Sunday, 14 September 2014


That's the book closing, and gladly so.  A few comments:

1. Reading this book now it's amazing how out-of-date it is.  Granted, he was using what information was available at the time, but since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 we now know that the plane righted itself after being hit and flew for another 5 minutes before beginning to lose altitude and slowly spiral till it crashed.  In this book, Rohmer contends (probably accurately for the time) that the passengers never knew what hit them and died in seconds.  We now know that's not what happened.

2. Chris -what you said.  The third or fourth time he dismisses the possibly of pilot error with "impossible to believe" you think "yes, but even so, likely".

3.  When you're doing research and constructing a narrative around it, a certainly leeway for conjecture can be forgiven.  For example, just before the Soviet fighter pilot fires on the KAL plane, Rohmer writes "Whatever the order, he would obey it.  But he did wonder what the target was.".  Okay - that's fine - the pilot probably did wonder what this plane was, and there's nothing wrong with assuming he did.  However, please let me know what kind of research in the mid-80s would have turned up this information about that same pilot: "...he was a bit flabby of face and physique but his cardiovascular system, assisted by regular exercise and over twenty years of and average daily vodka consumption at eight to ten ounces, was still in reasonably good shape."  I mentioned this to Brian in a pub 2 nights ago and we both attributed this to his obsession with proving to the world that Russians drink vodka all the time and in great quantities.

4. Even more than Patton's Gap, the story of this book seems more like an overview of the research done for it.  Reports, background details, info about flights, flying, the airline industry, the Soviet military, the propaganda war that followed it, the background on the passengers on the flight - just an unrelenting barrage of facts without much effort to frame it as a story.  Maybe eight to ten ounces a day while reading it would have helped.


  1. I realized that I underlined a lot more of the last third of Massacre than the first two thirds. When Richard Rohmer is talking about hundreds of people dying in horror, it's "just the facts m'am" but when he's talking about meetings to decide who gets the blame he's the Huffington Post. Jeane Kirkpatrick BLASTS the Soviet ambassador. Russia DESTROYS America's version of events. The nonaligned nations are STAMPEDED into a CATASTROPHIC rewording of the resolution.

    It's not about ideology. He's a company man. And he's genuinely more interested in who covered their ass and who didn't than in murder.

    Richard Rohmer liked flying fighter planes against the Axis, but he he loves a good meeting.

  2. That a mass market paperback makes a slamming noise when closed is evidence of real dissatisfaction.