The Last Hostage

The Last Hostage

by John J. Nance

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504027960
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 01/19/2016
Series: Kat Bronsky Thrillers , #1
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 92,722
File size: 895 KB

About the Author

John J. Nance is the author of thirteen novels whose suspenseful storylines and authentic aviation details have led Publishers Weekly to call him the “king of the modern-day aviation thriller.” Two of his novels, Pandora’s Clock and Medusa’s Child, were made into television miniseries. He is well known to television viewers as the aviation analyst for ABC News. As a decorated air force pilot who served in Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm and a veteran commercial airline pilot, he has logged over fourteen thousand hours of flight time and piloted a wide variety of jet, turboprop, and private aircraft. Nance is also a licensed attorney and the author of seven nonfiction books, including On Shaky Ground: America’s Earthquake Alert and Why Hospitals Should Fly, which, in 2009, won the American College of Healthcare Executives James A. Hamilton Award for book of the year. Visit him online at www.johnnanceassociates.com.

Read an Excerpt

The Last Hostage


By John J. Nance

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1998 John J. Nance
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-2796-0


CHAPTER 1

Aboard AirBridge Flight 90, Colorado Springs International Airport, Gate 8. 9:26 A.M.


The captain was late.

Annette Baxter, the lead flight attendant on AirBridge Flight 90 to Phoenix, tossed back her shoulder-length red hair and studied her watch as she turned toward the cockpit. She could see the copilot's left hand adjusting things on the overhead panel as he ran through his preflight procedures, but she could see that the left seat — the captain's seat — was still empty.

As small as AirBridge was, there always seemed to be a new pair of pilots up front on every other leg. Annette paused and closed her eyes briefly, trying to recall the copilot's name. He was barely in his mid-twenties and already a two-year veteran of AirBridge, sandy-haired and almost too cute to be acting like such a gentleman. Yet he had shaken her hand on boarding and greeted her with perfect formality. She'd had to suppress a giggle.

David! David Gates, like the musician. She smiled to herself. The real David Gates was closer to her generation. Probably even a grandfather by now. This right-seater was just a kid. She leaned into the tiny cockpit and gestured to the empty captain's seat.

"David, who's our captain today, and is he planning on joining us sometime before takeoff, or is he going to meet us in Phoenix?"

The young copilot looked around with a startled, defensive expression, and she held out her hand in a stop gesture.

"I'm kidding! I've got a weird sense of humor. You'll get used to it."

"I'm sure he's on his way," Gates said with obvious caution. "I saw him in operations."

"Oh, good. I was worried he might be stuck in traffic, or something worse." She patted his shoulder, cautioning herself not to act too motherly. She refused to think of herself as motherly. "I'm not panicked. I'm well aware we've still got twenty or thirty seconds before we're late and our airline goes bankrupt as a direct result."

There was a tentative smile from the right-seater.

She tossed her hair again and leaned in farther. "So, who is the supreme commander today?"

"Captain Wolfe."

She paused involuntarily. "Ken Wolfe?"

"Yes ... you know Ken?" he asked.

She nodded, her eyes focused outside the copilot's window. "We've flown together many times. How about you?"

Gates nodded. "Several times." He watched her carefully, but added no more.

Annette looked at him and straightened up with a thin smile. "Well, if Ken slips in without my seeing him, tell him I'll be up shortly, and tell him we've got a legal celebrity aboard today in first class. In the back, however, we have a well-dressed 'Mikey.' He hates everything. I expect him to be trouble."

"You need me to come back and talk to him?"

She shook her head, trying not to smile at the image of the baby-faced five-foot-nine first officer reading the riot act to the very senior, very demanding, very self-important stuffed shirt in 6C.

"No, it's not that bad, yet. I can handle him with whips and chairs. I just need to brief the captain."

"Who's the celebrity?" the copilot asked.

"It's a surprise. I'll brief both of you later."

"What's a surprise?" A deep male voice filled her left ear as Annette turned to find Ken Wolfe standing in the cockpit door.

