OH MY GOD, AIR FORCE ONE IS HAUNTED!
A few weeks ago, I was going through my aunt’s collection of old paperback novels, searching for anything that I could possibly review during October. While I found a good deal of promising books, I have to admit that I almost squealed for joy when I came across Air Force One Is Haunted.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I had never heard of the book before and I knew absolutely nothing about the plot. But I saw that title and I knew I just had to read it. I mean, seriously — Air Force One Is Haunted! That’s like the greatest title ever! I looked at that title and I asked myself, “What’s haunting Air Force One? Angry druids? Zombies? Succubi? Woodrow Wilson?” Either way, it sounded like it had the potential to be terrifying!
Then I got home and I read the book and I discovered that …. well, let’s just say that my imagination got ahead of me.
Air Force Is Haunted was originally published in 1985 and the author was not only a world-renowned aviation expert but he was also the brother of Twilight Zone-creator Rod Serling. So, it’s perhaps not surprising that Air Force One Is Haunted feels like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone. It’s one of those things where a good but conflicted person has the chance to do something that seems like it might be good for him but it will also be bad for the world at large. Fortunately, a ghost shows up and gives him a lot of advice.
The conflicted person, in this case, is President Jeremy Haines. Haines is in his second term and it seems like the entire world is falling apart around him. America’s in the middle of a great depression. Russia and China are teaming up to possibly try to take over the world. President Haines could always launch a first strike, which would wipe out Russia as a world power but which would also kill a lot of innocent civilians. He can’t make up his mind what to do and, as a result, people across the world are starting to view him as being weak. The President has even started to see a psychiatrist but they’re soon too busy having tasteful, mass market paperback-style sex to actually do anything about the President’s issues.
If only there was a mediocre ex-president that Haines could talk to and get some advice from! However, it appears that even Jimmy Carter is refusing to take his calls.
That’s when FDR shows up.
That’s right. It turns out that FDR is haunting Air Force One and, whenever President Haines boards the plane, he ends up getting advice from him. FDR has a lot of stories to tell about governing during an economic depression. He also says “Bully,” a lot, even though that was Teddy’s phrase.
Anyway, I think the book would have been a bit more interesting if FDR had turned out of be some sort of malevolent demon who intentionally gave President Haines bad advice that eventually led to World War III. And, to be honest, I kept expecting that too happen. I kept expecting FDR’s eyes to suddenly burn like hellfire as he said, “Burn it! BURN IT TO THE GROUND!” But that never happened. Instead, this is one of those books where FDR is the greatest dead president ever and, in the end, middle-of-the-road liberalism keeps the world safe for democracy.
As you’re probably guessing, this is kind of a corny book but it is written with a lot of sincerity. One gets the feeling that Serling really did feel that, if only America’s leaders just looked to the ghost of FDR, every problem in the world would be solved. The book is also overwritten in the way that well-meaning, melodramatic novels of the past often were. One character is identified as having a “gnawing ulcer of doubt” deep in the “bowels of his conscience.” (Ewwwwwww!) That’s the type of book that this is. It’s definitely a product of its time but, if you’re a history nerd like me, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
If anyone is haunting Air Force One, I personally hope that it’s Rutherford B. Hayes. He was the best!