In 1971 a man with a briefcase hijacked a Northwest Orient 727 flight. He ransomed the passengers for $200,000 and then jumped out of the plane. He has never been heard from since, leaving the end of his story open for everyone to write their own ending.
Geoffrey Gray tells the story of D. B. Cooper, including every bit of minutia, every theory, and every crackpot who has claimed to be Dan Cooper since 1971. Geoffrey Gray also reads the audio book and he can’t help but ham it up every once in a while. There is also the occasional bit of music, but it doesn’t really fit the often serious, often silly nature of the story.
SKYJACK: The Hunt for D. B. Cooper is a damned entertaining bit of business. The story of Dan Cooper has morphed over the years from one of a crook to one of a folk hero who was able to beat The Man. But D. B. Cooper is not the star of Skyjack, he is just the jumping off point. Our hero is a reporter who gets a tip on the real identity of Dan Cooper, and this leads him down a number of paths where he finds likely and unlikely candidates.
One problem with Skyjack is Geoffrey Gray’s desire to hop around in time and space as he lays on the backstory of each of his main D. B. Cooper suspects. At one point he starts talking about a man being prepped for transgender surgery-before he mentions this character anywhere else. I was totally baffled each time this person was mentioned, until it was eventually made clear that this was yet another potential Dan Cooper.
Everyone that has been touched by the D. B. Cooper case has suffered from the Cooper Curse-which can be as mild as too much media attention or as severe as a life long obsession with solving the case and finding the money. At the end of Skyjack, Geoffrey Gray wanders off course and tells us that he has been affected by the Cooper Curse. At the story ends we find Geoffrey living in a cabin in the woods, seeing clues everywhere, and wanting to crack codes like John Nash in A Beautiful Mind.
I found myself reaching for the book to see if this was a work of fiction, it doesn’t say. Since the author is reading the audio book, I’m going to assume he is no longer holed up in a cabin in the woods sifting for new coded messages.
Skyjack has a light and carefree style. The writing is simple and casual and comes across like someone sharing a yarn across the table. Skyjack is a fun read, but it veers off into fictive elements so often that it doesn’t read like history or journalism. By the end, I just couldn’t trust Geoffrey Gray.