4.5 17
by John J. Nance

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Minutes after a Boeing 747 rises majestically into a Hong Kong sunset, a flash splits the darkening sky. The pilot - suddenly blinded and doubled over in pain - fumbles in the dark in a frantic effort to gain control as the huge jet shudders through its descent. Kat Bronsky, FBI agent and terrorism specialist, is assigned the hunt for a Challenger-class business


Minutes after a Boeing 747 rises majestically into a Hong Kong sunset, a flash splits the darkening sky. The pilot - suddenly blinded and doubled over in pain - fumbles in the dark in a frantic effort to gain control as the huge jet shudders through its descent. Kat Bronsky, FBI agent and terrorism specialist, is assigned the hunt for a Challenger-class business jet seen nearby just before the incident. The case poses countless questions: Was the flash a pilot error, a missile attack, or a malfunction? Or was it some new kind of weapon? And why are several government agencies interested in what Kat uncovers?

Editorial Reviews

Fly the Deadly Skies

An involving novel of terrorism and highly placed corruption, Blackout is the latest from John J. Nance, the bestselling author of such well-received heart-stoppers as Pandora's Clock and Medusa's Child. With Blackout the proclaimed master of the airplane-disaster thriller once again melds all of his aeronautic expertise into a perilous, action-packed foray that adds enough new ingredients to his signature formula to keep the story fresh and exciting -- and the reader hooked until the novel's shattering denouement.

When an American MD-11 mysteriously crashes in Cuban waters killing all on board, the "cold war" with Castro suddenly begins to heat up. Did Cuba fire on the plane for entering its air space? To confound matters further, the black box flight recorders seem to have been tampered with; the last several minutes have been erased.

Kat Bronsky, an FBI agent who is also a specialist in terrorism, is on assignment in Hong Kong while delivering a seminar on the latest in antiterrorist protocol. While there she's sought out by Robert MacCabe, a journalist claiming to know inside information regarding the cause of the MD-11 crash. While Kat has nothing to do with that particular investigation, she's willing to hear MacCabe out.

Suddenly MacCabe, who has barely begun to tell Kat what he knows, is attacked by two assassins and barely escapes. Promising to tell the rest of his story to Kat back in Los Angeles, MacCabe boards a Boeing 747-400. When a bizarre explosion shortly after takeoff kills the captain and leaves the copilot blinded, the crew and passengers of the 747 must work together in order to overcome their dire situation and get the plane safely back on the ground. While MacCabe struggles 30,000 feet in the air to aid in whatever way he can, Kat is given the task of investigating the phantom Global Express aircraft seen in the skies just before the explosion. As each battles to stay alive in the midst of a growing conspiracy, Kat and McCabe sail closer to the answers that they seek. But will the answers come in time to save MacCabe and 300 innocent others from a horrible fate?

Compelling, nonstop action makes Blackout a genuine page-turning, breathtaking shocker. While the lives of various passengers are touched upon, characterization takes a back seat to the forward momentum of the gripping story line. Still, we do grow to become involved with those put into horrendous jeopardy, so that each travail and horror endured on board affects us as well.

Nance's natural fluidity of voice is what holds this tightly woven tale together. The surrounding elements of a conspiracy capable of taking out aircraft in the middle of flight are engaging and terrifying, with Nance never letting up on the throttle of his narrative speed. If you're looking for a single-sitting read, Blackout is guaranteed to keep you grounded in your seat for the duration.

