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Fate Is the Hunter

4.54  ·  Rating details ·  2,230 ratings  ·  208 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)
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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)

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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. ...more
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.
Cliff Ward
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Written in 1961, Ernest Gann invites the reader to travel alongside him in the cramped cockpit of those early 1930's aeroplanes right through WW2 flying as a transport pilot and into the competitive commercial airline age of the 1950.
The book recounts crash after crash and the many sudden deaths of his comrades, often occurring at the least expected moment or after another recent near miss. Gann says we must believe in our own personal fortune and destiny in order to have any chance of survival.
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal collection of stories from the early days of airline and ocean flying.

Part of me wishes I had the experience to write something like this, most of me is very happy I don't.
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: nonfiction, memoir
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
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
Aug 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely my most favorite book.
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. ...more
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.
Charles Moore
Aug 16, 2020 rated it liked it
This is an oldie but goodie. Gann's autobiographical life in the air is filled with those close misses that those of who fly, on occasion, worry about. Basically his life of flying starts in the late Great Depression and ends somewhere just after the Korean War. If you like the idea of fate (versus God) always lurking around the corner for you (or one of your characters, if you write) then this is as good a lesson as you'll get. If you tend to want to defy fate, this is a good immersion into the ...more
Lee J
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The best book on flying that I've read. Nicely written too. ...more
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
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
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
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Someone might naively think that there can't be much of interest that happens in the daily life of a commercial aviation pilot. With a dedication to over 400 commercial pilots who had lost their lives in the course of their duties, this book dispels that notion. The author takes the reader with him into the cockpit and the reader vicariously lives through some remarkable and terrifying white knuckle experiences. It gives one a whole new appreciation for the dedication and skill of those pioneers ...more
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
Mar 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Say what you will about this book, but Gann sure knows how to tell a fish story. While a lesser author would have made this book unbelievably boring, Gann was able to keep me captivated even though he essentially told the same tale again and again.

What surprised me the most about this book is just how many airline pilots died in the early years of commercial aviation. If anywhere near the number of fatal accidents occurred in commercial aviation today as did back then, there wouldn't be a comme
Dennis McClure
Jun 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Gann wrote this book in 1961 to document his years flying every kind of airplane over every conceivable route on the planet. He piloted airplanes during the years when they were fickle, unpredictable machines that challenged fate at every turn.

His experiences were incredibly and all but incomprehensible to we earthbound mortals. His skill as a writer is unmatched.

We don’t just read about his experiences, we share them.

Do yourself a favor and read this.
Richard Jespers
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful memoir of an airline pilot. Also author of The High and the Mighty (both films, as well). Wonderful descriptions with virtuosity of language (great vocabulary). This book demonstrates how a person can write quite effectively about things most people know nothing about (flying an airplane). Gann contrasts “fortune” and “fate” repeatedly throughout as a motif.
Paul Belanger
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book started out difficult to read; I felt it was long winded. After I got used to his style of writing, I found his stories extremely interesting. I didn't want to put the book down. It's quite the tale of the birth of the airline industry from a pilot's perspective. Well worth reading, especially if you're a pilot. ...more
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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

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“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.” 9 likes
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