"Ken! Good to see you. I was just ..." she gestured toward the copilot as she realized she was blocking his way. "Here ... let me move into the galley."

"You were talking about a surprise?"

She nodded. "I'll let you get settled, then I'll tell you."

He smiled and nodded as he moved into the cockpit. He placed his flight bag to the left of the captain's chair and turned to greet the copilot with a handshake before sitting down.

Ken Wolfe let his eyes move with practiced familiarity around the cockpit as he completed the mental transition to airline captain, his mind focused exclusively on the task of orchestrating an airline flight. It was a comforting ritual, the copilot briefing, the flight attendant briefing, the cockpit setups, and the paperwork duties. Even the presence of a malcontent businessman in coach as reported by Annette had an element of comfort about it — a business-as-usual veneer.

"You need me to come back and talk to the man?" Ken asked.

"David, here, made the same offer," she replied, arching her thumb at the copilot. "No, but something tells me our long-suffering passenger will feel even more deprived if he doesn't succeed in having a really bad day. He wants a meal, not peanuts, he hates our coffee, he doesn't like the 'feel' of the seats, he's angry I told him to turn off his cellular phone, and he's upset I won't let him keep his briefcase at his feet during takeoff."

"Oh, is that all?" Ken replied, forcing a smile. "Any idea who the S.O.B. is?"

She smiled and nodded. "His name is Blenheim. The jerk runs a Canadian Rockies bus tour outfit in Seattle. He's sort of a travel agent, and he's livid because we didn't give him first class for free. But, to balance the equation, we've got a celebrity legal eagle in first class who's a real gentleman. That's the surprise."

The captain looked puzzled. "I'm sorry ... who're you talking about?"

"Well-l-l," Annette stretched the word and handed the man's business card to the captain as if it were a trophy.

Ken smiled at her before looking down at the gold seal that adorned the upper left-hand corner. It was the logo of the United States Department of Justice. His eyes moved to the clear, black type in the middle of the card. He blinked and looked again.

"Rudolph Bostich."

"I read earlier this week," Annette was saying, "that he's the front-runner for Attorney General of the United States. The President is supposed to be submitting his name to Congress this week."

She watched the captain for a few seconds, puzzled at his silence. "You okay?"

All the blood had drained from Wolfe's face, and the hand holding the card was shaking slightly. Annette heard him take a ragged breath and swallow hard.

"I'm okay, Annette. Just a scratch in the throat," he said in a strained monotone before looking back at her suddenly, modulating his words. "Where is ... Mr. Bostich?" He smiled a partial smile that wasn't real, his eyes vacant and distracted.

"He's in seat One-A, Ken. Should I relay a message or something?"

"No!" Wolfe handed back the business card as if it were a spider and shook his head vigorously, his response sharp. "No, please don't."

She started to say something else, then backed through the cockpit door in alarm as Ken suddenly threw off his seatbelt and lunged toward her, questioning through tight lips, "Anyone in there?" with a quick gesture toward the forward lavatory located just behind the cockpit.

Annette glanced at the lavatory door in confusion. "It's empty," she managed, but he was already brushing past her to slip inside. His face was pasty.

She heard the lock slide into place, followed immediately by the sound of vomiting.

CHAPTER 2

Aboard AirBridge Flight 90. 9:44 A.M.


With a late departure behind them, first officer David Gates made the 'flaps up' call as the powerful 737 climbed southbound a thousand feet above the suburbs of Colorado Springs, soaring into the clear blue sky with an amazing view of Pike's Peak on his right.

This was David's leg, and he relished the chance to fly the Boeing and revel in the feel of her — yet a corner of his consciousness was working on the problem of what in the world had been going on with the captain back at the gate.

"Roger, flaps up," Ken Wolfe repeated. "I'm setting speed two-ten knots, and level change."

Even his voice sounded different now. Not exactly carefree, but calm and collected, where he'd sounded haunted and distracted just minutes before.

