No, waiting for engine installation to be complete didn't driven me insane, but it did given me some time to read. I just finished the novel Round the Bend by Nevil Shute. Blog reader Hawke sent it to me some time ago. I'd already read On the Beach by the same author and enjoyed that, and hey, someone wanted to send me a book. Of course I said yes to his offer.
It's out of print, I think. My copy is hardback with the proper old book smell and a map, in the endpapers, of the region between Saudi Arabia and Australia, where most of the action takes place.
I cracked it open and started reading the adventures of the protagonist, who as a teenage boy was so enthralled by a flying circus that he joined them as a labourer, becoming an aircraft mechanic and a pilot and eventually starting his own air transport business in the middle east. Despite the fact that he doesn't have much flying or business experience, nor even a commercial pilot licence, nothing much goes wrong, and he demonstrates a talent for business and people.
Before I got very far on my initial reading I had to go to work, so I left the book at home and didn't pick it up again until my next time off a month or so later. After a few repetitions of this, I wrote Hawke to assure him that I was reading it and I did like it.
Just like this blog, it's told in the first person and I was lulled into enjoying it simply for the similar but from another age and place recitation of the minutia of preparing airplanes for flight and the various logistics of going to new places, finding food and accommodation, and ensuring there will be fuel and maintenance available. The people he meets and employs along the way are interesting, and, despite their diverse religions and races, are treated as individual respect-worthy human beings, both by the narrator and as subjects of the novel. I more than once flipped forward to confirm the 1951 copyright date. Someone who today calls bigoted attitudes 'antiquated' is doing a disservice to the time.
I was probably halfway through the book before I began to suspect that the narrator was not in fact the protagonist, just a witness to the messiah-like life of what had at first appeared to be a minor character. Neither the book nor its humble messiah asks you to believe anything you wouldn't ordinarily, or to stop believing anything you already believe. The story could probably be criticized as simplistic, but the framing excuses that. It's presented as the matter of fact memoir of a pilot--someone who describes Agra by giving just as much weight to the quality of the runway and hangars as he does to the Taj Mahal--and as long as his airplanes are flown and maintained well and responsibly, it doesn't matter what the craftsmen believe. While reading the final pages I had to assure a Boston Pizza waitress that I was fine, really, just reading an emotional book, could you please bring me another napkin?
Nevil Shute was himself an engineer, pilot and entrepreneur, and according to Wikipedia, he considered Round the Bend to be his best novel. I think I'll try to find some of his other aviation novels to read.
Out in the real world, Captain David Cronin died Monday at age 81. He was the pilot-in-command of UA811, a B747 that landed in Honolulu with a gaping hole just behind the cockpit, after a forward cargo door came off.