Author: Arthur Hailey
Length: 440 pages
Quote: “Lincoln International Airport, Illinois, was functioning, though with difficulty.”
And here’s a long novel, with serious literary aspirations, about the lives of the different people who make that airport function, as airports did in 1968: controllers, pilots, ticket agents, flight attendants, customers, and the snowstorm that is the main source of the difficulty. In a real airport it’s possible to find enough drama to spin 440 pages out of, in one night—even if it’s not a snowy night—and that’s what Hailey has done.
There are the tiresome people who want to restrict the noise and traffic of the airport.
There’s a couple who will be divorced, by mutual consent and thus more or less happily, by the end of the book.
There’s a stewardess who’s crying because the passengers are grumpy.
There’s a madman with a bomb.
There’s a sweet little old lady who’s made her post-retirement career of sneaking onto planes without paying for tickets.(“They never do prosecute anybody.”)
There’s a frazzled air traffic controller who just might commit suicide.
There are pilots flying solely on instruments, unable to see out their iced-up windows.
There’s a pregnant stewardess, and a married pilot who thinks she should have an abortion.
There are "shoeshine boys" setting up stands in violation of an exclusive contract with the one the airport manager has authorized to operate.
There’s some explicit sex, some violence, and some bad language, but not more than anyone travelling through a real airport might reasonably expect to notice, and they’re narrated in a realistic, not sensational, manner.
All these elements come together to form a rather simple plot, the overall effect of which is to explain why airports and air travel are even more unpleasant nowadays.
In the 1970s Airport was taken seriously, as a book everyone needed to read. Now it’s become a period piece, but if you like action-adventure stories, it’s still a pretty good read.
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