In Flight 685 is Overdue, by Edward Moore, the titular plane goes through a hellish journey that makes the reader instantly convert to pedestrian travel for life. Or, more accurately, it would if the book was written with any degree of skill. As it is, Flight 685 is a catalog of ridiculous woes and half-assed anecdotes, all glued together by a protagonist who's best described as a cock.
In a turbulent nutshell, Flight 685 follows a passenger plane's travel from Chicago to Miami. It being a normal night in 1960, this would be fairly uneventful for Captain Joe Wilson: a few long hours in the sky, followed by a rigorous shagging of the latest (soon-t-be-ex) virginal member of the flight crew.
His "out of bed before breakfast" post-encounter demeanour doesn't earn him many repeats, but Wilson knows that a pilot is never short of willing women for cheap, meaningless sexual encounters. This is a fact - one repeated endlessly (and a bit wistfully) by Mr. Moore.
Unfortunately for Captain Wilson, this particular flight is far from uneventful. It starts with a little engine problem (Wilson shrugs it off - real men don't need all four!) and quickly escalates. By the time the plane lands in Miami, Flight 685 has been hijacked (twice!), deprived of another two engines, nearly crashed in the ocean, gotten lost in the fog and hit with a missile. Essentially anything that could have possibly gone wrong has gone wrong. Plus a missile.
This litany of woe is compacted in a few short pages (this is a vintage Ace, after all), but Mr. Moore carefully makes room for all the tragedy by carefully excising any shred of character development. Captain Wilson is the ostensible hero (everyone thinks he's nifty), but he reacts to his near death experiences by shrugging his shoulders and whisking away a shell-shocked 18 year old for a night of unrepentant (for him) bliss. There are few other characters that are even remotely memorable. A gorgeous prostitute lives for three pages: introduced on the first, pithily summarised on the second and then shot on the third. A co-pilot is notable for his lack of dialogue and a handful of passengers all serve as interchangeable plot sausages. A few other characters (a horny scientist, a bored control tower goon and a suicidal pilot) help punctuate the paragraph breaks.
Somewhat amusingly, Mr. Moore also saves on the page count with this concise ending:
"The ship veered sharply and was on the runway... [Joe wrestles with the controls]... The wing went down and tore off. They [sic] ground looped violently and continued turning, end of end, several times. Six eight five burst into flames as they came to a stop. Immediately, the stewardesses began hurrying the passengers outside and ordered them to run as fast as possible. They were out of the plane in less than a minute. As Joe and Frank cleared the wreckage and began to run, it exploded." (191)
Add in a final line for Wilson to be creepy about the young stewardess and there you have it: The. End. If, for example, this book wasn't terrible, and I did care the tiniest bit about 685, this might have seemed a bit abrupt.
From opening smug to closing sleaze, the entirety of this short and dire book reads like the worst sort of fan fiction. Captain Joe Wilson. Manly (too manly to do anything but shag indiscriminately). Rugged (too rugged for proper plane maintenance). Heroic (he explodes his plane for the hell of it).
Next time, I'm cheering for the missile.