Skip to main content

Book Review: A Hundred Feet Over Hell by Jim Hooper


A Hundred Feet Over Hell by Jim Hooper is a very personal story about the Vietnam War experience, told mostly from the mouths of the men who lived it. The "Catkillers" of the 220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company were forward air controllers operating in the most hostile environment in Vietnam: the so-called "Demilitarized Zone," which was anything but demilitarized. These men flew in two-seat, propeller-driven Cessna O-1 Bird Dogs, at low speeds and low altitudes, directing field artillery against enemy targets and controlling air strikes. Through an extensive amount of research and numerous detailed interviews, Hooper manages to present a clear picture of life in the I Corps and DMZ during the Vietnam War ~ the battles and the personal struggles, the way these men were changed forever.

I have to start my review by saying that I highly doubt I'm the target audience for this particular book. Yes, I enjoy historical fiction and memoirs. But I would not normally pick up a true story about a war. I've read novels and memoirs related to World War II, but they were about civilians living through the war, not the military actually fighting in it. Despite all that, I really loved this book.

A Hundred Feet Over Hell was a much easier read than I had expected, and I felt like I really got to know these men through Hooper's storytelling. Reading this book was like watching a war movie. It was full of action "scenes" where Catkiller pilots are flying over the DMZ taking enemy fire, while relaying vital information about troop locations, and guiding fighter pilots to fire at the VC troops while avoiding the friendlies. It amazes me that these men survived in these planes that had no armor and no real weapons. Their planes were riddled with bullet holes, yet they continued to fly right into the middle of battles so they could save the men on the ground. I loved the fact that Hooper devoted an entire chapter to the perspective of those men on the ground whose lives were saved by the Catkillers.

Hooper also weaved in plenty of personal accounts of the men who were there ~ their memories of their first days, their first flights, their first kills. He described, through their words and memories, the time they spent away from the battlefield, drinking beer, joking with each other, trying to have some normalcy in the wake of war:
We took hits, but luck saw them pass through our aircraft without striking flesh or engine, and we returned to Dong Ha to count the holes, play a few hands of poker, and prepare the next day's mission. War was our life. It was what we did. ~ p45
There is a lot of jargon in the book, so Hooper provides a glossary in the back. But I only referred to it a few times. I didn't find it difficult to keep up with the acronyms and military terminology at all. If you enjoy war movies and stories, I highly recommend this book. And if you are a history buff, especially if you're interested in the Vietnam War, I'd say this is a must read. The first-person accounts make you feel like you're part of the action!

My Rating: 5/5

For more information about author Jim Hooper, whose own brother was one of the Catkillers, visit www.jimhooper.co.uk.

This review was written based on a copy of A Hundred Feet Over Hell that I received from Lisa Roe at Online Publicist.

Comments

  1. I dont think I would be the target audience either for this one. I am not much of a war buff - fact or fiction.

    Looks like you enjoyed it though - great review :)

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Thanks for stopping by! I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Popular posts from this blog

Getting back to blogging

It seems that blogging has dropped to the bottom of my list for the past year, and was pretty low for the year or two prior to that. I love to read, and am continuing to do so, but as my regular readers know I haven't been around much. My last blog post was almost a year ago!!

There are many things that have taken me away from blogging. Work has been much more challenging and interesting these past few years, but that means I really don't want to get back on the computer when I get home at night - or on the weekends.

Family life has been more busy with kids having multiple activities in the evenings, leaving little time to just hang out and write about the books that I read.

I will admit to a bit of a Facebook addiction, which means way too much time spent scrolling through my newsfeed instead of doing something more productive. This is one of the things I'm working on and hoping that this will free up some time for getting back to the blog.

Overall, life is good. Work is …

Book Review: The Bookman's Tale by Charlie Lovett

Peter Byerly is distraught over the loss of his wife nine months ago. He has retreated to their cottage in the English countryside, hoping to return to his love of collecting and restoring rare books. But when he opens a book about Shakespeare forgeries and finds a Victorian watercolor of a woman who looks just like his wife, Peter is soon on a search for the origin of the painting and the truth about Shakespeare's real identity.

The Bookman's Tale: A Novel of Obsession by Charlie Lovett is a wonderful journey for anyone who loves books. It follows Peter's search in 1995, which turns into a bit of a thriller at times. But Lovett also takes the reader back in time a bit so we can learn the story of his relationship with his wife and how he came to be a bookseller. He does a beautiful job of expressing Peter's feelings about the rare books he encounters, and his feelings are contagious.

And then he takes us back even further to the history of one particular volume, whos…

Banned Books Week: Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park

This is the end of Banned Books Week and unfortunately, I haven't had a lot of time to write about banned books this year. But I did want to include at least one post about it, so today I wanted to share one of the book series that it seems most people are surprised to find on the list: Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park.

According to Wikipedia:
The Junie B. Jones series came in at #71 on the American Library Association's list of the Top 100 Banned or Challenged Books from 2000-2009. Reasons cited are poor social values taught by the books and Junie B. Jones not being considered a good role model due to her mouthiness and bad spelling/grammar. This is an interesting example of a banned book. Many times there are serious, controversial topics featured in books that are challenged. Things like homosexuality, drugs, vulgar language, etc. You can actually understand why people may not want their children to read those books, and why they may challenge their inclusion in school libra…