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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fran Lewis Raves About Funny Fiction "Hauling Checks"

Title: Hauling Checks
Author: Alex Stone
Genre: Fiction\Humorous, Transportation\Aviation
ISBN: 978-1449563332
Reviewer: Fran Lewis

Review by Fran Lewis

Fly the Unfriendly Skies

Hauling Checks by Alex Stone is a humorous, yet very enlightening novel that brings to light a profession that so many people have probably never heard of, or would ever be brave enough to try. The occupation of Freight Dogs is unique and dangerous. Flying small airplanes in storms, fog, lightning, ice, and snow; Freight Dogs transport their cargo wherever and whenever, no matter what the conditions may be. This interesting and humorous novel kept my attention from the start.

In Hauling Checks the pilots of Checkflight Airlines persevere, risking life and limb every minute they are in the air, carrying canceled checks that have to be delivered to banks. Their boss (The Chief) does not care about the lives of his pilots, only the money he needs to keep his business afloat. The fact that the engine might be on fire, the wings might be so iced up that the plane may not make it off the ground, or the fog so dense that the pilots cannot see does not seem to faze him, nor does he care.

Resorting to unethical and shady business practices, The Chief is thoughtless, unfeeling, and mercenary. He cuts costs, salaries, pilots, and more in his final resort to save Checkflight when it becomes apparent that his airline might go under. In order to compensate for his lack of management skills, he decides to resort to some unsavory business practices such as having his pilots make drug runs, money laundering flights, and transporting people who he claims can sit on the floor of the plane without seatbelts or a seat, just a rope to tie around them to keep them from falling out of the plane. The situations will make you laugh, and keep you on the edge of your seat dying to see what happens next.

With a cast of characters so ill suited to their profession, the pilots create havoc wherever they go, and rarely make their destinations on schedule. This novel really keeps you laughing and yet it’s a little frightening to think that these things could really happen. The narrator flies with one co-pilot that is always plastered and another who is depressed over two failed marriages and is just a drop delusional, which makes flying with him quite an experience.

These underpaid, unappreciated pilots of Checkflight Airlines clock an insurmountable number of hours flying for a company that gives them no perks, no bonuses, and certainly no help when trouble arises in the air. On one run they leave a door open and the checks fall out of the plane. Before you know it reporters are televising pictures of these bank checks raining all over downtown Cleveland. It is like an Abbot and Costello movie but even funnier.

Also part of the mix are Checkflight’s two dispatchers, who are totally unfit for their positions, and have no clue as to what they are supposed to be doing. One of the dispatchers is senile, and barely remembers where she is, or her own name, and the other lives in her own imaginary world. You never know what is going to happen, and yet the situations that are described are so far out, you just have to laugh or stop and say: “You have to be kidding.”

The pilots fly planes that are poorly maintained and in terrible disrepair. Fixing and repairing planes is out of the question. Mechanical failures arise constantly and the people who own Checkflight airlines do not care. The safety of the pilots is not their concern, only the timely delivery of the cargo. I would not exactly call them Checkflight airlines, maybe No Budget Airlines or High Jinks Airlines. But, whatever you call them, this book is great.

For those men out there who are Freight Dogs, you deserve a lot of credit. This book, although humorous, shows the seedier side of flying. As a pilot who has experienced a lot of situations in the air, and as someone who was a Freight Dog, the author writes from experience making the novel more realistic to the reader. “Hauling Checks” is so funny that I could not put it down. The stories, the incidents, and the characters will keep the reader astounded until the very end.


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