G. O. – August 24, 2006
Having a great time reading your splendid book—What a story! What a “writer”! What two adventures—then and now! . . . Had to reserve the book at the library!
August 6, 2006
Reviewer: John Rowen–Schenectady Gazette (excerpts)
. . . Rupert Pratt adds a twist to the disaster epic. Past masters of this genre, such as Walter Lord with “A Night to Remember” or Sebastian Junger with “The Perfect Storm,” devote much of their work to setting the stage for the disaster and then re-creating it. They devote less time to considering what happened afterwards. Pratt, a retired Schenectady teacher, describes a disaster with the best of them. But unlike Lord or Junger, he spends more time explaining what happens afterwards—to survivors and the family and friends of people who did not make it.
. . . Pratt shows how six men took the gift of surviving a plane crash and made it more valuable by living life fully. The passage of time, he suggests, is a gift that helps people understand the lessons of their life.
Aug 2, 2006
Reviewer: Poet & Author Joe Fabel – MWSA Review Board
Nothing bonds individuals to one another as does tragedy. This is a story of an airplane crashing in Alaska. The ordeal of discovering some died in the crash as well as the fright of facing the severe elements while awaiting rescue caused deep personal and mental wounds.
The author tells his story from the viewpoint of survivor of the crash. The heroic rescue scenes, the suffering of recovery from injuries and the bonding of friendships are all portrayed as they actually took place.
After many years apart, the thought of a reunion of the survivors enters the author’s mind. Would others still be alive? Would they be interested in getting together? Is this desire to reacquaint solely his?
Eventually all of those who were rescued along with the rescuers gathered together to talk about their shared adventure. This encouraged more reunions as well as visits to the crash site to establish a memorial to those who didn’t survive.
Yes, tragedy possesses a unique bonding quality, one which brings out a depth of concern and respect for the participants. This is a story of courage as well as of respect.
August 1, 2006
Reviewer: Bill McDonald – President of the MWSA
A True Story of Survival and Friendship
This book “Touching the Ancient One – a True Story of Tragedy and Reunion” could have been a very good book had the author Rupert Pratt just written about the crash, the survival and the rescue. However, he exceeds the ordinary telling of a tragic story and takes us into the present time for a reunion and follow-up on those who were touched by the events of February 5, 1954; and that makes for an outstanding book!
The event that brings all these lives together was a crash of an Air Force C-47 into a desolate mountain region of Alaska where six people miraculously escaped death and survived in freezing weather. The story is not just about the survivors but also those who come to rescue them. The glue that makes this story so interesting is the power of Pratt’s writing. He takes the reader with him through his words and memories and creates an exciting true tale; it is brilliantly done and conceived.
This is truly one great book. This story is not just about a crash, it is about people. It is about how their reunion 42 years after the crash and the rescue, changes all of their lives once again. It is a most unusual life experience and one that the reader gets to share in an emotional sense. This is an epic story which has all the elements of what would make a great movie plot. It is entertaining, thoughtful, and almost spiritual in some ways.
A must read book! The MWSA gives this book FIVE STARS. It also receives this reviewer’s personal endorsement!
D. P. – June 29, 2006
As a fellow author, I appreciate everything about the book, from its wonderful cover, to the layout, to the two segments (done just right that way), to the very appropriate photos. I'm glad you saved the wreckage pictures for the end, as it was much more powerful to let my unconscious mind supply the images in the early going.
You're a damned good writer . . . thank you for sharing this part of your soul with the nation.
L. B. – June 29, 2006
Thank you for your announcement about the publication of your book. I ordered it from Amazon and, for me, it was a page turner. You are a good writer . . . The passage dealing with the crash and its aftermath was very well done. I know you made it (for you survived to tell the story) but I was on pins and needles awaiting the outcome. And it was a tremendous idea for the annual reunions. What a brotherhood!
I have never visited Alaska but the reading of your book has the juices flowing urging me on a trip to our 49th state.
