Tuesday, September 21, 2021

FALLING (2021) A Novel By T.J. Newman

Falling (2021) by T.J. Newman

Been wanting to read this much-hyped debut novel all summer so when it finally came in at the library I snatched it up and looked for the perfect opportunity to crack it open. And, with the Phillies hosting the lowly Orioles in the first of a crucial three-game series, last night seemed perfect. (Spoiler, the Phillies made O’s starter John Means look like Cy Young as they fell three games back of the Braves in the race for a playoff spot.)

For those who don’t know, FALLING (285 pages, published by Avid Reader Press) has been getting plenty of advance praise and word-of-mouth since it got picked up for publishing, and for good reason. First time author TJ Newman is a former stewardess who concocted the “JAWS at 35,000 feet” storyline while in her seat during countless cross-country red eyes. Submitted to 40+ agents it finally found a home and has cover blurbs from the likes of Don Winslow and James Patterson.

In short, veteran pilot Bill Hoffman gets tapped for a last-minute flight from LA to NYC despite promising his wife, Claire, that he’d be around for their son’s little league opener. Shortly after takeoff he’s informed that his wife and two children have been taken hostage by a terrorist who presents Hoffman with a horrible choice: crash the plane killing 140+ passengers and crew or the madman offs the pilot’s family.

Naturally, the principled Hoffman vows not to crash the plane and must figure out a way to save his family, protect passengers and crew, and figure out who he can and cannot trust as he tries to avert the worst airplane disaster since 9/11.

I’ll be the first to admit that FALLING is a page-turner and I blew through it in a single sitting (with a brief stop for milk and brownies to drown my baseball sorrows). But it’s certainly not without its flaws. Newman convincingly writes the characters she knows best, namely Hoffman and his crew of attendants (veterans Jo and Big Daddy plus Kellie, the wide-eyed rookie), and the author deftly juggles myriad storylines in a style that seems tailor made for the big screen (no surprise that a dozen-plus studios and streamers battled for the film rights). But the villains – and some side characters – are strictly one-note stereotypes, the FBI agent/superior relationship is straight out of any one of a thousand cop shows/movies, some scenes are so hokey that I couldn’t help but chuckle, veterans of the action film genre will see most, if not all, of the book’s “twists” coming from a mile away, and you can tell the author watched SPEED and the AIRPORT and DIE HARD flicks a bit too much while prepping the manuscript.

Not surprisingly, Newman – who signed a seven-book deal on the strength of FALLING – is at work on a sequel, but FALLING is no TURBULENCE 3: HEAVY METAL (2001) starring Rutger Hauer, Craig Sheffer and Gabrielle Anwar (!) which revolves around a Satanic plot to crash an airliner into one of the Gates of Hell while millions watch a concert by the Marilyn Manson-esque Slade Craven that is being broadcast over the Internet from the plane. 

Now THAT is a concept! – Dan Taylor

You can buy FALLING at Amazon.

Dan Taylor is the editor/publisher of Exploitation Retrospect and The Hungover Gourmet. He does not mind flying despite getting as sick as he's ever been in his life after a flight from Baltimore to Boston.

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