13 December 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Wager with the Wind: The Don Sheldon Story by James Greiner

Wager with the Wind: The Don Sheldon StoryWager with the Wind: The Don Sheldon Story by James Greiner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Don Sheldon has been called 'Alaska's bush pilot among bush pilots', but he was also just one man in a fragile airplane who, in the end, was solely responsible for each mission he flew, be it a high-risk landing to the rescue of others from certain death in the mountains of Alaska or the routine delivery of supplies to a lonely homesteader. Read James Greiner's Wager with the Wind to learn how a hero was born, and also how he made his courageous journey to the unknown skies of dealing with cancer.

After seeing footage of some amazing bush flying where highly skilled flyers land and take off from some pretty gnarly places, I had a scout around to see if there were any books about this sort of thing. I was compelled to purchase this book as it came highly recommended. I can say that the book is well written and about a pretty incredible bloke who I reckon I would have liked if I'd have known him. However, the author spends the majority of the pages on describing the mountaineering expeditions that Don Sheldon flew support for. Interwoven through this are some really good flying tales and stories about incredible high-altitude mountain rescues, stormy lake landings (and crashes), soaring mountain thermals and the various trials and tribulations of this hugely hazardous flying, but I learned more about the mountain climbing than I did the flying. This really disappointed me, as I thought I was going to read about lots and lots of bush flying. The flying yarns are good, but these seem to take second place to the stories of the people that Sheldon flew around Alaska on various adventures. All that said, I still got a sense of the man and his trade, but not enough. Overall an okay read, but would be at least four stars if the flying stories took centre stage instead of the climbers. Don Sheldon was clearly an amazing man and a massively skilled pilot, but I'm not sure this book does him justice. Sorry Mr Griener, because you do write very well.

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