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Fate Is the Hunter: A Pilot's Memoir Paperback – July 2, 1986

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Editorial Reviews


"Mr. Gann is a writer saturated in his subject; he has the skill to make every instant sharp and important and we catch the fever to know that documentary writing does not often invite." (V.S. Pritchett New Statesman)

"This book is an episodic log of some of the more memorable of [the author's] nearly ten thousand hours aloft in peace and (as a member of the Air Transport Command) in war. It is also an attempt to define by example his belief in the phenomenon of luck -- that 'the pattern of anyone fate is only partly contrived by the individual.'" (The New Yorker)

"Few writers have ever drawn their readers so intimately into the shielded sanctum of the cockpit, and it is here that Mr. Gann is truly the artist." (New York Times Book Review)

"Fate Is the Hunter is partly autobiographical, partly a chronicle of some of the most memorable and courageous pilots the reader will ever encounter in print; and always this book is about the workings of fate. . . . The book is studded with characters equally as memorable as the dramas they act out." (Cornelius Ryan, author of A Bridge Too Far and The Longest Day)

"This fascinating, well-told autobiography is a complete refutation of the comfortable cliché that 'man is master of his fate.' As far as pilots are concerned, fate (or death) is a hunter who is constantly in pursuit of them. . . . There is nothing depressing about Fate Is the Hunter. There is tension and suspense in it but there is great humor too. Happily, Gann never gets too technical for the layman to understand." (Saturday Review)

"This purely wonderful autobiographical volume is the best thing on flying and the meaning of flying that we have had since Antoine de Saint-Exupéry took us aloft on his winged prose in the late 1930s and early 1940s. . . . It is a splendid and many-faceted personal memoir that is not only one man's story but the story, in essence, of all men who fly." (Chicago Sunday Tribune)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st edition (July 2, 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671636030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671636036
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (269 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,110 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 61 people found the following review helpful By Mark K. Mcdonough VINE VOICE on July 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
I'm a writer and an aviation enthusiast, not a pilot, but I'd have to rank this as one of the two best books I have read in the last decade, and far and away the best aviation book I have ever read.
This is a rare combination -- Gann not only has many wonderful yarns to spin but is a writer of truly top-drawer literary ability. As others have said, the book stands up well to repeated reading. My copy is battered and torn, but much loved.
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Peter G. Roode on February 19, 2001
Format: Paperback
This classic ought to be read by every pilot. Not only is the prose superb but along the way he treats us to his Theory of Life
He regards life as a war -- an undeclared war against fate, the fate that hunts men down. "... One can never know when, where, or how fate will strike. Yet sooner or later it does...." Blind random events without a perceptable cause. FATE.
"Tell me now,... by what ends does a man ever partially controls his fate? It is obvious ... that favorites are played, but if this is so, then how do you account for those who are ill-treated? The worship of pagan gods, which once answered all this, is no longer fashionable. Modern religions ignore the matter of fate. So we are left confused and without direction".
Gann concludes, "Perhaps we should hide in childlike visions of afterlife wherein those pronounced good may play upon harps and those pronounced evil, stoke fires?" The first chapter sets the theme of the book. A mid-air collision is averted simply because Gann chose to descend 50 ft to his assigned altitude of 5,000 a few moments before. The other plane was just a tad sloppy. In these days before ATC and radar, it was all position reports. Why did Gann chose to descend? Why was the other pilot 50 ft high? His only explanation is FATE, and it is as good an answer as any. At these times, Gann says, "... diligently acquired scientific understanding is suddenly blinded and the medieval mind returns. In describing NTSB investigations of crashes, a cause always has to be arrived at, even when the investigators privately know that the true explanation is that "...some totally unrecognizable genie has once again unbuttoned his pants and urinated on the pillars of science".
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Steven Thomson ( on July 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
I have read and re-read "Fate is the Hunter" so many times that the pages are loose and falling out. You are not just reading the best aviation book of all time, you are in the cockpit behind the master himself, as he savors the illicit thrill of a zero-zero takeoff from a fog bound Presque Isle airport in a C-47 during the war, taking a load of steel girders to Goose Bay. Just after takeoff, the girders break loose and slide to the rear of the aircraft, which starts a climb so steep that the plane is shuddering in a stall. As Gann and his co-pilot are pushing the control column forward as hard as they can with their feet a crewmember is trying to move the girders back up the near vertical floor.
Gann's writing so inspired me that I wanted to become an airline pilot, but my flying ability was just slightly better than Bixby, his inept co-pilot that almost collided with the Taj Mahal, another fascinating story later on in the book. I became a dispatcher instead, an occupation I truly loved, which was also inspired by Gann's interaction with the dispatchers of his line.
I wrote Ernest Gann at his home in Friday Harbor, Washington and tried to convey just how much I enjoyed "Fate is the Hunter" and what an impact it made on my life. I received short note from him. It was very gracious and humble, and is one of my greatest treasures.
I also highly recommend "Hostage to Fortune", a chronology of Gann's incredible life from a rebellious young man that could never follow his father into business and be chained to an office, through a lifetime of adventure, to his retirement on Red Mill Farm, on an island in the Pacific northwest.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Roddy Craig on January 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
I am pleased to see that people are still reading this wonderful book; it has long been one of my favorites. Author Ernest K. Gann is probably better known for his novels, esp. THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY, but FATE IS THE HUNTER is non-fiction, an autobiography of Gann's career as a commercial pilot. It has many memorable anecdotes and people from the early days--1930's and 40's--of aviation. We meet Hughen, a captain who brought an ice-laden DC-2 to a safe landing, and Ross, who gave the rookie Gann self-confidence by sharing take-offs and landings 50-50, regardless of weather or mechancial problems. This is a book that really takes you "inside the cockpit". Take your seat, and fasten your seatbelt. This is a "flight" you will long remember.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
First off, I am an aviation nut. I am a student pilot and aspiring ATP. For me, finding a good book let alone a good aviation book is nearly impossible. So many books are chocked full of technicalities that I either already know or don't care about. Finding a truly interesting aviation book is a rare treat. After about 2 pages of 'Fate is the Hunter' I was truly hooked. This book puts you right in the cockpit with Mr. Gann as you venture the world from the start of his flying career on the DC-2 to flying across the endless Pacific during WWII when airlines were called to help the war effort. Mr. Gann is truly a talented writer and in my opinion one of the best in Aviation right up with St Ex. If you are as engrossed in aviation as I am, this is one book you wont want to put down and will wish would never end.
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