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Skyjack: The Hunt for D. B. Cooper Paperback – September 4, 2012

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway Books; Reprint edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307451305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307451309
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #738,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Guest Reviewer: Benjamin Wallace on Skyjack by Geoffrey Gray

© David Fields
Benjamin Wallace is a contributing editor at New York Magazine and the author of The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine.

It seems like all the good mysteries are gone. We know who Deep Throat was. We know where Thomas Pynchon lives. The missing 18 minutes on the Nixon tapes have proved unrecoverable. But then, winking at us like one last taunting fossil from the violent, paranoid 1970s, there’s the baffling case of D.B. Cooper.

On November 24, 1971, a man calling himself Dan Cooper hijacked a Boeing 727, demanded $200,000 and parachutes, and jumped out over the Pacific Northwest. At a time when the country was beset by war, assassinations, riots, a faltering economy, and the Nixon presidency, Cooper was heralded as a Robin Hood of the sky. Enormous investigative resources were marshaled. Ballads were written. Cooper was never heard from again.

Forty years later, Geoffrey Gray dives chute-less into the swirling abyss of Cooper mania and lands with a true non-fiction novel, with characters too eccentric to be invented and a hurtling pace rarely found in the world of fact. The writing is stylish. The reporting is unstoppable. Gray is sympathetic and funny and saucer-eyed--even, at times, unhinged. He wants to solve the unsolvable, and remarkably, for a famous cold case, his spadework turns up fresh material.

As much as Skyjack is about D.B. Cooper, it is also a searing group portrait of those who even today find meaning in his mystery, a travelogue through a tumultuous era in American history, and a study of the paranoid style in American obsession. Most indelibly, it is an exploration of the mystery within the mystery, the puzzle of why these unfilled blank spots in our past have such a haunting grip on our imaginations.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“Out of the wild blue yonder comes this pleasing tale of obsession and mystery. Geoffrey Gray has essentially parachuted into the early 1970s and found a nearly forgotten episode that elucidates a swath of our cultural history. The result is a clean, smart whodunit full of quirky characters, imaginative sleuthing, and thrilling surprises.”
Hampton Sides, author of Hellhound on His Trail

“Here is writing and storytelling that is vivid and fresh—a delectable adventure from a talented new author.”
—Gay Talese

“With verve and assurance worthy of his protagonist, Geoffrey Gray pulls readers along on a kaleidoscopic chase through the cult of Cooper. Both a masterful re-creation of the paranoid 1970s, and an exhilarating firsthand account of an erosive obsession, Skyjack takes us down the rabbit hole with Gray—and what a journey it is.”
—James  Swanson, author of Manhunt and Bloody Crimes

“Who was D.B. Cooper? In SKYJACK, Geoffrey Gray lures in the reader with this iconic unsolved mystery, and for the next 290 pages explores a story as attention-grabbing as a bag of hot money. D.B. Cooper emerges as the great McGuffin of 1970s America, a prism through which Gray exploits to the fullest with his propulsive writing style, mad commitment to detail, and explores everything from the early years of gender reassignment surgery to the birth of airline security culture to the ghostly legends of the Pacific Northwest's Dark Divide.”
—Evan Wright, New York Times bestselling author of Generation Kill

“SKYJACK tells the legendary story of D.B. Cooper in a way that’s as inventive and as engaging as the subject itself. Only a writer as talented as Geoffrey Gray could knit together the many strands of this mystery and the extraordinary characters who have dedicated, and in some cases destroyed, their lives in pursuit of the truth. Just as Gray finds himself sucked into the tale, readers will leap into the void alongside him, landing on their feet and smiling at the shared adventure.”
—Mitchell Zuckoff, author of Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II

“Easily one of the most delightful books I’ve read in a long, long time. In his obsessive search for answers in the legendary case, Gray becomes a little unhinged himself as well as encountering an array of characters I haven’t seen the likes of since Mark Twain sent Huck down the Mississippi. His style fits the case, and Gray can be compared with Tom Wolfe and Evelyn Waugh in his talent for unearthing the eccentrics of the world and the bizarreness of life.”
—John Bowers, Associate Professor of Writing, Columbia University, author of The Colony and Love in Tennessee

“…An exciting journey into the byways of popular culture. This is hardly the first book about Cooper, but it may be the first to treat his story for what it has become: an ongoing phenomenon, like the search for Bigfoot, with a remarkable ability to consume the imaginations and lives of generations of searchers.”
, Starred

“Gray organizes this, his first book, like a Tarantino film, cutting chronology into strips, then reassembling them in a sequence that readers may consider (pick one) eccentric, confusing, artistic, random, maddening, fun, revelatory. It's all of the above.”--Cleveland Plain Dealer

From the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

Geoffrey Gray is a contributing editor at New York Magazine. He covered boxing for The New York Times, writes about crime, sports, and food for other newspapers and magazines, and once drove an ice-cream truck. SKYJACK is his first book.

