- 2,232 ratings
by Simon Schuster
(first published 1961)
Ernest K. Gann
- Date of birth: October 13, 1910
- Died: December 19, 1991
- Born: in Lincoln (Nebraska), The United States.
- Description: 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 at Burbank Airport, and also began to write short stories. A friend managed to get him a part-time job as a co-pilot with a local airline company and it was there that he flew his first trips as a professional aviator. In the late 1930s many airlines were hiring as many pilots as they could find; after hearing of these opportunities, Gann and his family returned to New York where he managed to get hired by American Airlines to fly the Douglas DC-2 and Douglas DC-3.
For several years Gann enjoyed flying routes in the northeast for American. In 1942, many U.S. airlines' pilots and aircraft were absorbed into the Air Transport Command of the U.S. Army Air Forces to assist in the War Effort. Gann and many of his co-workers at American volunteered to join the group. He flew DC-3s, Douglas DC-4s and Consolidated C-87 Liberator Express transports (the cargo version of the Consolidated B-24 Liberator bomber). His wartime trips took him across the North Atlantic to Europe, and then on to Africa, South America, India, and other exotic places. Some of his most harrowing experiences came while flying The Hump airlift across the Himalayas into China. In the years to come Gann's worldwide travels and various adventures would become the inspiration for many of his novels and screenplays.
At the end of World War II, the Air Transport Command released the civilian pilots and aircraft back to their airlines. Gann decided to leave American Airlines in search of new adventures. He was quickly hired as a pilot with a new company called Matson Airlines that was a venture of the Matson steamship line. He flew from the U.S. West Coast across the Pacific to Honolulu. This experience spawned ideas that were developed into one of his best-known works, 'The High and the Mighty.' Matson ultimately soon fell prey to the politically well-connected Pan American Airlines and failed. After a few more short-lived flying jobs, Gann became discouraged with aviation and he turned to writing as a full-time occupation.
Gann's major works include the novel The High and the Mighty and his aviation focused, near-autobiography Fate Is the Hunter. Notes and short stories scribbled down during long layovers on his pioneering trips across the North Atlantic became the source for his first serious fiction novel, Island in the Sky (1944), which was inspired by an actual Arctic rescue mission. It became an immediate best-seller as did Blaze of Noon (1946), a story about early air mail operations. In 1978, he published his comprehensive autobiography, entitled A Hostage to Fortune.
Although many of his 21 best-selling novels show Gann’s devotion to aviation, others, including Twilight for the Gods, and Fiddler's Green reflect his love of the sea. His experiences as a fisherman, skipper and sailor, all contributed storylines and depth to his nautical fiction. He later wrote an autobiography of his sailing life called Song of the Sirens.
Gann wrote, or adapted from his books, the stories and screenplays for several movies and television shows. For some of these productions he also served as a consultant and technical adviser during filming. Although it received positive reviews, Gann was displeased with the film version of Fate Is the Hunter, and removed his name from the credits. (He later lamented that this decision cost him a "fortune" in royalties, as the film played repeatedly on television for years afterward.) He wrote the story for the television miniseries Masada, based on 'The Antagonists.'