cover image Fly Me

Fly Me

Daniel Riley. Little, Brown, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-36213-9

Flying the friendly skies in the 1970s was definitely an adventure, what with all those skyjackings, as Riley demonstrates in his first novel. Suzy Whitman is a stew working out of Sela del Mar, a coastal community near L.A. The year is 1972, and Suzy, upon graduation from Vassar, has impulsively followed in the footsteps of her older sister, Grace, a stewardess with Grand Pacific Airlines whose husband, Mike, is a magazine writer who wants to be the next Tom Wolfe. Riley employs a Wolfean methodology in bringing to life the stoner vibe of the time through curated period details, marred by some anachronisms. While skateboarding on the 4th of July, Suzy meets Billy Zar, a local weed dealer, who tricks her into using her position with the airline to smuggle harder stuff for him. A family health crisis forces Suzy into a life of crime that, in the end, leaves her with only one desperate way out. Throw in Jim Jones’s nascent religious cult and a backstory involving Scientology, and the result is an overstuffed novel that reads like the fictional equivalent of Brendan I. Koerner’s study of the ’70s skyjacking phenomenon, The Skies Belong to Us. (June)