Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Fate Is the Hunter” as Want to Read:
Fate Is the Hunter
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Fate Is the Hunter

4.54  ·  Rating details ·  2,000 ratings  ·  184 reviews
Ernest K. Gann’s classic pilot's memoir is an up-close and thrilling account of the treacherous early days of commercial aviation. “Few writers have ever drawn readers so intimately into the shielded sanctum of the cockpit, and it is hear that Mr. Gann is truly the artist” (The New York Times Book Review).

“A splendid and many-faceted personal memoir that is not only one ma
Paperback, A Touchstone Book (US/CAN), 416 pages
Published 1986 by Simon Schuster (first published 1961)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Fate Is the Hunter, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Danita There is a lot of references in the book about your father, all positive. You should really read the book, it is absolutely worth it, for you even mor…moreThere is a lot of references in the book about your father, all positive. You should really read the book, it is absolutely worth it, for you even more than for anybody else. :-))(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.54  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,000 ratings  ·  184 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Fate Is the Hunter

Description: Ernest K. Gann’s classic memoir is an up-close and thrilling account of the treacherous early days of commercial aviation. In his inimitable style, Gann brings you right into the cockpit, recounting both the triumphs and terrors of pilots who flew when flying was anything but routine.

Fate and destiny are bottom line answers to every precarious situation in Gann's near-autobiography and philosophically speaking, that really ain't my bag. Apart
Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
For aviators, this is the ultimate, classic memoir. Ernest Gann started flying in the late thirties, flew transport planes all over the world during WWII, and continued flying for airlines thereafter. This book is part chronicle of his many adventures and misadventures, part collection of thoughts on life and flying.

Even a pilot with my limited experience can immediately discern the fundamental authenticity in the erudite voice of this true aviator. The book is episodic, with sequential periods
Nov 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anybody that loves flying
Recommended to Jeff by: Brad
Really good book, written in 1961, about the early days of flying. Starts out in DC2s and DC3s, flying mail routes and other similar tasks, then moved to doing flights for the military as WWII began to unfold. He doesn't make a real big deal about it, but the author really lost a LOT of friends to airplanes over the years, and he had some close calls but was able to out-distance "fate" at each juncture. I can especially relate to his speaking of the insatiable appetite of a pilot to look skyward ...more
Matt Lavine
Jul 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone Interested in Aviaition
Recommended to Matt by: I found it at the library by myself =D
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Flanagan
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book returns the reader back to the golden pioneering days of Commercial airlines and all the danger and adventure that of the period. Fate is a game of numbers and luck and the author takes us on his ride with fate with all it's ups and downs. Anyone with a passing interest in flying needs to read this book you will not be disappointed.
Ally Ports
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Amazing tales of one of the first commercial pilots. As a pilot myself I was spellbound but I am pretty sure even a novice would fall head first into the exhilaration adventures as time passes across World War II and the first people of the sky open up the world and discover new frontiers.
Oct 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
We now take flights for granted. But it wasn’t always this easy to hop on a plane and, hours later, land somewhere else. This book tells the story of an interesting point in aviation’s history, when technology had advanced enough but still dangerous. A worthy book, filled with technical details explained with simple, easy-to-read and entertaining.
Mar 16, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction
Actual rating: 3.5 stars.

A fascinating near-autobiography by an airline pilot who flew from the late 1930s into the 1950s, the era of DC-2s, DC-3s, C-87s, and DC-4s. Gann has some great stories to share, many quite frightening, and some of will have you gripping the edges of the book like a control yoke, your knuckles white. My god, those were dangerous days, and the early airline pilots took risks that would be inconceivable today, letting down through solid weather with inaccurate altimeter se
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013-books
A piece of literature, in disguise as a aviation book

Who'd of ever thought that a pilot and the overall field of aviation could be written about with such eloquence, beauty and vividness. Since I was a child, I've been an aviation enthusiast so Gann's book which spans both pre and post-WWII aviation is exactly the kind of novel I love.