—Tom Piccirilli

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Arguably the king of the modern-day aviation thriller, Nance is in top form in this white-knuckle adventure about terrorism and heroism in the air and on land. From the jungles of Vietnam to the forests around Seattle and on several harrowing plane trips in between, FBI Agent Kat Bronsky and Washington Post reporter Robert MacCabe investigate why American jumbo jets are falling out of the sky. All the crashes have striking similarities: pilots were either killed or left blind by bright flashes that exploded just in front of the cockpit while the planes were in midair. Equally confusing is the appearance, then disappearance, of a corporate jet in the vicinity of all the crashes. And whoever is orchestrating the fatal air campaign has neither taken credit nor made any demands. After weathering many attempts on their lives by a shadowy terrorist group, Bronsky and MacCabe finally figure out what's happening: the terrorists are using a special ray gun stolen from the government to disable airplanes in flight. Their intent is to cause so much panic in the travel industry that it will disable the U.S. airline fleet. But why? The author's seventh aviation thriller (Pandora's Clock; The Lost Hostage) features, as usual, a completely new cast of characters who mix like old friends and enemies amid the non-stop action, never-say-die theatrics and stealth conspiracies. While the silly romance between MacCabe and Bronsky should have been jettisoned on takeoff, Nance continues to craft brilliantly hair-raising in-flight emergency scenes and brings this turbulent ride to a rousing, well-developed finale that comes together smoothly on final approach. Author tour. (Feb.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Here, aviation analyst, former commercial pilot, and novelist Nance plunges readers into a terrying nosedive as Sea Air Flight 122, an MD-11, drops precipitously and inexplicably from the sky, killing all aboard. Investigate journalist Robert MacCabe has information implicating an unknown terrorist group that has made him its next target and is willing to bring down a 747 to keep him from unmasking the people behind a secret weapon of devastating force. For help, MacCabe turns to FBI agent Kat Bronsky (heroine of Nance's The Last Hostage), and soon they find themselves in a deadly race to learn the truth, while elements of the government (CIA? FBI?) seem arrayed against them. Nance is at his best in several gripping flight sequences, particularly that of a doomed 747. Though the situations are sometimes implausible and the characters are thin, the melodramatic action, bolstered by an ever-increasing threat, will propel readers at breakneck speed to the final confrontation. For all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/01/99.]-Ronnie H. Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson
School Library Journal
YA-Opening with a Boeing 747 rising from the Hong Kong airport, this gripping novel grabs readers from the first page. Within minutes, a flash of light illuminates the cockpit, blinds the pilot, and causes the jet to plummet, killing everyone onboard. Kat Bronsky, an FBI agent and terrorism specialist, is called in to investigate. Questions soon arise as to the involvement of outside forces. When another commercial jet suffers the same fate, Kat finds that other government agencies are asking questions as well as covering up information. Readers are taken on a spine-tingling adventure as passengers in yet another doomed jet struggle to save themselves and discover that someone does not want any witnesses. Thus, Agent Bronsky and the remaining survivors must go on the run. They cannot trust anyone except themselves as there appear to be governmental leaks, and several attempts are made on their lives. Bronsky tracks the mystery from the Orient, across the Pacific to the American Northwest where readers are treated to vivid descriptions of both the varying landscapes and cultural influences. A fast-paced adventure with many ups and downs ending in a surprise, edge-of-your-seat showdown.-Anita Short, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

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Read an Excerpt


Aboard SeaAir 122, in flight,
over the Gulf of Mexico,
180 miles southwest of Tampa, Florida
11:43 A.M. local/1643 Zulu

Karen Briant suppressed a smile as she watched Jim Olson struggle. His athletic body was stretched to its six-foot limit, his jeans just inches from her face as he stood on tiptoe and yanked again at the door of the overhead compartment. It opened at last, and she heard him unzip his carry-on bag and rummage around. He grunted with satisfaction and reclosed the bag before looking down at her.

"Good. I feel better now," he said, snapping the compartment shut.

"And what, exactly," she began as he slid back into the window seat, "were you afraid you'd forgotten, Sir?" She ruffled her shoulder-length auburn hair and looked at him with mock suspicion. "Not another self-indulgent gift from Victoria's Secret, I hope?" Another bikini would be too much. She was already feeling overexposed in the revealing sundress that he'd bought for her.

He smirked and shook his head in response as he scanned the right wing of the huge three-engine Boeing/McDonnell-Douglas MD-11 jetliner, noting the towering cumulus clouds in the distance. He turned back to her sparkling green eyes, his laugh coming easily. It was a feature of him she particularly treasured.

"Not important, young lady," he said, tuning out a routine PA announcement.

"Sure it's important!" Karen coaxed. "When I agree to spend a week in the Canary Islands with a man, I want to make sure he's got the right stuff."

"How do you mean, 'right stuff'?" Jim asked, raising his eyebrows.

"Well, you're a pilot, and pilots are supposed to pack the right stuff, right?"

"I'm an airline pilot, not Chuck Yeager."

"Maybe that's not the 'stuff' I'm talking about. You obviously have something in that bag up there you were worried about leaving."

"And now I'm not," Jim said, suppressing the urge to give her the engagement ring now as he rode the small wave of relief that he hadn't left it back in Houston.

No, he cautioned himself. It all depends on this week together.

He had to be sure.

She squeezed his hand and chuckled as Jim looked out the window, mentally calculating the distance to the line of 60,000-foot-high cumulonimbus clouds towering over the Gulf of Mexico to the north of the jetliner's course. He wondered what the pilots were seeing on radar. The small but vicious hurricane north of that line was threatening New Orleans, but they should slip safely to the south of it-according to his check of the weather map a few hours ago.