Why? Just because a national figure had come on board?

But Gates just couldn't get the captain's sudden trip to the lav out of his mind. Departure time had come and gone, but the captain had remained inside. David had left his seat then and tapped on the lavatory door to ask if everything was all right. The captain's pained voice from within had been really unsettling — more of an agonized whine than a voice. David was prepared to alert crew scheduling that they might have a sick pilot to replace when the lav door opened suddenly and Ken Wolfe emerged, looking strangely fit and serene. He'd smiled at his copilot and slipped back into the left seat as if nothing had happened.

"Are you okay, Captain?" David had asked.

Wolfe had looked at him, his eyes staring right through the copilot for several uncomfortable seconds before he smiled a sort of determined, jaw-setting smile, and motioned toward the back with his thumb. "I feel better now, David. Better than I've felt in years."

"Good. I was getting worried."

"Sometimes," Ken began, "God gives us strange and wonderful opportunities, don't you think?"

The voice of the Denver Center controller cut into David's thoughts.

"AirBridge Ninety, Denver Center, good morning. Turn right now to a heading of two-six-zero, climb to and maintain flight level three-three-zero."

Instinctively, David's finger caressed the transmit button in case the captain failed to reply. Most AirBridge copilots were used to Wolfe not responding to radio calls, even though the captain was supposed to be talking to the controllers whenever it was the copilot's turn to fly. Throughout his yearlong tenure at AirBridge, Ken was often moody, often distracted, some days saying almost nothing, other days talking nonstop. He was courteous enough, but the unpredictability of his moods had become an uncomfortable legend, and flying with him meant extra stress.

But today, Ken's voice replied instantly. "Okay, Denver, a heading of two-six-zero and up to three-three-zero for AirBridge Ninety."

David engaged the autopilot and checked the settings on the auto-flight panel. They were moving at two hundred fifty knots now, almost five miles per minute, beginning the familiar trek over Durango, Colorado, and Four Corners to Phoenix.

David glanced over at the captain, wondering again about Ken's state of mind. He knew the captain had been hired as the new airline expanded, and he knew Ken came from Connecticut. Other than that, Captain Wolfe's background was a blank.

David realized the captain was looking back at him with what appeared to be a relaxed smile.

"You wondering why we're carrying a full load of fuel this morning?" he asked.

"We're tankering because it costs more in Phoenix than in Colorado Springs?"

Ken nodded as he returned his gaze to the instruments. "Yeah. But this is nuts to have more than four hours fuel aboard out of the Springs."

He looked back at the copilot. "David, have you flown this particular aircraft recently?"

The copilot shook his head, as much to clear away the disturbing thoughts as to reply. "No, I don't think so."

"So, you're not aware of the oil leak problem we've been having on number two engine?"

David Gates looked cornered. There had been nothing in the log book about number two engine, but it wasn't unusual for AirBridge pilots to verbally pass on maintenance concerns that probably should have been entered in the maintenance log. Not a legal procedure, but all too common in smaller airlines, or so he'd heard. AirBridge was his first airline.

"I ... hadn't heard about any oil leak, and the maintenance log showed nothing. I'm sorry if I missed something."

Ken looked up at the overhead panel and reached for the FASTEN SEATBELT switch. He cycled it twice, sending a two-chime signal to the cabin crew indicating their passage through ten thousand feet, then glanced back at the right-seater.

"You didn't miss anything. No one has written it up yet, including me, but we're all suspicious. Either a main oil seal is going, or something else is happening out there. Last week it started making strange noises in flight and I seriously considered shutting it down."

David was silent for a few seconds, the image of the powerful CFM-56 jet engine hanging in his mind. "The engine instruments didn't give you any indication of what's wrong?"

Ken shook his head and shrugged his shoulders, "Not a clue. We'll just have to watch it closely."


On the flight attendant jumpseat by the forward entry door, Annette glanced at a small panel of colored lights on the ceiling and shook her head in disgust. Just after the ten thousand foot chimes, someone had already punched a passenger call button.

