Edward C. Davenport of Drum Point recently self-published “Skyjacked: Tales of D.B. Cooper and Other Mysterious Criminals of the Air” through Lulu.
Davenport is the author of several books, including “Above The Fold: A Dozen Fascinating Stories of Crime, Disaster and Justice in the 20th Century.”
The paperback is available for $10 at www.lulu.com/searchadult_audience_rating=&msclkid=77cc85eff30c1d8af304e423805d4372&page=1&pageSize=10&q=edward%20davenport.
How long have you been writing, and how did you get started?
I was a student in the adult education program. I began writing because my instructor practically harassed me to do so.
What inspires you to write?
I do not find writing to be a pleasurable experience. Writing is a means to an end for me, the end being an informed public. My heroes as a child were the investigative journalists of “60 Minutes” and Nat Henthoff, a syndicated columnist whose Sweet Land of Liberty column appeared in the Washington Post, and other daily newspapers. I remember a field trip to the Post’s editorial offices around the time of the Watergate scandal. Every child wanted to be an investigative reporter. Television shows like “The Andros Targets” and “Lou Grant” glamorized their deeds. That was before journalism — like education — became hopelessly politicized.
What kind of writing process do you use?
I approach a story in the same manner one approaches a particularly unpleasant task. I would describe myself a hostile writer.
Do you consider writing to be a career?
Certainly not a lucrative one. I once sold one story to [a local publication] for the princely sum of $45 once.
Who are some of your favorite authors and why?
Donald Westlake was and is my favorite author. I enjoyed his “Sam Holt” mysteries immensely. I have no time for fiction now.
Please include a brief description of your book.
[There is] speculation concerning the fate of the still-unidentified hijacker. Ted and Musika Farnsworth are husband-and-wife sports parachutists. Ted Farnsworth is also an FAA-certified Master Rigger. The Farnsworth do not believe Cooper survived the parachute drop. Mike Machat, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in the early 1990s, is a licensed pilot who has flown over 200 types of aircraft, including the Concorde. Mr. Machat belies the hijacker could have survived. Readers are invited to draw their own conclusions. My book isn’t so much about D.B. Cooper as the epidemic of skyjacking his crime inspired. They averaged three a week in 1972. No matter how much readers think they know about the skyjacking of Northwest’s Flight 305 on Nov. 24, 1971, readers’ jaws will drop when they learn about the blunder by the FBI in calculating the drop site.
Please include an excerpt from the book.
On Friday, April 7, the first of three skyjackings in a little over a week began to unfold, this one at Denver’s Stapleton Airfield. As United’s Flight 855 to Los Angeles was warming up, a voice announced, “Attention ladies and gentlemen. Has someone aboard Flight 855 left a manila envelope in the boarding area?” A round-shouldered man wearing bell-bottomed slacks, a sports coat and mirrored aviator glasses emerged from the 727’s restroom to claim the manila envelope flight attendant Diane Surdam, was holding over her head, then ducked back inside. When a flight attendant’s instructions to take his seat went unheeded, Second Officer Kent Owen banged on the door and said in an authoritative voice “Get out of there at once. We’re ready for takeoff.”
The 727 was already taxiing when the passenger, referenced on the manifest as ‘James Johnson’ settled into seat 20D, donned a pair of gloves, and began writing on a yellow legal tablet. The man’s prominent “Clark Gable” ears protruded from a bushy wig. Informed of the activities of the suspicious passenger with the cheesy disguise by a seatmate, pilot Gerald Hearn decided to play it safe. The plane’s PA system crackled to life with an announcement by Hearn that he would be making a “precautionary” landing in Grand Junction to address a ‘minor mechanical problem’. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Hearn began. “Grand Junction tells us they’re too small and not equipped to handle a 727. Our problems, I assure you, are minor, so there’s nothing to worry about.” “That’s not why we’re stopping in Grand Junction,” the occupant of 20D, whispered to seatmate Mike Andria, who suddenly felt an object being pressed against his ribs.
Looking down, Andria found himself staring at a .45 caliber automatic and a WWII “pineapple” grenade. Johnson gave Andria a sealed envelope labeled ‘hijack instructions’ and instructed him to “give this to the girl and have her give it to the captain.” Of which, Andria quickly delivered it to the Chief Flight Attendant, Diane Surdam who followed the instructions Andria had told her Johnson gave him and headed to the cockpit. Pilot Greg Hearn was beginning his descent when the cockpit door opened and the flight attendant entered with the envelope. Inside were two pages of typewritten threats and demands.