Flying Hero Class

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In FLYING HERO CLASS, Keneally depicts the plight of Frank McCloud, aspiring Australian novelist, failed husband, and manager of an aborigine dance troupe. En route from New York to Frankfurt, the plane on which McCloud is traveling is hijacked by Palestinians. The hijackers single out three passengers, one of them McCloud, as defendants/victims in a sham trial. McCloud is charged with abetting a land grab of aborigine territory engineered by the CIA and a diamond mining company. As negotiations between the authorities and the Palestinians continue, the tension increases; after one of the defendants is executed, the other passengers become distanced from the remaining two. Through Whitey, one of the dancers, McCloud learns there is no “plastique” to detonate; he then decides he must become “a singer of my own songs. An actor.”

McCloud’s subsequent actions seem to be “other” inspired, derived somehow from the mythic past, the “dreamland” associated with the aborigines. The drama of the novel stems, however, not from the culminating physical action but from the political debates between the cultural representatives and from the psychological games played on the aircraft. Although McCloud survives, all is not as it seems: Since there is “plastique” on the plane, the credibility of Whitey’s dream is called into question; even McCloud’s “heroism” is suspect. The “resolution” of the plot is even in doubt because Keneally encourages his readers to identify more closely with the Palestinian hijackers than with their opposition. Whitey enigmatically suggests at the end of the book, “So we’re all still bloody hostages.” In its theme of exploitation, its emphasis on the aborigine culture, and its liberal political stance, FLYING HERO CLASS is consistent with Keneally’s other novels.