She leaned over to see around the forward cabin divider — just as the man in 6C reached for the call button again.

Annette took her time unbuckling her seatbelt and folding the aft-facing seat before moving quietly through the first class cabin into coach and kneeling beside the man's seat.

"You called, sir?" she asked in quiet, discreet tones.

The man's voice boomed back at her, loud enough to be heard in the forward section of the coach cabin.

"Does it meet with your royal approval now, madam, that I get up and get my computer out of the overhead so I can get some work done?" he asked in a demeaning tone. "I could also use a vodka tonic, if it wouldn't be too much trouble to ask you to do your job."

Annette looked at the carpet for a few seconds and cleared her throat, before looking back up at him.

"You'll have a chance to order a drink in a few minutes when the other flight attendants begin their service, sir. Right now, the seatbelt sign is still on and I must ask you to stay seated. I'll get your briefcase down for you, though, if you'll answer a question for me."

"What?" There was sudden suspicion in his eyes.

"Have you ever flown commercially before?"

Several passengers in nearby seats suppressed smiles, one actually chuckling out loud at her question.

He leaned back and snorted to emphasize a practiced look of disgust as he checked a large, gold wristwatch. A Rolex, she noted.

"That's an inane question, woman! I own a tour company. I fly commercially all the time."

Annette nodded. "Well, anyone who's in the travel business and who uses this airline system on a regular basis should be aware of a few basic procedures, such as all the rules you seem to be angry with me for enforcing."

The man came forward in his seat, his eyebrows raised, his squarish face turning slightly purple. "How dare you lecture me?" he said in a loud, outraged tone.

Annette smiled at him. "And how dare you fly on a discounted ticket and beat up on me for not giving you first class?"

"That does it. When I get to a phone in Phoenix, sweetheart, you're toast!"

"Why wait?" Annette said as sweetly as she could manage. "There's a phone in your armrest. In the meantime, if you undo that seatbelt before the light's out, the first officer will come back with a set of plastic handcuffs and we'll have the FBI meet you in Phoenix. Understand?"

Annette ignored the man's obscene retort and walked back to the first class galley, pulling the curtain behind her before turning off the smile and clenching her fists in the privacy of the small cubicle. There was no point in bothering Ken Wolfe with the latest installment of the man's temper tantrums. In little more than an hour the boor would be off the airplane anyway, and then she could spend her ground time writing a report to cover herself when the inevitable "fire-the-bitch-or-else" letter arrived in AirBridge headquarters.


"Did you feel that?"

Ken Wolfe's face was a mask of concern as he looked at his copilot.

"What?"

"That vibration? It's faint, but repetitious."

David cocked his head and closed his eyes for a few seconds, trying to discern what the captain was sensing amid all the normal vibrations of a jetliner in flight. His eyes came open just as quickly.

"I ... don't feel anything unusual, but ..."

"You may not be attuned to that particular range of vibration," Ken offered.

"Maybe not. Was it a ratcheting?"

Ken nodded. "Yes, but very faint. It happens every few seconds. There! Feel that?"

David looked even more concerned than before. "I don't ... well, maybe."

"In the background," Ken prompted, "a kind of distant grinding or growling, coming and going."

"Yes! I do feel it," David replied.

Wolfe nodded as he leaned over the center console to study the engine instruments, then looked up.

"Okay, I need you to go back quietly and take a look at the engines through the cabin windows. Look at the front and the tailpipe area, and see if you see anything unusual."

David nodded and left quickly, closing the cockpit door behind him, as Ken studied the instruments, paying particular attention to the oil pressure, then suddenly pulled out the emergency checklist. He opened it to the tab marked "Precautionary Engine Shutdown" and scanned the items, then reached up and pulled back the throttle for number two engine.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Last Hostage by John J. Nance. Copyright © 1998 John J. Nance. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Interviews

On Monday, February 9, barnesandnoble.com welcomed John J. Nance, author of THE LAST HOSTAGE.


