Steven Lane Smith
Outskirts Press (2019)
ISBN 9781977209078
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (06/19)

“Reaper’s Lament,” by Steven Lane Smith contains a collection of about 45 spine tingling true stories of pilots who managed to outsmart the Grim Reaper. The stories are presented by pilots from varied backgrounds which include military, airline and bush pilots. Each chapter begins with an introduction about the person behind the story. In most cases, a photograph, the author’s name, military affiliation, rank, place where educated, and current career are all listed. There is usually a list of planes in which the individual has experience. If the pilot of a story has written books, this information is given at the end of the chapter. This gives readers an excellent opportunity to read more material by an author that triggers their interest. Each adventure is told from the perspective of the individual experiencing it. I love that each one is written in the pilot’s voice, so at times, I felt like I was being read to, rather than reading the words myself. The pages truly come to life when reading such harrowing accounts of what people have survived.

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Many of the stories take place in the military. Readers who enjoy history will find themselves learning a lot about the experiences of pilots during times of war. There are also other stories that are involved with topics like inclement weather. I think those hit me the hardest because most of the things that went wrong, could easily happen to me on a flight. As I read, I was amazed as to what these men did to escape from deadly situations. In some cases, it was pure luck, in others their ingenuity was the key that helped them stay alive.

It was ironic that a few days before I started reading “Reaper’s Lament,” a Marine helicopter caught on fire at my local airport. Nobody was injured, but I must look at the burned-out shell of the helicopter every time I pass by. This is less than a half a mile from where a harrier jet pilot ejected right before his plane crashed into a home. Once again, no one was hurt, but as the case is with this book, I am reminded that the grim reaper doesn’t always get people who are in the air.  There are many lessons within these pages about not taking life for granted.

“Reaper’s Lament,” by Steven Lane Smith is a must read for people who enjoy non-fiction stories about aviation. I really enjoyed it and plan on gifting my father his own copy. Having been involved with aircraft carriers in the Navy, and a private pilot after he retired, he has quite a few of his own interesting stories to tell and I know he would really enjoy this book. This is a great gift for readers who have an aviation and/or military background.