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The Skies Belong to Us

Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


In an America torn apart by the Vietnam War and the demise of '60s idealism, airplane hijackings were astonishingly routine. Over a five-year period starting in 1968, the desperate and disillusioned seized commercial jets nearly once a week, using guns, bombs, and jars of acid. Some hijackers wished to escape to foreign lands; others aimed to swap hostages for sacks of cash. Their criminal exploits mesmerized the country, never more so than when shattered Army veteran Roger Holder and mischievous party girl Cathy Kerkow managred to comandeer Western Airlines Flight 701 and flee across an ocean with a half-million dollars in ransom—a heist that remains the longest-distance hijacking in American history.

More than just an enthralling story about a spectacular crime and its bittersweet, decades-long aftermath, The Skies Belong to Us is also a psychological portrait of America at its most turbulent and a testament to the madness that can grip a nation when politics fail.

Publishers Weekly Review

Apr 08, 2013 – Although Koerner (Now the Hell Will Start), a contributing editor at Wired, had access to only one of the two hijackers whose 1972 commandeering of a U.S. airliner he recounts here in thrilling detail, he makes the mistake of sharing the other’s thoughts, a dramatization that blurs the line between nonfiction and fiction. The book opens with a gripping scene: a stewardess aboard Western Airlines Flight 701, en route from Los Angeles to Seattle, is approached by a passenger she had spilled something on earlier. But rather than complain about his stained clothing, Roger Holder, a Vietnam veteran protesting the war, hands her a note claiming that four men with bombs and guns are aboard. The narrative then shifts back in time to provide a fascinating look at the history of skyjacking—from 1968-1973, a plane was hijacked almost every week—and efforts to thwart it, replete with offbeat details like the suggestion that all passengers be forced to don boxing gloves upon entering aircraft to preclude them from being able to hold or fire guns. The odyssey of Holder’s life before and after his act of terror, aided by his lover, Cathy Kerkow, makes for compelling reading, though carelessness about speculation is a minus. 8 b&w photos.

Customer Reviews

The Skies Belong to us

As a young stewardess for Western Airlines in the late 60's and 70's living and flying out of San Francisco, I can remember the era written about in this book. Many of the crew members portrayed in the book are people I was familiar with. It was definitely a walk down memory lane to read the descriptions of the time, the climate and the feel of that era. I got a big chuckle reading about the stewardesses of the hijacked plane placating the terrorized passengers by breaking out the champaign. We served the bubble beverage on every flight and used it often as a way of calming unhappy passengers, of course we would serve it to sooth an anxious load of hijacked people. Serving champaign was instinctive to us.
What is more interesting to me is that I lived through all that time and was really only vaguely aware of the hijacking or the intrigue involved in the incident.

A wonderful retelling of recent yet forgotten history

As a young boy in the early 70's, after reading this book I can add "flying Eastern Airlines to see grandma in Florida" to my list of survived childhood risks, right up there with leaded gasoline, lap-only seat belts, and second-hand smoke. The remarkable violence (Vietnam, assassinations) yet innocence (pre- Internet, pre-9/11) of the late 60's and 1970's is refreshingly portrayed through the hijackers (mis)adventures. The way in which the author intersperses his primary subject with historical context is captivating. Highly recommended!

An eye opening novel!

The book uncovered a whole era that has gone under the radar to myself, a 90s generation child who never knew the days when hijacking was such common practice and there was no x-ray machines. It's an excellent read and I could hardy put it down! Well worth the purchase!

The Skies Belong to Us
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  • $11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: United States
  • Published: Jun 18, 2013
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 336 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

Customer Ratings