Moderator from barnesandnoble.com: Good evening, and welcome back to the barnesandnoble.com Auditorium.

John J. Nance: Thank you, it's wonderful to be here. I have been having a great deal of fun learning the ropes of online chats in the past year and a half, and have been looking forward to this. Fire away!



Rory from Florida: Hello, Mr. Nance. I read PANDORA'S CLOCK and MEDUSA'S CHILD (I own both of them), and I must say that it is a honor to speak to the man that placed a virus aboard a Boeing 747 (my favorite airplane) and a nuclear bomb aboard a 727. I have two questions for you 1) Is there any place where I can obtain a copy of the "Pandora's Clock" miniseries? I checked the Blockbusters in my area and I can't find any copy of it. 2)Why was the "Medusa's Child" miniseries so different from the book? Thanks a bunch!!!!

John J. Nance: Hello, Rory! Good questions in good political fashion. Let me take the second one first and the first one second. MEDUSA'S CHILD, like all of my books when translated to screen, are filtered through the minds of screenwriters familiar with the TV genre. In the case of MEDUSA'S CHILD, I had a wonderful writer -- now friend -- named Ellen Westin, whose long experience in translating books to screen was very faithful originally to the book, but who like all TV screenwriters had to change the script due ot a combination of network orders and the realities of budget. Specifically, we lost the carrier landing due to the refusal of the director to use a more economical method of re-creating the end of the book. I felt that the resulting film was very good -- and I was, in fact, the technical adviser on it -- but we're always going to see a different story in essence and characters when translated to the small screen. I was proud of the fact that with only a few exceptions, it was technically very accurate, even to the "callouts" that the pilots give to each other during flight. Stay tuned! I'll be an executive producer of the next one, with a little more ability to keep it faithful to the book. Now, the first question, Where can you get a copy of "Pandora's Clock" in videotape?" From NBC directly. Unfortunatley, I don't have a number for you, but NBC can sell the copies directly to the public, even though tney haven't released them to video stores, yet. "Medusa's Child," unfortunately, is not yet available from ABC.



Kevin from Athens, OH: Hi, Mr. Nance. What kind of changes emerged from the shakeup to the industry that resulted from Pan Am flight 103? What about Flight 800 -- is it too early to say? Thanks, Kevin.

John J. Nance: Well, Kevin, Pan Am 103 proved beyond doubt two things. Number one, an airline that takes a flip or cavalier approach to security in a situation of international vulnerability is to be held both criminally and civilly responsible for the results of what amounts to, in legal terms (forgive me that I'm a lawyer) malfeasance. Number two, it proves as well that when an airline as formerly well loved as Pan Am deteriorates to the point of losing public trust -- which was the result of PanAm 103's revelations -- it will not be capable of surviving financially. It was a sad performance by a once-great carrier, but there was no excuse for the Pan Am attitude before 103 in Frankfurt. As for TWA 800, while we have no conclusion on what caused the spark that ignited the volatile mix of vapors in the center fuel tank, we have learned a great deal about the aging structures of large jetliners, and despite the accident, we learned that we can have a great degree of confidence in the resiliency of such airframes, as strange a conclusion as that may sound. You see, it took a massive explosion to tear that airplane apart. In fact, no similar airborne fuel-tank explosion has ever occured before, nor is it likely to ever occur again. Nevertheless, the resulting massive investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, Boeing, and many other aviation entities, have led us to the conclusion that either inerting fuel tanks with nonflammable gases or controlling the temperature of near-empty tanks, are steps that must be taken in the future. Aviation, to a greater degree than any other industry I know, learns very rapidly from its mistakes. This was a classic example of that.



Sluggo from 98dsr@williams.edu: Dear Mr. Nance This is by far your best thriller since FINAL APPROACH, and it seemed to me to resonate many similar elements of structure and style. First, where did the general idea for this one come from, and second, to what extent did you consider matching the intensity of the events in FINAL APPROACH while writing it?