Relax, for crying out loud! Jim told himself. This isn't even your airline! Besides, we're on vacation. They can handle it just fine without me.

He squeezed Karen's hand in return, breathing in the soft hint of her perfume and letting a warm tingle of anticipation wash over him.

This was going to be a wonderful week.

Key West Naval Air Station, Florida
11:43 A.M. local/1643 Zulu

Retired Chief Master Sergeant Rafe Jones looked up from the complex instruments of the mobile test van he operated under civilian contract for the Air Force. He squinted through his sunglasses, trying to focus on the aging F-106 fighter/interceptor as it sat at the far end of the runway, its image undulating in the heat, waiting for his remote control team to start the takeoff.

Rafe took a deep breath, savoring the signature aroma of the Gulf of Mexico wafting in on a hint of fresh salt air, the heat a balmy pleasure. He double-checked the data link between the mobile control van and the aircraft, satisfied it was steady on all channels. His mouth was dry again, and not for want of water. This was the part that always unnerved him: launching a full-sized pilotless airplane over a populated area with nothing to keep it safe but a data stream of radioed commands. Sometimes the F-106 target drones his team operated carried a live Air Force safety pilot, but today only a dummy crammed full of sensors occupied the cockpit.

He glanced at Randy and Bill, the flight techs who controlled the jet.

"Rafe, what's the holding fix again?" Randy asked on the interphone.

"Fluffy intersection, about thirty miles south," Rafe answered, mentally picturing the specially created MOA-Military Operations Area.

"Isn't that awful close to Uncle Fidel's turf?"

"We know nothing," Rafe said, smiling. "We have no reason to confirm or deny our intention to irritate Havana."

"Yeah, right," Randy replied. "Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more."

The tower controller cleared the F-106 team for departure. Rafe nodded to his team and watched Bill push the throttle to full power in preparation for brake release.

Aboard SeaAir 122, in flight,
230 miles south of Tampa
11:43 A.M. local/1701 Zulu

The staccato pulse of lightning from the angry clouds to the north flickered through the left-hand windows of the MD-11, riveting Karen's attention and stiffening her back. Jim could feel her left hand tighten on the armrest as she turned to look.

"We're a safe distance to the south," he reassured her, momentarily puzzled by an incongruous flash of lightning from the right side of the cabin. The MD-11 suddenly rolled sharply to the left. The bank reversed itself as quickly, and the nose came up.

Obviously he punched off the autopilot and the bird was out of trim, he thought. Jim glanced at Karen, feeling uneasy.

"Must be a buildup just ahead, Honey," he said, forcing a smile. "The flight crew was probably debating which way to go around it and changed their minds. We'd all like to be smoother on the controls."

The bank angle was past thirty degrees now, which was the normal maximum for a jetliner.

But why is it increasing?

The nose pitched up as if they were climbing, but more power would be needed to climb, and the whine of the engines hadn't increased. Another sudden roll, this time to the left, and the nose was coming down.

Jim felt himself get lighter as the flight controls were pushed forward up in the cockpit. He felt a cold chill up his spine as he tried to recall what normal maneuvers would cause such gyrations.

There were none. It wasn't normal.

Jim glanced toward the right wing, puzzled by the complete absence of clouds in that direction. There had been lightning out there.

"Jim?" Karen began, her voice tight. She sat forward in her seat, aware of the increasing slipstream as the nose continued to drop and the airspeed built.

There were voices around them now, acknowledging the shared concern, a communal rumble accompanied by alarmed glances. The MD-11 steepened its left bank, the nose dropping more, the speed rising, the huge jetliner turning sharply toward the thunderstorm to the north.

"Jim, what's he doing up there?" Karen asked, her face ashen, her hand now squeezing the blood out of his. His answer stalled in the back of his mind as he fumbled for his seat belt. "Stay here. I'm going to the cockpit."

She said nothing, letting his hand slide reluctantly from hers as he rose from the seat and pulled away, glancing back for a second, noting how beautiful she was.

The MD-11's roll had reversed back to the right. The nose was coming back up slightly, but the control movements had become jerky and excessive, as if the pilots were fighting the aircraft. Jim moved forward quickly, his eyes on the cockpit door some eighty feet away, aware that his intervention in another airline's affairs would be unwelcome. He could see two flight attendants ahead of him, their eyes betraying concern, their professional smiles trying to mask it.