June 28, 2006–This came from a friend who received it from a friend who received it from a friend who had heard about the book at a military reunion:
I wanted to let you know that I have just finished the book by Rupert Pratt, " Touching the Ancient One."
That is a very good book and one of the best that I have ever read. I really enjoyed the book. I had tears in my eyes several times and I could relate to his writings. I must have flown over the area in 1954 several times on test hops and in someone’s C-47 out of Eielson AFB.
I just wish that I had known about the book before I went to Alaska last year. I would have stopped at the Veteran's Memorial in Talkeetna. I stayed there at the Lodge that they were writing about.
Reviewer: David J. Pitkin (Chestertown, NY) June 25, 2006
Author of Ghosts of the Northeast and several other books
In myth, mountains represent "exposition, revelation and new learning." For Airman Rupert Pratt, that is what the plane crash on Mt. Kesugi, Alaska represented. First, the struggle to survive, then the ongoing search for how and why it all happened. Pratt keeps the reader riveted first, with the immediate survival issues. Then comes the search for comrades who survived. Much later, arises the soul's need to make sense of it all, and his search leads to many reunions and a vision of a greater role after retiring from teaching. Warning to readers: Be prepared to devote time to sharing Pratt's quest. In the midst of a project, I had to allot a full day to the book that is both suspenseful and inspiring. The author's adventure is heightened by his truthfulness and clarity of writing. Well done!
Greg McGarry–June 6, 2006
I just finished your book and highly recommend it to all. You did a wonderful job of sharing a tragic experience in a way that brings the reader right into the thick of it but, even more importantly, you carry that reader right through your - and others - subsequent life journey that finds solace and comfort in the bonds of friendship between not only the survivors but also between the survivors and the loved ones of those who were lost in that terrible plane crash. In the process, the reader gains an even greater appreciation for his or her life and the bonds of love and friendship that none of us must ever take for granted. Thank you, Rupert, for taking the time to share your extraordinary experience and journey. God bless you.
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading "Touching the Ancient One". It is always meaningful to read about something that happened in my state, but I particularly applaud the way you gave meaning to and memorialized the lives of those who were lost. I still choke up even thinking about David West-Watson's remarks about his dad.
Barb Harvey–May 9, 2006
I finished your book and was enthralled with the details of the story. What you have written, will, no doubt, be remembered by all who read it. I have reccommended it to everyone. Thank you for the opportunity to visit Alaska thru your rememberances. Your picture gallery is breathtaking.
E. K. – I finished reading your book. Excellent, I don't know how you managed all those memories and information. Once started, I couldn't put it down. Lots of information we never knew about. My parents will be pleased, I ordered them a copy too. The 'Cliff stories' were a real hoot----especially the cow in the boat----laughed my butt off on that one. Hope all is well there and thanks again for all you've done.
G. P. – Just wanted to congratulate you on your book. It was a super job and very well done. There were many highs and low's in the book. It was so interesting that I couldn"t put it down. I finished it in two days.
Your experiences were horrifying. I probably would have had a heart attack when the plane exploded. It is great that you and your buddies meet and have remembered those who did not make it.
Ed Fox–May 6, 2006
Hi Rupert, Just finished the book. I think it is great, we differ on a few things, but your way sounds better.
T. S. – I read your book. It was a very good experience-- even got me choked up a few times! . . . I was very impressed with your book.
Ben Horton–May 6, 2006
I'm almost finished reading the book. I have thoroughly enjoyed it.
David Lee Thompson, Author of River of Memories: An Appalachian Boyhood–May 6, 2006
On Sunday, April 30, 2006, at 2:40 PM, I finished reading Rupert Pratt’s "Touching the Ancient One," a story that had its genesis more than fifty-two years ago. I was only ten at the time, but Rupert’s description of six men surviving a plane crash that happened more than half a century ago, conjures memories of my own parents relating the incident at our kitchen table, just days after that tragic moment in February 1954.