John J. Nance: I appreciate very much not only the favorable comparison with FINAL APPROACH, Sluggo, but also your statement that this is my best work yet. That's precisely how I feel. What I was trying to accomplish was to once again tell an exciting human story using an aircraft as the stage (never the subject) and in doing so, to expand it into a deliciously intense psychological thriller in which the medium (the airplane) becomes transparent, and the conflict of the personalities and what they seek to accomplish respectively maintains a breakneck speed -- as it would in real life in such an incident. I have to tell you that as much as I have enjoyed my other characters in my other books, not since Joe Wallingford, Senator Kell Martinson, or his almost-lost love Cindy in FINAL APPROACH have I been so enthralled with what my characters became during the writing. I happen to feel that the Captain here, Ken Wolf, gave me the greatest opportunity I've yet had to run the full spectrum of emotions that an otherwise-controlled professional would display in a situation of such intensity. In addition, I simply love the character of Kat Bronsky -- so much so that Kat will appear in the next book as well. Ultimately, what I'm trying to accomplish is to give you a thrilling ride through projected reality against the background of my world of aviation.



Sandi from North Carolina: Thank you for a super novel. I finished it yesterday and enjoyed it even more than MEDUSA'S CHILD. I have a question for you about your last Barnes & Noble chat. In it you were asked a question about new novels, and you responded you were one-third finished with a novel named "Cassandra's Song." Did this novel evolve into THE LAST HOSTAGE?? Or, is another novel being released in 1998?? Thanks again!

John J. Nance: I'm impressed, Sandi! Not only do I appreciate the grade of "super" but am flattered that you would remember last year's appearance here to the degree of remembering the name of "Cassandra's Song." Indeed, the title simply changed, as happens often in publishing, but the book is precisely the same as the one I referenced last year. In fact, I'll share a little internal tidbit with you on this. I had the idea of perpetuating the use of mythological-based titles when I conceived that title but discarded it in recognition of the fact that this story was another leap forward, let's say, in the type of breadth and scope of the tale I wanted to tell. Looking back, however, as my wife has pointed out, if we had named the captain's murdered daughter Cassandra, the title would have fit like a glove. Bless you for remembering!



Dorian from West Springfield, MA: Hi! I thoroughly enjoyed MEDUSA'S CHILD, and I am really looking forward to reading THE LAST HOSTAGE! Keep up the great work! I stumbled upon your books only recently through a friend, and I had never read any "airplane disaster" novels before...but you seem to be the big name for this genre. My question is, was it a genre before you began writing? Did you invent it, or were you building on the works of other writers? Thanks very much!

John J. Nance: Thanks, Dorian, for the kind words about MEDUSA'S CHILD. I am sure you are going to like THE LAST HOSTAGE as well. You bring up a fascinating point. I envision myself as having planned (and you might say plotted -- no pun intended) for some years now to create this genre in the same way that Clancy created himself as a writer of techno-thrillers (with nuts and bolts in all directions), and the way John Grisham has so effectively created his unique genre against a background of southern law. I have more than a little kinship with John, however, on several fronts -- not the least of which is the fact that we are both Doubleday authors. The most important aspect, however, is that John Grisham tells galvinizing stories of ordinary individuals in extraordinary circumstances against the background of his stage of southern law. I do precisely the same thing but simply move in different scenery -- linguistic flats replete with airplanes in motion. In other words, I tell stories about people on a moving stage, but otherwise, the approach, the intensity, the pacing, and the deeply held intent to entertain and take you on a wild ride is precisely the same. Now, hey, this isn't a plea to snag John's readers, although if you like his books you'll like mine -- but it is to say that what you will not find in my books is just airplane disasters. First, last, and always, I write about people (and as my friends at Boeing can tell you, very few aerospace vehicles -- airplanes -- ever crash in my books).