The growing asymmetrical G-force was pulling him off balance, pushing him into the row of seats to the right. Jim fought to stand upright, but the cabin was heeling over like a yacht about to capsize in a gale, the MD-11's right turn obviously uncoordinated, as someone's foot pushed the left rudder pedal.

What the hell? Jim thought. There were gasps of fear around him as he struggled to keep moving forward. Something was very wrong, but it couldn't be loss of control. The flight controls were operating but being jerked in crazy directions.

He moved with urgency, supporting his weight on the seat backs, his hands brushing the heads of startled passengers. In the galley ahead he could hear plates and utensils sliding and clattering, some spilling from the service carts as a wide-eyed young blonde in a flight attendant's uniform spotted him.

"Sir!" Her hand shot out, the palm extended. "SIR! Take your seat immediately and fasten your seat belt!" She moved into the aisle to block him.

"I'm a pilot!" he said, regretting the lame response.

"I don't care, Sir . . ." she began, stopping in midsentence as the gravity went fully to zero and she floated up before his eyes toward the ceiling.

Ahead of Jim, two dozen shafts of sunlight stabbed across the first-class cabin from each window and moved vertically from low to high as the aircraft rolled to the right. He grabbed the bulkhead and propelled himself past the flight attendant like an astronaut, his peripheral vision picking up the ocean's surface through the windows.

We're inverted! The potentially fatal fact was merely a benchmark in an impossibly bizarre sequence. His entire being focused on the cockpit door less than thirty feet ahead. The door would be locked. He had to get there, get in, and stop whatever was happening!

The huge MD-11 was still rolling, coming back right side up as gravity once again claimed the occupants of the cabin, and people and service carts and flight attendants crashed to the floor. Ahead of him half the overhead compartments had popped open, spilling their contents into the air, pummeling the passengers below.

An elderly woman had floated up from her seat during the zero-G maneuver, then crashed painfully to the floor. Her body was blocking the aisle ahead as Jim tried to step over her and tripped. The G-forces increased as the scream of the high-speed airflow outside rose, forcing the nose up as they continued to roll, undoubtedly hurtling now toward the surface of the Gulf of Mexico.

Jim's hands clawed for a seat back, raking across a man's head in the process. There were sharp cries of fear from all around him. Once more he pulled with all his might, launching himself through the air and slamming into the back of the cockpit door with a painful thud. He pulled frantically at it and found it locked, as expected.

Time had dilated, seconds moving past like minutes, the feeling of running from a horror and getting nowhere overwhelming him. There was no way to tell if they were upside down or right side up, but they were diving, with only seconds left.

Jim braced his feet against the doorjamb and pulled.

It wouldn't budge.

He pulled again, harder, but the lock was too strong.

The airspeed increased. They couldn't be more than 10,000 feet above the surface. The whine of the slipstream was deafening. A mental snapshot of his bride-to-be alone in the cabin behind him drove him on. He tightened his grip on the door handle, willed himself beyond the limits, and heaved backward, feeling an explosion of pain in his hands as the rising, screaming sound of nearly supersonic flight washed out all other sensations.

The door broke open and he forced himself into the cockpit in time to see the windscreen fill with the sight of white caps and blue water as the MD-11 traversed the last few yards to the surface in the space of his last heartbeat.

Reprinted from Blackout by John J. Nance by permission of Putnam Pub. Group, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 by John J. Nance. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

Meet the Author

John J. Nance, aviation analyst for ABC News and a familiar face on Good Morning America, is the author of several bestselling novels including Fire Flight, Skyhook, Turbulence, and Orbit. Two of his novels, Pandora’s Clock and Medusa’s Child, have been made into highly successful television miniseries. A lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, Nance is a decorated pilot veteran of Vietnam and Operations Desert Storm/Desert Shield. He lives in Washington State.

