‘At Fault’ hits the shelves
Angus MacDonald brings his new novel to the Gail Severn
By ADAM TANOUS
Express Arts Editor
There can be few disasters more terrifying
than an airliner slamming into a high rise building. And sorting out the
blame for such a disaster is no doubt a torturous process.
Such is the premise of a new novel by Angus
MacDonald entitled, At Fault. MacDonald, who is visiting the area
over the holidays, will hold a book signing tonight from 5 to 7 at the
Gail Severn Gallery in Ketchum. The signing is sponsored by Chapter One
Bookstore, Gail Severn Gallery, and Geri and John Herbert.
MacDonald’s narrative traces the
experiences of a guilt-wracked engineer, his boss and a National
Transportation Safety Board official as the public and politicians cry out
for blame to be assigned.
In a recent telephone interview, MacDonald
said the idea for the book may have been planted in his mind many years
ago. He remembers seeing pictures of a small plane that had smashed into
the 72nd floor of the Empire State Building. One of the plane’s
engines punched right through the building, slicing the elevator cable on
its way. A woman was in the elevator at the time.
"That was a small plane. I’ve always
wondered what would happen if a 300,000 pound, fully loaded 747 hit a
building, especially considering most of the buildings these days have
curtain wall construction."
To this end, MacDonald drew on the research
work of two MIT students who modeled such an event. He also spent a good
deal of time at the NTSB going through their records in preparing to write
MacDonald said one of his biggest
challenges in writing the book was making it understandable to the average
reader. He wanted to include technical information without putting off
readers lacking a technical background.
"The reason I wrote the book is I have
a deep belief in the humanity of technology. Men and women’s minds are
truly embedded in technology," MacDonald said. While the book does
start with the crash, MacDonald said it is really about "what happens
to the three lives [involved in the search for blame]. After the crash is
the real drama."
MacDonald, who lives in Connecticut but
frequently visits the Wood River Valley, holds degrees in aeronautical and
mechanical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He
is a Life Trustee of that institution. He also worked as staff engineer on
the secret Nuclear Energy for the Propulsion of Aircraft project in Oak
Ridge, Tenn. Drawing on his knowledge and experience, MacDonald has
created a fictional account that examines corporate responsibilities,
political morality and personal integrity in the aftermath of a crash.
Asked if he had ever had a close call in a
plane, MacDonald said no. He pointed out that the accident rate has
remained fairly constant, and may have even gone down over time. The
problem is that the number of flights and people flying has gone up so
dramatically that even with a constant accident rate, the frequency of
plane crashes will necessarily increase.
And in case you are wondering, yes,
MacDonald has recently sold the movie rights to the novel.
The Gail Severn Gallery is located at 400
First Ave. N. in Ketchum. Wine and hors d’hoevres will be served at the
signing. For more information call Geri Herbert at 726-9448.