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Solo: My Adventures in the Air (Shannon Ravenel Books) Paperback – November 10, 2006

3.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Beginning with a fateful trip to a local North Carolina airport at age four and ending with midlife adventures in a small private plane, novelist Edgerton (The Floatplane Notebooks, etc.) turns to autobiography, using his lifelong relationship with aircraft and flying as his navigational center. Four years in UNC's air force ROTC led to service in 1970–1971 as a forward air control pilot in Vietnam, flying missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail out of Nakhon Phanom Air Base in Thailand. "I do not agree with everything the United States is doing in V.N.," he wrote in a letter home, "but I do believe we should be there." (Like other former believers in the domino theory, Edgerton, who was decorated for his role in a rescue mission, later bitterly changed his mind.) Edgerton presents his flying life dryly and clinically, and includes a great deal of aeronautical detail. The book ends with a paean to his Piper Cub, bought in the late 1980s, and more reflections on Vietnam. Much of the book reads as if Edgerton were sifting the technical details of flying and flight for clues into his own character without quite being aware of his audience. Buffs will get it, but others will be left on the tarmac.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Edgerton has written a most intriguing memoir of his love affair with flying and how he fulfilled it as a combat pilot in Vietnam. When Edgerton was four, his mother took him to the local airport to look at planes; before he was out of high school, he was determined to become a jet fighter pilot. That passion attended him through the University of North Carolina as an ROTC cadet, to getting his pilot's license in his senior year (his mother then became his first passenger), and into air force pilot training in summer 1966. His recollections include detailed accounts of flying lessons and the exhilaration that came from mastering and flying increasingly complex planes. The peak of his flying career, during which he won a Distinguished Flying Cross, was a stint of combat reconnaissance over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in 1970-71--a situation that often seemed unreal to a young man who loved flying. Edgerton's vivid but laconic style should captivate Vietnam and aviation mavens and general readers alike. Frieda Murray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Shannon Ravenel Books
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: A Shannon Ravenel Book; First Edition edition (November 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565125460
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565125469
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,682,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read this book because I love Edgerton's novels and hoped to gain insight into the author's life and writing. The book did not fulfill this hope. It's not an autobiography-it's the story of Edgerton's love affair with flying at different stages of his life. However, even though the book did not provide me with what I had hoped, I enjoyed it and recommend it to others.

The book is thematically divided into four parts. The first describes Edgerton's training to be a fighter pilot and his growing obsession with flight. It starts with a trip to an airport at age four and ends when Edgerton is sent oversees as a combat pilot. For me this part was not compelling, because I have no interest in flying. There are long and technical explanations of such things as thrust and trim. In some sections, it reads like a manual. You can skim through this part, just to get a flavor of the training and of the determination that Edgerton had to fly, but it's not of interest to the general public in my opinion.

Next comes a section devoted to Edgerton's combat career in the late sixties and early seventies in Japan (flying nuclear-readiness missions) and then in Vietnam/Laos, flying combat reconnaissance missions. I enjoyed this section very much. Edgerton is able to convey the feeling of control and freedom, the thrill of flying. He also describes the clammy fear of combat. The best section describes a failed recovery attempt of pilots whose aircraft was shot down. Edgerton's description of his growing desperation and sadness as he realizes that nothing can be done for the lost pilots is moving. Edgerton earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his valiant and persistent efforts to help the downed pilots, despite coming under anti-aircraft fire.
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Format: Paperback
Solo, by Clyde Edgerton, could have been a great book about flying. Edgerton's experience in aviation along with his obvious life long passion for flight, combined with his post-flying resume entry of Professor of Writing and the University of North Carolina (Wilmington) should have been the recipe for the best book of flying since Rinker Buck's Flight of Passage. Unfortunately, it is not. That stated, this is a good book that aviation enthusiasts will likely forgive Prof. Edgerton's flaws and enjoy its quickly passing pages.

Solo begins slowly with a rather poor explanation of flight and flight controls for the non-pilot reader. It reads as some dated and poorly written instruction manual. Edgerton should have just stuck with his suggested reading mentioned in the Author's Note of Wolfgang Languisher's timeless "Stick and Rudder". My sense in that most who will want to read this book either know about the basics of flying or don't care and just want him to get to his jet training and his rediscovery of the joy of flying general aviation "taildraggers" later in his life. A good one third to one half of this book reads more like a diary then a work of a military pilot, trained also as a writer. Ah, but the second half . . .

Solo literally soars in the second half, dealing with the writers training in military fighter aircraft in the Vietnam Era and of his experiences in that environment. Edgerton also nails the rediscovery of flight later in life in small and slow general aviation aircraft. He writes clearly and beautifully on what all of us in the aviation community know about flying - it almost doesn't matter what you fly, as long as you fly.
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Format: Hardcover
You may recognize Clyde Edgerton's name: he's written eight previous novels but here provides a compelling saga in SOLO: MY ADVENTURES IN THE AIR, a biographical memoir which provides the true account of his flying experience, from Air Force training and combat missions in Vietnam to his own personal plane. The joy Edgerton holds for planes and flying shines from every chapter: any with an affection for planes will love this celebration of flight, which holds a healthy dose of military aviation insights.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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Format: Paperback
I suppose if you are a pilot, hearing Edgerton re-tell his own experiences learning to fly would be pretty interesting. If you're just interested in planes, the book is just OK. If you're looking for a good story you'll be deeply disappointed.

About 1/3 of the book is learning to fly one plane after another. About 1/3 is an attempt to make sense out of his service in Vietnam. The remaining 1/3 is filler with an occasional anecdote, sometimes interesting.

What is so surprising is how clumsily the text is written and how little he has to say. I think maybe he wrote this book too long after the fact. The Vietnam war was a long time ago, and his memories have faded.
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