Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...
Archer: What, no, I bet he faked his own death so he can expose the mole!
Lana: There is no mole, and faked it how?
Archer: Paging Dr. Cooper! Dr. D.B. Cooper! Lana, he obviously bailed out and --
Lana: And then... landed safely, buried his chute, ran ten miles to the crash site and then strapped himself into the still-burning wreckage?
This isn't the first time (and certainly won't be the last) that I decided to read a book based solely on an Archer reference. D.B. Cooper was the alias for the man whose crime puts him on most top ten lists of famous disappearances and unsolved mysteries (though, depending on who you ask, I guess it's pseudo-solved today...sort of). He skyjacked a Northwest Airlines commercial flight in 1971 and either mysteriously plummeted to the ground or got away with 200 G's never to be found, despite an extensive hunt by the FBI.
The author/journalist comes across the D.B. Cooper case when a PI calls him in regarding a guy who commissioned him to deliver a letter to Nora Ephron, which, fast-forward a bit, turned out to be about the fact that he was sure D.B. Cooper had, in fact, been his brother. The first thing that pops into Gray's mind is book deal (and also Pulitzer Prize, which we hear his internal monologue about quite a few times throughout the book.)
As the investigations continue, we come across an array of theorists and theories- all sure that they know the identity of the elusive D.B. Cooper. The stories are compelling and interesting in their own right: a transexual ex-military pilot, a Northwest Airlines desk clerk with a bone to pick etc. Unsurprisingly, the theorists themselves are quite a cast.
This would have made an excellent episode of This American Life as the conversations and characters are, well, curious and emphatic. Another reviewer likened this book to Jon Ronson'sThe Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry, which I also listened to as an audiobook. I definitely see the resemblance- the books are part theory, part history, part author's journey into "going native." As an audiobook, however, the author/reader lacked that accent that Ronson has that (for whatever reason) always reassures me that he isn't taking himself to seriously. It's not that Gray thinks this is a serious, hard-hitting piece of journalism (the references to his Pulitzer are clearly made with full-knowledge of their ridiculousness in hindsight). However, he still lacked Ronson's charming irreverence. The conclusion isn't exactly satisfying. I don't think I'm spoiling anything by giving away the last line is something to the effect of "Calm down and read me the recipe for the cherry cheesecake!" (-an obvious suggestion that he too has fallen victim to the Cooper curse.)
It's an interesting story and a short enough read, but as they author's sources each go silent as they decide to pursue their own book deals, one can't help but wonder what makes his more worth it than others.