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A Hundred Feet Over Hell by Jim Hooper

Jim Hooper‘s A Hundred Feet Over Hell is a true account of the 220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company, with which his brother Bill served as one of the Myth Makers flying single-engine Cessnas that were extremely vulnerable to artillery and other ground fire.  These men were charged with flying over hot zones and locating the enemy for bombers, giving precise coordinates for dropping bombs and napalm.

“Rather than sharing our joy at his return, Bill was angry.  Not because of the crippling wound received in an unpopular war — he accepted that as part of what he had signed on for.  The anger came from being here.  In a demonstration of uncompromising loyalty over logic, it was, he believed, a betrayal of the warrior family he’d left behind.”  (Page xi)

Hooper has captured the essence of these men and their time in Vietnam from their crazy stunts to the moments when they feared for their lives.  Through alternating points of view the stories unfold quickly as one man feeds off and expands on the story being told by their friend and colleague.  Readers will meet characters like Doc Clement and Charlie Finch, but these men are not characters, but real human beings who lived through the harsh realities of war.

“Bill Hooper:  . . . I can’t remember more of that day, save weeping in the privacy of my room.  Perhaps the saddest thing of all was that I would learn to be unemotional about killing, eventually joining others who were very good at it.”  (Page 23)

Hooper pulls no punches in the organization of this book and doesn’t seem to modify the military language these men used on a regular basis; some examples include VC for Viet Cong and DMZ for demilitarized zone, which is clearly a misnomer, to the lesser known terms DASC for Direct Air Support Control Center and Kit Carson scout for those former Viet Cong recruited to assist with counterintelligence.  Readers of military history and fiction are likely to understand many of these acronyms and terms easily, but others may have to refer to the provided glossary.  However, once they get a grip on the terminology, readers will plunge into the narrative easily, getting to know each of the soldiers and how they coped with the war.

A Hundred Feet Over Hell by Jim Hooper will remind readers of those in-the-field journalistic interviews with soldiers and those documentaries where one soldier begins a story only to be continued by another soldier, providing a deeper impact.  Each man shares their fears, their triumphs, and their more embarrassing moments.  One of the best books about the Vietnam War, not about infantry.

Please check out this book trailer to see what these men flew over enemy territory without armor or weapons.

A Hundred Feet Over Hell

Please also check out these great photos.

About the Author:

After graduating with a degree in Slavic Studies from the University of South Florida, Jim Hooper worked as a documentary research-writer for WFLA-TV in Tampa, with weekends set aside as a skydiving instructor and team captain. He gave up television after three years to devote himself full time to jumping out of airplanes, logging over 3000 freefalls and building the world’s premier skydiving center in Zephyrhills, Florida. His thirst for adventure unfulfilled, he sold the business in 1984 to realize a long-held dream of being a war correspondent and author, making his home in England and setting off for Africa.

I want to thank Lisa Roe at Online Publicist and the author Jim Hooper for sending me a copy of A Hundred Feet Over Hell for review.

This is my 39th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

This is my 7th book for the 2010 Vietnam War Reading Challenge.

The Woodstock Story Book by Linanne G. Sackett and Barry Z. Levine

The Woodstock Story Book by Linanne G. Sackett and Barry Z. Levine is much more than photographs of the infamous peace concert called Woodstock.  It’s a chronicle of the festival from its inception to its completion.  Levine’s images are immediate, palpable, and candid, while Sackett’s storytelling is clipped, providing only the essential details readers will need to grasp the photos before them.  The foreward, written by Wavy Gravy, discusses the nostalgia he felt after seeing the book in its completion, and he notes that even though the outdoor festival ended, the principals and dreams of Woodstock live on.

“People, who were called freaks because of their hair and their way of dressing, came to Woodstock and they said, ‘Holy smokes.  We’re all freaks’ and they began to embrace that term.  There were a lot of people who opposed the Viet Nam War that thought they were alone.  They looked around and realized that they weren’t alone–that there were a half a million people who felt the same way,” Wavy Gravy says in the book.  (Page 3)

Through poetic lines, The Woodstock Story Book tells a lyrical account of the days leading up to the festival, the struggles with locating a large enough venue, and the community created in just a few days.  The festival’s stages were not even completed before the crowds started arriving.  Check out this crowd shot from Barry Levine’s Web site.

“They Stood for their truth
and pointed out lies

They were accused of
Communist ties”  (Page 40)

The Woodstock Story Book is an essential photographic history of a tumultuous time in our nation’s history.

From my D.C. Literature Examiner preview of the book (check out the full article):

This 40th anniversary, collector’s edition provides readers with a backstage pass to the best outdoor event in our nation’s history.  Even after 40 years, the Woodstock experience in Bethel, New York, between Aug. 15 and Aug. 18, 1969, continues to capture the imagination.

With never-before-seen photos of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, and more, The Woodstock Story Book tells a chronological story of the music festival that became one of Rolling Stone’s 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll.  There are over 300 full-color photographs in this book and are accompanied by humorous descriptions of the festival.  Great for those who remember Woodstock, wished they had been there, or are interested in rock and roll history.

For more information, check out The Woodstock Story Book blog.

Thanks to Lisa Roe at Online Publicist for sending me the book to review.