I was saddened when Rupert told about leaving his home in Salt Rock, West Virginia, to join the Air Force, since I, too, left the security of my own rural upbringing early one morning for similar reasons. A few chapters later, I grew tense when the plane he boarded in Alaska first began to shake. And then, when it broke apart over Kesugi Ridge and Rupert began freefalling, my muscles further tightened at the thought of his not regaining consciousness in time to pull the all-important D-ring to deploy the parachute. But my sense of reasoning told me he had to. After all, he wrote the book. However, his ability to create such anxiety drew me far enough into the scene that I lost track of who had actually authored the book. From that point on, I was hooked on Rupert’s descriptive passages about the coldness and beauty of Alaska‘s wilderness. In fact, his graphics often became quite similar to a story I used to read to my junior high students entitled, “To Build a Fire,” by Jack London. And, too, his knowledge of the flora of the region and facts about the landscape reminded me of Jean M. Auel’s "The Clan of the Cave Bear."
During church earlier that morning, my pastor spoke, in essence, about, “What do we say to people who meet with adversity in their lives?” The subtopic of his message, “Does their incident of misfortune cause them to become bitter or better?” relates to "Touching the Ancient One," for Rupert Pratt has become a stronger individual, since that occurrence in Alaska so long ago. And, I think God specifically chose him as a catalyst to reunite the six survivors and their families with the loved ones of those who were killed. I further feel that God has used him to help all who were involved to find closure, thereby, becoming improved, more productive citizens in this seemingly uncaring world we live in today. Rupert had a profound affect indeed on all whose lives he touched during the course of reunification, and he will continue to influence others who read this story of tragedy and reunion in the years ahead.
"Touching the Ancient One" flows with the skill that comes only from a seasoned writer, and I shall not hesitate to read any book a second time that tugs at the tender spots of my heart as this one has managed to do. I am truly amazed at what Rupert has done with only twenty-six letters of the alphabet.
---------------------------------Reviewer: Keith H. Betscher–Westchester, Ohio–April 9, 2006
I grew up knowing my father was killed in a military airplane crash. My mother remarried back into the Air Force and my stepfather adopted my sister and me. I'm very close to my adoptive father; he raised me as his son. I often wondered about Bob, what he was like, how am I like him, and how would my life be different if he had lived.
When I went off to college near my Mother's hometown, Mom told me there was a special box waiting for me in the attic of my Grandmother's house. I open that box one summer day in 1970. I found personal effects of Bob, letters, C-47 training manuals, newspaper clippings, and copies of the memorial service for my father. I remember promising myself that someday I would go to Alaska and find the crash site. I did not know where it was or how I would get there, but I needed to go and touch the C-47 with my own hand and stand where my father had died.
Twenty-five years latter, Rupert helped make my wish come true. Not only did I touch the instrument panel of my father's airplane and bring an oil pressure gage home, but also I met the six men who survived and learned their stories of that tragic day. I remember driving to Dayton, Ohio, with my wife Jan, for the first reunion thinking "My father died, `these guys lived`, this is going to be a party?" Three days later, we were one big family, joined by a tragic plane crash and friends for life.
Over the years, we as a group mounted plaques honoring the ten men who died on February 5th, 1954, arranged a metal for a hero who found some of the survivors that day and set the record straight for the history books.
Rupert, for all you have done to bring us together as a family, and for helping me achieve my dream, I thank you. Your story is our story, and it is a good story to tell.
THANKS, you allowed me to get a bigger taste of Alaska through your great story. God Bless You.
Seldom read a book from cover to cover. The Ancient One is different. Every page triggers a need to respond, or ask something.
George C. Scott, playing the role of Gen. George Patton in the film, "Patton", while surveying through his powerful field glasses the deployment of German General Rommel's tank corps in a North African desert scene exclaimed, "Rommel, you magnificent son of a bitch, I read your book." As I read YOUR book, that Rommel remark came to mind and I kept thinking, "Pratt, you magnificent story teller, I read your book."
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