For me, a couple of lessons were particularly poignant from Gann's descriptions of early commercial aviation. His descriptions of being a terrified and bullied co-
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'd read some of Gann's aviation fiction long ago, but I had no idea he was himself an airline pilot. His account of flying crosscountry in the interwar US, transporters in the war and international flights afterwards reminded me in its lyricism and great love of the sky of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, but with more jokes. His account of the search and rescue operation for a pilot downed in the vastness of the Arctic is one of the most thrilling things I've ever read. ...more
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely my most favorite book.
Ian Ferguson
May 13, 2020 rated it liked it
In Fate is the Hunter, Ernest K. Gann recounts his career learning to fly, then traveling the world as an airline pilot.  Gann first describes his training along a mail route in the American northeast during the 1930s, then uses his skills in the Amazon, North Atlantic, and Himalayas during World War II, and ends his career flying passengers between California and Hawaii.  Between the hostility created from natural environments and that from malfunctioning aircraft, Gann muses about his combinat ...more
May 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just one of the best aviation books I've ever read. Drawing a line through history from the early days of passenger flying through the incredible developments of the 2nd WW, this extraordinary history explains how we found our about magnetic deviation, about the existence of jetstreams, about astro-navigation and about the building of the trade routes that still exist today. An epic tale that should be read by anyone with an interest in aviation and adventuring.
Steve Shilstone
Jun 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Aviation memoir of commercial airline pilot from mid-1930s through mid-1950s. Extreme focus on dangerous situations and eccentricities of various aircraft. All aspects of life separate from flying ignored completely.
Nov 04, 2013 added it
"I'll teach you how to escape death.
...there is a raven in the eastern sea which is called Yitai ("dull-head"). This dull-head cannot fly very high and seems very stupid. It hops only a short distance and nestles close with others of its kind. In going forward, it dare not lag behind. At the time of feeding, it takes what is left over by the other birds. Therefore, the ranks of this bird are never depleted and nobody can do them any harm. A tree with a straight trunk is the first to be chopped d
Jul 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
I enjoyed reading Fate is the Hunter and would recommend it to aviation enthusiasts. Its appeal, however, may be limited to that group which has a strong interest in a niche of aviation history from the viewpoint of a personal memoir. It was published in 1961 and now reads like a period piece. The author's viewpoint and rich vocabulary are highly reflective of a different generation. For me, that was part of the appeal, reading about those times of an earlier era of air transport from a man who ...more
Feb 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Wow! As I sat, rapidly thumbing through the pages in my spare time, I was awestruck from the first to the last page. I love historical books and, as a pilot, historical aviation books are especially delightful. Capt Gann paints a masterful picture of the dangerous days of early aviation and of the mysterious force, fate, that keeps excellent young aviators from long careers, while older, equally capable men live on by staying a fingernails length away from death's grasp. The recounted events are ...more
Laura JC
This book and Gann's "A Hostage to Fortune" were among those on my late father's bookshelf for decades. I kept them to read myself, to see the kind of book he enjoyed. Dad was a pilot, beginning before WWII, flying transport in Europe-Africa-India during the war, later bush-piloting along the BC coast and Canadian Arctic (his favourite years), then as senior pilot with an international company, moving from Otters, Beavers and a DC-3 to a Hawker Siddeley 125 business jet. These books by Ernest Ga ...more
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book helped me decide to become an airline pilot. Any professional pilot will feel right at home with Gann in the cockpit. He starts out as a new hire First Officer for American Airlines, learning the ropes on the DC2 and DC3. It is fascinating to experience the working conditions of that era, and make us realize how much we owe to those pioneers, and how much technology has made air travel so safe and reliable today. And while so much has changed, there are still human elements that remain ...more
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps, as an amateur pilot, I'm biased towards this sort of thing, but my appreciation of this goes well beyond enthusiasm about the genre. Not only is this the finest aviation memoir I've run across, it's literature masquerading as a memoir. I've read this a few times now, and every time reading it through is different: the first time, I was enthralled by the narrative of the stories, and was so anxious to find out what happened that I blew through the beautifully constructed sentences and th ...more
Nesta Tuomey
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is reputed to be one of the best books about flying and firsthand encounters of a brilliant pilot in times of war and peace. I am reading it at my leisure. Not to be rushed. Too good for that. Will post again when finished this remarkable book.
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic book about the early days of commercial aviation in the US. Gann also flew as a civilian pilot in the Second World War serving inhospitable and dangerous supply routes in Canada, Africa, Brazil, India and China. A gripping read that I could not put down.
Mar 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Required reading for any aviator. Hell, required reading for anyone.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, memoirs
Ernest K. Gann, the author of the autobiography, learned how to fly in the earliest days of aviation. He attended flight school and was trained as one of the first commercial pilots in the United States of America. He flew commercial routes in New England for a few years prior to World War II. Then, throughout the war, he flew as a civilian pilot for the Air Transport Command. After the war, he found the return to short flights in New England somewhat boring and joined a startup company flying b ...more
John Behle
Jul 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: life adventure realization
Recommended to John by: My father in 1967
1967. I had just turned 11 and my dad dared me to read this book. He tossed me the paperback edition stating I was ready for grown up books. I found out I liked it, even understanding the theme of luck and fatalism. I turned it into an A+ book report in front of class.

