Thursday, May 10, 2007
Chico pilot's first novel is adventure tale of drug running and government corruption
By DAN BARNETT
Dean O. Talley is one busy flier. This month it's agricultural aviation, where he's spending a dozen hours a day "flying rice"; by the end of May he'll join air crews for fire season. According to an author's note, Talley has worked seasonal fire contracts for almost 30 years and has flown "O2, S2, DC-4, SP2H, and P3 aircraft."
If those designations touch a chord, Talley's novel, replete with loving attention to airframe detail, is a must. But earthbound onlookers (like your friendly columnist) also have a cause for cheer. They'll find a gritty, intertwined tale, leavened with wry humor and a touch of sexiness, of a group of misfit flyboys in the late 1970s. As the plot unfolds, these pilots find themselves deeply involved in the cocaine trade and Central American gun running after routine marijuana transport and appliance smuggling into Mexico lead to some very bad choices.
"Flyboys--Risky Business" ($14.95 in paperback from Long Palm Publishing) is available in Durham at Durham Veterinary and Crazy Crab and in Chico at ABC Books, Made in Chico, Lyon Books, Northgate Aviation and the Chico Aviation Museum, as well as the author's Web site at www.flyboys-riskybusiness.com.
Charlie Jones "liked to fly, and he'd fly just about anything. & He liked the rhythmic growl of a big round engine and feeling its pulse in the palm of his hand resting on the throttle. Charlie knew the edges of the envelope. That's where he lived. He could feel a plane straining to lift, knowing when to apply pressure with a foot or a hand, floating on the brink between chaos and flight. & He knew the acrid smell of burning wire, and the taste that a cloud of hydraulic oil leaves in your mouth when a pressure line fails and the volatile mist envelops you. & He knew the gnawing void felt when you might not make it."
Charlie was a flyboy, which Talley says is a "somewhat anachronistic term yet descriptive of a breed of airman who, facing the threat of extinction, fans the flame to keep it burning bright rather than let it flicker and die a slow death." The novel is about a strange brotherhood, even among flyboys at odds with each other: a banding together to resist the common enemies of coercion, treachery and state corruption.
The story has breathless twists and turns aplenty. In the midst of it all Charlie talks with Nancy, the deliciously beautiful sister of Woody Grant. (Grant would co-pilot a DC-6, "an old freighter," into Mexico in a daring rescue effort with a decidedly motley crew.) "It's not exactly what I had in mind for the weekend," Charlie says, "but what's a guy to do? Some Mexican general wants your airplane to go into the drug business, so he sabotages a couple of your friends. He puts them in jail and makes a deal to spring them for the airplane. That gets screwed up when he shoots one of (them) and holds him hostage. We may be just a & bunch of flyboys, but we're there for each other. That old man means more to me than a bunch of people I don't know."
Nancy is no mere decoration. Stowing away on the rescue flight, she is the book's moral compass, a "save-the-world type" who helps save the world -- or at least the flyboys' honor.
And maybe that's the riskiest business of all.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2007 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.