Customer Reviews

It is both well researched & well written.
This book is not about sober, dispassionate investigation into the D.B. Cooper mystery, it is about Geoffrey Gray trying to make a grand scoop with the D.B. story.
Mick Yerman
It is a fast moving read but at the end of the day I did not get much out of this book.
Lehigh History Student

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Bennett VINE VOICE on June 24, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've always been fascinated by the D.B. Cooper story. I'm not sure why since I wasn't even born when he hijacked a Boeing 737 in the fall of 1971, then disappeared into the Washington wilderness. There's just something incredibly compelling about the whole story. It's so compelling, I couldn't put Skyjack: The Hunt for D.B. Cooper down. It arrived at 10:00am and, by 11:00pm the same day, I'd finished it.

Geoffrey Gray presents what can best be called the human side of the D.B. Cooper mystery. He's done incredible research into the lives of not only the likely suspects (he focuses on Kenneth Christiansen, Duane Weber, Richard McCoy, and Barbara (Bobby) Dayton), but also the pilots, flight attendants, FBI agents, and amateur sleuths involved with the case. The extent that the D.B. Cooper saga has impacted (and ruined) lives is simply incredible.

Gray also doesn't shy away from hard evidence and facts. He pursues and discusses countless leads, no matter how flimsy. He partnered with scientists, private investigators, experts of all kinds, FBI agents, and even the online community. He combined this information with new access to FBI files and other documents to provide the most up to date information about Cooper's motives, his possible identity, and where he may have ended up. He has a list of sources/references at the end of the book for those who may want to dig deeper.

In the end, however, the book is filled with a lot of "he might be or he might not be" with regard to Cooper's ultimate identity. Readers wanting a foregone conclusion should look elsewhere, but for those who want to decide for themselves based on the best information (count me in this category), Gray has done a fantastic job.

For a casual D.B.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Beverly TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover

Skyjack is the infamous story of the successful skyjacking of a commercial airlines flight in 1971. The hijacker demanded a ransom and parachutes. This teaser must suffice.

The upcoming 40th anniversary (Thanksgiving 2011) of the hijacking still holds America's fascination. We admire the guy with guts. And D. Cooper definitely had them. The author quotes a local Pacific Northwest newspaper, "...America canonizes its new patron saint of system f---ing." Everyone loves a hero--even one who's a bad boy.

The author, Geoffrey Gray, spent two years researching: reading, interviewing, and following leads. However, he failed to keep an unbiased point of view. He was caught up in the mystique. At one point, Gray states, "I can't remember what I am looking for." Gray gets lost within his own story. Distracting side stories of various characters detract from the plot itself.

Although this is Gray's first novel, he is a professional writer. He is a contributing editor for New York magazine. When dealing with character descriptions, he excels. We `see' as well as if we were looking at photos. He gives detailed accounts of the terrain; we are there with him. He writes dialogue fairly well, too. His tenacity to get the story and descriptive writing are his strengths.

Too bad he lacks others. Gray's Skyjack is a disjointed attempt to put together the puzzle in story form. He writes seemingly without an outline. Or, maybe he has ADHD. This jerkiness in storytelling is frankly, annoying. Instead of keeping the plot moving, we wander off the path with Gray as he presents multiple pages of anecdotes that do not enhance the story.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By G. A. Jacobs on September 1, 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I thought this would be a straightforward account of the case, with new information. Scratch the straightforward part. One of the first rules of traditional journalism is, "Keep yourself out of the story." The "there I was" tales of how the reporter got the story are seldom that interesting compared to the story. This one's a case in point. About the time the narrative gets interesting, there's a long meandering detour off into 70s angst, fashions of the day, and so on. After a while I wondered as well if this was padding for a book-length story. "New Journalism" is hard to bring off, as if the reporter is somehow as interesting as the story. If you're Tom Wolfe or Hunter S. Thompson, you've got a case. This author, being kind, not so much. Still undecided on the new information and its value.

I had the audiobook, which the author reads himself. Usually that's a mistake, too. Scott Brick or some really good reader can help move a story. Do-it-yourself narration is like do-it-yourself surgery. Only a few can bring it off really well. Everyone else sounds like who they are, someone reading ... and reading ... and reading, minus the tone and inflection of the pros.
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17 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jake Aurelian on October 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
First, I cannot believe that there are so many positive reviews for this book (24 five-star reader reviews as of this writing). I wish I could give Skyjack a negative rating, because it's most certainly deserved. This book illustrates the sorry shape of contemporary publishing; how this book was ever accepted, edited and published (by a mainstream publisher no less) is really a question that I'd like answered. Alas, how this book got published rivals the mystery of D.B. Cooper. I'm sorry to be so critical but it's a point of fact: I've seen better writing from freshmen Rhetoric students, and the present tense narrative (even while discussing the Cooper hijacking) is amateurish, juvenile and embarrassingly bad. The writing is indicative of a pathetic, unprofessional self-published book versus a book from a major American publisher. (On the positive side, the cover is well done as is the typesetting.)

I can't help but wonder the journalistic standards of those dishing out the positive comments, because I wanted to retch at page one, line one: "Skipp Porteous wants to talk and says we can meet and I say fine." I suppose you know you're in trouble when the author's entry in the Index is approximately the same size as the books' subject, D.B. Cooper. I'm an author of fiction and non-fiction, and this clustered, rambling, ego-driven atrocity is an insult to my craft, an insult to authors and journalists and an insult to anyone who ever received a rejection slip from an agent or publishing house.
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