Final Flight

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Jake Grafton is an experienced naval aviator completing a distinguished career as the air wing commander aboard the carrier USS United States. In the normal course of events, Captain Grafton would finish out the remaining few years until his retirement aboard the carrier and then slip quietly away to a well-earned rest. Unfortunately for Grafton, last seen as a young pilot in Vietnam in THE FLIGHT OF THE INTRUDER, he has been inflicted with the ancient Chinese curse: “May you live in exciting times.”

First, he is dismayed to learn that his body has betrayed him to the point that he will no longer be able to fly because of night blindness. This unexpected development means that his career will end behind a desk and he will be deprived of that which has given his life meaning. This is a bitter pill to swallow, but the gods are not through with Jake Grafton. As his carrier is berthed in Naples for a well-deserved rest from active operations, the ship is invaded by a team of Arab commandos bent on stealing nuclear bombs. The bombs are to be transferred to the control of an Arab leader of an unnamed North African state who plans to use them to obliterate Israel.

The terrorists succeed in their objective, and flee the burning ship with three armed nuclear devices on a plane headed for Israel. The terrorists, however, have failed to consider the determination and the courage of one naval aviator who has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

It is fashionable, in this day and age, to focus on the machinery of war, to seek the solution to the difficulties of combat through science and technology. Yet, as many, including the late Mao Tse-tung, have observed: Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive one; it is the man that counts. FINAL FLIGHT is an exciting thriller, but it is also a carefully crafted appraisal of those men and women who stand guard in more secure times and of the dangers they must face in the normal course of events. Jake Grafton is not a Ramboesque superhero, he is a normal man who does his duty and delivers that last full measure of devotion.