story for what it has become: an ongoing phenomenon, like the search for Bigfoot, with a remarkable ability to consume the imaginations and lives of generations of searchers." Booklist (Starred Review)
"On Nov. 24, 1971, a man who gave his name as Dan Cooper entered the Portland airport to board a Northwest Orient Airlines flight to Seattle. Nobody involved in that seemingly routine journey, just 28 minutes aloft, understood during the boarding process that they would be witnessing a legend. As one of the flight attendants would recall later, in wording used by author Geoffrey Gray, Cooper's 'suit is dark and his raincoat is black. He is holding a dark attache case. He looks like a businessman. He shuffles into the cabin and sits in the last row, 18, starboard side. The row is empty. He places the attache case on the seat next to the window. He keeps his raincoat on.'" Steve Weinberg, The Oregonian
(Read the entire Oregonian review
About the Author
Geoffrey Gray a journalist who covers crime, politics, sports, and food. He is a contributing editor at New York Magazine, covered boxing for The New York Times, writes for other newspapers and magazines, once drove an ice-cream truck, works occasionally as a prep chef in an Italian restaurant, and is finishing a feature-length documentary about a corrupt NYPD detective. He lives in New York, though he wouldn't mind trying someplace else soon. Skyjack is his first book.