Flight Into Danger, by John Castle and Arthur Hailey

Flight Into Danger John Castle Arthur HaileyFlight Into Danger
by John Castle & Arthur Hailey
Pub Date: 1958

Flight Into Danger, or Runway Zero Eight as it was also titled, is a suspense novel set in an airplane. Food poisoning has affected a number of passengers, including the pilots. Only one passenger has ever flown a plane before, and that was over 10 years ago during the war – can he get the plane safely to Vancouver in inclement weather before the sickness gets worse?

If this sounds vaguely like the plot of Airplane!, you’re right. Actually, this story (first produced for Canadian television as Flight Into Danger, then made into a Hollywood film with Dana Andrews called Zero Hour!) provides some of the source material for the disaster film spoof. A few other gags came from Airport 1975, the first sequel to 1970’s Airport, based on a book also written by Arthur Hailey (singing nuns!). So I feel Hailey is the godfather of the 1970s disaster films – many of which I have taken to watching on New Year’s Eve as my own tradition. Which is why I thought it would be fun to go all the way back to read the story that really started it all. And it was recently put back into “print” as an ebook, so it’s far more accessible than before.

I’ll be honest – considering this was an early version of a plot that has been done repeatedly in the following decades, this isn’t quite as suspenseful as one would hope. If you’re like me and you’ve seen the films that were influenced by the story, you already know how it plays out. However, you do see the seedlings of the familiar tropes that were featured in most of the disaster films, and for people who are into film (especially B-movies or camp film) this could prove to be entertaining. And it’s still well-written to enjoy, if a little predictable. And since it’s from the 1950s, it’s a pretty clean read, too.

Really what this is fun for is a fairly quick, somewhat suspenseful read with prototypes of the characters you find in disaster films. And if you’re up for watching the films inspired by the story either before or after, that adds a level of enjoyment to the reading. So it’s kind of an exercise in writing development. Maybe not a book for everyone, but I certainly found it enjoyable enough! And like how you shouldn’t watch The Poseidon Adventure on a cruise, maybe don’t read this one on a flight. 😉


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