Ernest K(ellogg) Gann Michael Malone - Essay

Michael Malone

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Ernest K. Gann writes best sellers about flying and fighting…. Mr. Gann's heroes, whether at war in ancient Masada or World War I France, are usually laconic, fiercely self-reliant loners, cynical sentimentalists, promiscuous with death, faithful to a pal.

Oddly, "The Aviator," seems to belong on that nostalgic cottage shelf, to have the descriptive feel and earnest tender style of popular novels written three decades ago; it might have appeared first in The Saturday Evening Post with brown-tinted illustrations, two tipped monoplanes aloft in the background, girl with windblown hair to the fore. Its subject is a favorite of Mr. Gann's: the flying world of gypsy moths in the 1920's….

The enchanting woman in this spare tale is not the siren of Faulkner's "Pylon" but an 11-year-old girl who manages to convince a misanthropic mail pilot to value life as the two labor together to survive their plane crash in the snow-blanketed wilderness of a Nevada mountain. (p. 14)

Heather, the young girl, can be a disconcerting amalgam of inspirational sincerity and glib precocity reminiscent of Shirley Temple in "Bright Eyes." All the ruffles in which Mr. Gann has decked this "lovely little creature" encumber a story affecting in the simplicity of its action, as one man contends against death and defeat with the frail weapon of his human will—much like the battle of "The Old Man and the Sea." (pp. 14, 30)

Michael Malone, "Low Life, High Life," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1981 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), April 5, 1981, pp. 14, 30.∗