Now, just 50 years later, I bought the hardcover first edition at a used book store--hey, I was going to to this up right. I delved into the still remembered pages and the wonder came flooding back. While being an aviation enthusia
Jun 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m not sure why I decided to read a book about the early days of civil aviation, written in the 1960s by Earnest K Gann ,an American Airline pilot, chronicling his training and flying experiences, near-misses and misadventures. I think it was rerecommended to me by a member of my book club, perhaps?

It’s an interesting enough read, but not exactly a page-turner. It is fascinating how pilots in those days really needed to fly the plane by the seat of their pants compared to those occupying the c
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
A fantastic pilot's memoir. The stories are unbelievable. Dealing with icing, flying to Reykjavik, rescuing a downed crew in the Canadian wilderness, flying the Hump to China,… "Did you know we grounded every DC-4 in the world because of you?" The descriptions and the characterizations are also good.

"Even as I watch the ice accumulates… It builds upon itself, decreasing the size of the opening like a closing iris until it is merely a black hole, hardly more than the size of a dollar… Our engine
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: flying, gifts-to-me
Wow, Gann is a master storyteller! What a pleasure to be swept up by his words. He spins out several stories from his experiences as an airline pilot, from trainee to captain. He was also involved in some civilian pilot work during WWII (I had no idea we had this particular program! Greenland?!). It seems that most good pilot stories are also detective stories, and it is entrancing to watch Gann encounter challenges, sort through the possible problems, deduce explanations, find solutions, and sc ...more
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
A book given to me as a gift from a pilot :) This book allowed me to dive into what it was like in the early days of flying, learn a lot of new technical terms and experience the thrill of adventure that must fuel the spirits and love of so many pilots for the art of flying.

This book is a collection of adventure stories and thoughts about life and the people you get to know in the realm of aviation. Gann offers many thoughtful reflections about the variety of pilots- their character and skills
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wandering account of the early days of commercial aviation, starting out in the interbellum with barnstorming techniques to complete a flight, proceeding through a series of mishaps that could have proved fatal. A fine accounting of how safety was not exactly the highest priority, through the Second World War flying freighters and troop transports before settling into the 1950s and a more reflective attitude.

A worthwhile read, pitched at a level accessible to the layman and the professional al
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Stick and Rudder: An Explanation of the Art of Flying
  • Wings on My Sleeve
  • Flight of Passage: A True Story
  • First Light
  • The Killing Zone: How & Why Pilots Die
  • Chickenhawk
  • Skyfaring: A Journey with a Pilot
  • Wind, Sand and Stars
  • The Big Show: The Classic Account of WWII Aerial Combat
  • Propellerhead
  • Flying the Knife Edge: New Guinea Bush Pilot
  • Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed
  • Flight 232: A Story of Disaster and Survival
  • The Friendless Sky
  • Yeager: An Autobiography
  • Night Flight
  • Forever Flying
  • Carrier Pilot: One of the greatest pilot's memoirs of WWII - a true aviation classic.
See similar books…
Ernest K Gann was an aviator, author, filmmaker, sailor, fisherman and conservationist.

After earning his pilot license, Gann spent his much of his free time aloft, flying for pleasure. The continuing Great Depression soon cost him his job and he was unable to find another position in the movie business. In search of work, he decided to move his family to California. Gann was able to find odd jobs

Related Articles

Need another excuse to treat yourself to new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our list,...
30 likes · 21 comments
“In referance to flying through thunderstorms; "A pilot may earn his full pay for that year in less than two minutes. At the time of incident he would gladly return the entire amount for the privilege of being elsewhere.” 8 likes
“The only characteristic all airliners share is that upon proper urging they are normally capable of leaving the earth's surface.” 2 likes
More quotes…