In 1966, the 15-year-old author and his 17-year-old brother flew across the United States in a Piper Cub. This book recalls their adventure, from conceiving the idea, persuading their father to allow it, preparing the airplane, and taking the trip itself. As a memoir, it is enlivened by adult reflection on youthful feelings and thoughts. Buck is a skilled writer who, even at that age, was familiar with the classics of aviation literature by Saint-Exupry and Ernest Gann. His description of crossing the Rockies at Guadalupe Pass in Texas echoes the best scenes of Saint-Ex's short stories and Gann's novels. But Buck has fashioned a rite of passage, involving the important presence of the boys' father, Tom Buck, an old barnstorming pilot who, although a successful magazine editor, never forgot his glory days. Buck sensitively describes the father-sons and brother-brother relationships through the filter of intense and confused emotions of a teenager. Highly recommended for all collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/15/97; BOMC selection.]Mary Ann Parker, California Dept. of Water Resources Law Lib., Sacramento
An old-fashioned air adventure in the tradition of Charles Lindbergh's celebrated autobiography, The Spirit of St. Louis.
Buck, who has written for New York magazine, among other publications, revisits the crowning moment of his youth, the newsworthy 1966 coast-to-coast trek undertaken with his older brother, Kernahan, in a reconditioned Piper Cub. Young Kern Buck, soon after getting his pilot's license at 17, cooked up the idea of flying all the way from New Jersey to California in the two-seat, hand-crank, tailwheel airplane, which the brothers would purchase for $300 and meticulously restore over a long winter. Rinker's presence would be required as copilot and navigator in the radioless Cub. After settling on a southern route through Texas by way of Arkansas, the brothers steered "stack to stack" through the steel smog along the river mills at Pittsburgh, with overnights in Indiana, Arkansas, and Texas, reporters picking them up for interviews along the way. The memorable pass through the Rockies, near El Paso, where the pilots battled oxygen starvation as they approached the Guadalupe Pass, is the dramatic centerpiece of the book. From the distance of early middle agehe is now near the age of his father at time of the flightthe author filters his impressive tale through a prism of sympathy for the passionate, damaged man who taught his sons to fly and whose own barnstorming yarns inspired their unusual feat. Says the author, who like his brother sought a way to make a place for himself beyond the shadow of Buck Sr., "The simple audacity of our trip, our complete naiveté and nonchalance, astounds me still."
This enchanting story of youthful accomplishment, which includes masterly insider descriptions of flight, should reach a broad audience.