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Blackout 4.5 out of 5 based on 1 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought the book was incredible, being the first aeronautical book I have read. It kept me exited from beginning to end, I couldn't put it down. I also loved the way the setting would switch from place to another. It is one of the best books I have ever read. It was an outstanding book all around.
Anonymous 2 days ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am only 13 years old and i hate to read and i had to read a book for school and i picked blackout and i loved it I finished the book in five days! it was so suspensful. I would definately recommend this book to everyone! biggest and best book i have ever read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If anyone had written a book like this, other than an airline pilot, I would have thought Hollywood and no way. With six years of Air Force and twelve years airline experience behind me I can usually shoot holes in any plot steeped with inaccuracies. Not so with books written by John Nance. The guy knows is stuff. In this story a teenager ends up flying a 'whale' (airline speak for 747) aided by an African American who I pictured as Whoopi Goldberg. The premis for the eventual crash of the 747 was a blinding light with kills one of the pilots and blinds the other. Hence the need for a flight simulator trained teenager to sit in acting as the pilots eyes. This ploy almost worked. The whale did crash and all the passengers died, but the kid, Whoopi, and the pilot lived. Long story short. An excellent book. Well told. If you like high flying thrillers then fly right out and land your own copy of Blackout.
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Nance has once again done a wonderful job with a fast-paced aviation thriller. His aviation expertise gives the book a crystal clear ring of authority. Thanks for the excellent read, Mr. Nance.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was very neat on how every thing came together at the end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great writing!! Could not put the book down. Full of action from beginning to end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Book reads well but Nance does not think through his story line. Most notable error: FBI agent on the run in Hawaii, You are looking for a secure place, so you try to fly back to Anderson, and you dont even rember Pearl..... It sould be 4 star reading, had Nance paid attention to where he put his people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's a book you can not possibly put down. Action packed from the first page to the last. Five star material. I can't wait until the movie comes out!
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the 747 off to the final showdown this book is heartstopper. You just can't stop reading it. Takes you from gripping scene to the next so fast it leaves you breathless.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story and setting is perfect..along with John Nance who is one of the best authors..the story is in Hong kong ,Hawaii,Sea-Tac(wich was from one of his other stories)..but all i can say is that i give it 9stars..and all of his other books that too!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The scary thing about this novel is that its basic premise is possible and perhaps likely in the not too distant future. Maybe Nance's objective is to reveal the potential to citizens and their politicians with the hope of getting preventative actions established---or at the very least--- some planned response when all hell breaks loose! John J Nance puts together some great characters to help Kat in her super-FBI role. They all played out what I thought were real-life reactions to the incredible stressors placed on them. Some of the action sequences left me running a little low on oxygen --- that is until I started to breathe again! It's a terrific read folks!
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a commercial pilot myself, I tend to seek out novels that involve the field of aviation. John Nance did it again in Blackout. As with his other novels, I could not put this book down once I started it. Blackout kept me on the edge of my seat until the end. The only disappointing thing I could think of is that I will have to wait another 2 years until Mr. Nance releases his next thriller.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As usual, John Nance is the master when he describes an airline disaster. Unfortunately, in Blackout his characters are so poorly developed and, in particular, his dialogue rings SO untrue that they completely outweigh the suspense Nance tries to maintain throughout the book. Usually I am not that critical of these factors as long as the plot is very strong. This is definitely not the case in Blackout. As a matter of fact, because of these factors I had to give up on this book with over 100 pages still to go. Save yourself from this disaster and thrill yourself with another book! I'd highly recommned Peter Blauner's Man Of The Hour.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great, it kept the action going and kept you guessing until the end. Nance is always a sure bet for a thriller. It's always great to keep following characters from other books, like Kat Bronsky from The Lost Hostage. I would highly reccommend this book top anyone who wants a great read, just block off a couple of hours because once you start you'll want to finish.
harstan More than 1 year ago
In Hong Kong, FBI Agent Kat Bronsky and Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Robert McCabe wonder where do you go when there is no place to hide from people chasing after you? McCabe believes he has a partial answer to what caused Sea Air Flight 122 to crash in the Gulf of Mexico, killing over two hundred people. He is convinced that a terrorist act caused the disaster, but has no proof. Kat thinks McCabe has the evidence to prove his assertion. She plans to fly back to Washington with him, but at the last moment is called off the plane.

They agree to meet, but a bizarre incident happens. The pilot of the plane McCabe is flying dies and the co-pilot goes blind. The plane crashes in Viet Nam with only six survivors. Kat rescues them even as the saboteurs give chase. These unknown assailants seem to always be one step ahead of Kat, as if they are being fed insider information from the top. Still, Kat thinks McCabe knows something critical even if he is unaware of its importance because he is the target that she must keep safe.

John J. Nance is renowned for his pulse pounding thrillers that always take the audience along for one heck of a ride. His latest tale, BLACKOUT, is another triumph for an author with one of the last decade¿s best résumé. The graphic story line feels so believable that many frequent flyers will take the bus just as many moviegoers avoided beaches after Jaws. The engaging characters gain empathy, as what happens to McCabe and Kat seems important to the reader. Mr. Nance provides his fans with an electrifying tale that shows how talented he is.

Harriet Klausner