Ernest K(ellogg) Gann Coleman Rosenberger - Essay

Coleman Rosenberger

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

"The High and the Mighty" is a novel which is notable on two counts—as an eminently entertaining addition both to one of the oldest and to one of the most recent branches of storytelling. The most recent is the literature of flight, of which the first-rate examples seem very few when it is remembered that the year 1953 will mark a full half century since Wilbur and Orville Wright achieved the supposedly impossible at Kitty Hawk. But even if the literature of flight were considerably richer than it is, Mr. Gann's taut novel of the agony of a great four-engine plane which took off from Honolulu across the Pacific for San Francisco would command attention.

The other branch of story telling to which "The High and the Mighty" is an admirable addition is that which considers the lives of a disparate group of people, previously unacquainted with one another, who are by chance brought together to share some climactic experience….

From the opening page of "The High and the Mighty,"… an edgy sense of something ominous ahead is effectively suggested. This builds steadily in suspense until, half way across the Pacific, the plane runs into real difficulties. Mr. Gann's wealth of semi-technical description … provides a convincing verisimilitude….

It is solid evidence of Mr. Gann's competence as a novelist that in presenting [a large] … cast he permits only two or three of them to slip perilously close to stereotypes….

Each of [his characters] is changed in one way or another by the prospect of disaster. Mr. Gann's examination of character under stress, coupled with the superbly sustained suspense of the plane's fight for survival, makes a dramatic novel which is likely to catch and hold the attention of almost any reader. "The High and the Mighty" is first-rate entertainment.

Coleman Rosenberger, "A First Rate Contribution to the Literature of Flight," in New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation; reprinted by permission), April 26, 1953, p. 4.