Penny from Nashville, TN: In your acknowledgements, you thank FBI vet Larry Montague, who helped you make sure you represented the FBI correctly. Did you deviate from his advice anywhere in the book for the sake of the story? Where was he most helpful? What in this book is most typical of their approach?

John J. Nance: Actually, Penny, I gave Larry the entire book and asked him to please jump on me with hobnailed boots if he found anything that deviated from the bureau that he served for so long. I've got to tell you, I did so with a certain measure of trepidation because the book had already been completed at that point, using my research to date on the FBI, their people, and their methods. I was somewhat stunned and overjoyed when Larry gave it back to me with fewer than two pages of notes. My main concern had not been the procedural -- I was pretty sure I had that right. My main worry was that the relationship to the rest of the agency of a young female agent with advanced education, as in Katherine Bronsky's case (psychologist) had to be exactly right, especially since there was an obvious male expectation that a young female would foul up the assignment at that stage in her career -- an expectation that in my opinion would have stemmed in no small part from a combination of gender bias and plain old testosterone-soaked thinking. To be told by a veteran male agent that I had gotten it precisely right was very gratifying. I really wasn't looking forward to overhauling the book or recreating Kat.



Jeremy from Norfolk, NB: Was there a particular event that sparked your new novel, THE LAST HOSTAGE? Do you know of any such cases, where the pilot hijacks his own plane?

John J. Nance: Fortunately, Jeremy, I am unaware of any such case actually happening in commercial aviation. That in no way means that it could not happen if the appropriate checks and balances were not there in most of established aviation to maintain a corporate awareness of the stability and emotional health of the human beings who operate at the "sharp end" -- the crucible of the commercial cockpit. We are, after all, (in "Star Trek" terms) carbon-based units, and as such we are generically incapable of being perfect. In fact, there is no way to tell a Ken Wolf in real life -- a father who as in this case had lost so much and endured so much rage and pain -- to simply "go do your job and don't let all that bother you." We have to be constantly aware of not only our physical health but our emotional health as well, and only an airline dedicated to providing the safest and most stable air transportation system (not just rip off as much money as possible, as with Valu-Jet) can uphold such a requirement. The Ken Wolf in the story would have been grounded many months before reaching his trigger point in a stable airline, not as a punishment but in terms of getting him help. The event that sparked this book was the Oklahoma City bombing, and the introspective thought as a veteran airline pilot that all too often the enemy is within each of us and does not require the wild-eyed intervention of someone trying to make a bloody statement. The human nature of aviation and its recognition has been a revolution in the past 20 years of air safety, and that, too, guided my thinking here.



Harry from Frankfort, KY: I read that you flew in Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Desert Shield. How did the plane tactics and your role as a pilot differ in these different events? Also, can we expect a memoir from you, someday? Thanks.

John J. Nance: Great question, Harry! I flew for 23 years as a C-141 aircraft commander through (as you pointed out) two wars. Since our duties were primarily transport, we ran it like an airline with great adherence to procedures, smootheness, reiability, and getting our "client" servicemen and -women where they needed to go. To that extent, it was the same as the airline world, only the coffee was much worse, and the navigators tended to eat our lunches without permission. I doubt I would inflict a memoir on my audience, but I have for a long time had a substantial amount of background writing toward an eventual book which -- with respect to Joe Heller -- would be more in the vein of a modern CATCH-22.



Ron from Columbia, MO: When can we expect your next book? Are any more of your books be made into movies soon?

John J. Nance: My goal is to release a major thriller every year. I'm glad to say THE LAST HOSTAGE is scheduled ot be made into a four-hour ABC miniseries for release this fall, and I'm increasingly interested in working with my friends at Columbia-Tri-Star on not only bringing past stories to the screen but original work as well, written specifically for screen. A new frontier, as it were. Stay tuned!



Moderator from barnesandnoble.com: Thanks so much to John J. Nance for joining us this evening to chat about THE LAST HOSTAGE. Best of luck with your next project.

John J. Nance: Thanks everybody, very sincerely. I appreciate your readership and your comments tonight, more than you know.


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