cover of Last Clear Chance



Train it, do it, live it, write it

Last Clear Chance  © 2008 by Bob Tripp

© 2008 Beth Helstien

I love books and reading, and I enjoy writing about books. Others like to play golf, or fly airplanes, or scuba dive. That diversity of experience is what makes life so interesting: that we have different skills, talents and passions and we can share them.

Bob Tripp has written a first novel that feels autobiographical in places. Cleary his experience as an international pilot flying the DC-10 and the MD-11 airplanes comes through, as does his love for the Hawaiian Islands and Hawaiian culture. This book might be of interest to the local aviation community. That he writes from his experience enriches the novel with a feel of reality.

Saying that, I realize, I’ve never been to Hawaii or anywhere near the cockpit of a commercial airplane, so what do I know about whether the book feels real?  The answer is that readers respond emotionally to a book; readers want to be taken somewhere, even if they have never been there before, and a good book does that. The worlds created by literature may or may not correspond to the “real” one we all live in, but the world inside the book needs to feel true to the reader, or the book fails.

Tripp’s protagonist is a pilot who must put his life back together after crashing a commercial airliner and killing most of the passengers and crew aboard. All novelists face literary challenges: the story has to keep moving, conversation has to ring true, and character must develop in believable ways.

As our protagonist suffers remorse and guilt, he is filled with questions about the meaning of life and what happens after death. Tripp’s training as a test and commercial pilot covered a lot of territory, but probably not the ground of philosophy and religion. These tough questions challenge any writer. Tripp displays a pilot’s courage introducing characters like a Buddhist roshi, a Greek psychologist and Hindu physicist.  Like his pilot, the success he meets might not be of the kind he initially sought. But the book is a good flight.

Last Clear Chance, like all books reviewed here, may be found at the San Juan Island Library.

back to home