The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijackingby Brendan I. Koerner
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
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.
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What People are saying about this
– Charles Duhigg, author of the bestselling The Power of Habit
“Brendan I. Koerner has turned an odd, nearly forgotten aerial-hijacking episode into an astonishing, hilarious, and un-put-downable true-crime narrative. I had no idea that any story could connect the Eldridge Cleaver of the Sixties with the TSA miseries of today's air travel, but The Skies Belong to Us does that and much more. This is a marvelously entertaining, instructive, and humane book.”
– James Fallows, author of China Airborne
“Besides being a can't-put-it-down page-turner and an evocative recollection of a forgotten slice of history, The Skies Belong To Us feels uncannily relevant today in its depiction of how political forces can impede rational solutions to criminal violence.” – Benjamin Wallace, author of The Billionaire’s Vinegar
Meet 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 him at www.microkhan.com and follow him at @brendankoerner.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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This book ended up being much more interesting than I originally thought it would be. The story is about a specific couple and their lives leading up to and after they complete a hijacking. Their story is not what kept my attention, it was the the overview of the hijacking era that I found to be fascinating. I had no idea how prevalent hijackings were during this time period and enjoyed reading a little snapshot into some specific stories throughout the time period. It was also interesting to see how airport security practices progressed only after a significant amount of time and hijackings.
This was a book I couldn't put down. A suspenseful combination of facts about the history of skyjacking and fictional insights into an odd interracial couple (Holder / Kerlow) who skyjacked to "free Angela Davis" (who didn't want anything to do with them). Leading up to, but not including 911, this exciting rendering of the madness of skyjacking would be extremely funny (no skyjacker ever walked away with a ransom) if it wasn't so frighteningly insane.
It was a good story but a lot about other hijacking
I found this a great read about an intricate piece of history. Well written and pertanent to our world today. Thank you to the author.
Usually with books like this (this kind of topic anyway) the author, often times, can't see the forest for the trees. Authors know their stories so well that they innundate the readers with extra trivia and minute details and these bog the reader down and make for boring reads. That's not the case here. Mr Koerner does a fantastic job of weaving together loads of facts and trivia about many different highjackings and all the while keeping the reader wanting to know what happens with two specific people. The story was interesting and told very, very well. I look forward to what more stories this guy has to tell.