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Extended Audio Sample The Last Pilot, by Benjamin Johncock Click for printable size audiobook cover
4.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 54.5 out of 5 4.50 (2 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Benjamin Johncock Narrator: Donald Corre Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Jim Harrison is a test pilot in the United States Air Force, one of the exalted few. He spends his days cheating death in the skies above the Mojave Desert and his nights at his friend Pancho’s bar, often with his wife, Grace. She and Harrison are secretly desperate for a child—and when, against all odds, Grace learns that she is pregnant, the two are overcome with joy.

While America becomes swept up in the fervor of the space race, Harrison turns his attention home, passing up the chance to become an astronaut to welcome his daughter, Florence, into the world. Together, he and Grace confront the thrills and challenges of raising a child head-on. Fatherhood is different than flying planes—less controlled, more anxious—however the pleasures of watching Florence grow are incomparable. But when his family is faced with a sudden and inexplicable tragedy, Harrison’s instincts as a father and a pilot are put to the test. As a pilot, he feels compelled to lead them through it—and as a father, he fears that he has fallen short.

The aftermath will haunt the Harrisons and strain their marriage as Jim struggles under the weight of his decisions. Beginning when the dust of the Second World War has only just begun to settle and rushing onward into the 1960s, Benjamin Johncock traces the path of this young couple as they are uprooted by events much larger than themselves. The turns the Harrisons take together are at once astonishing and recognizable, their journey both frightening and full of hope. Set against the backdrop of one of the most emotionally charged periods in American history, The Last Pilot is a mesmerizing story of loss and finding courage in the face of it from an extraordinary new talent.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Ingeniously plotted, deftly written, and engrossing.”


  • “A taut domestic drama whose stringent prose evokes the emotional and physical landscape of a time and a place, this is a remarkably accomplished debut.”

    Daily Mail (London)

  • “[A] spare gem of a novel…Johncock is superb at crafting suspenseful scenes. The pioneering astronaut days, and Cold War moments like the Cuban missile crisis, offer a suitable backdrop for his dramatic tale.”


  • “A remarkable achievement…Johncock weaves a beguiling story…This is a book that hooks the reader from the very first sentence.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Johncock’s impressive debut laces fact with fiction…Jim’s story is fascinating, and the author writes with a strong ear for dialogue, which rattles the pages with intensity. A marvelous, emotionally powerful novel.”

    Publishers Weekly (starred and boxed review)

  • “This first novel is engaging and believable, and it’s compelling to revisit the events of the space program.”

    Library Journal

  • “While realistically describing the struggles Harrison faces in finding the courage to transcend a personal tragedy in the service of his country, Johncock also draws on true-life historical details to tell, in beautifully measured prose, a riveting good yarn about the US astronaut-training program.”


  • “Johncock’s mastery of the jargon and mechanics of test piloting and space flight is impressive…An ideal read for history buffs and space-race enthusiasts.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Told in language as beautifully spare—and unsparing—as a desert or a moonscape, The Last Pilot reminds us in powerful ways that the real unknown frontier still lies within the mysteries of the human heart.”

    Kim Edwards, author of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

  • “The beauty of this novel is in the balance of the dialogue, the sustained emotion that runs through the whole, the haiku-like simplicity of the prose…It reads like the reclusive disciple of Cormac McCarthy and de Saint-Exupéry.”

    Joanne Harris, author of Five Quarters of the Orange

  • “His dialogue is desert dry, and his sentences crackle with the energy of things unsaid…In a novel about the achievements of the space race, he has shown us that true heroism lies in doing the right thing behind the closed doors of home. Wonderful stuff.”

    Jon McGregor, author of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

  • A Barnes & Noble Discover Award Selection
  • On the Indie Next List for July 2015
  • One of the BBC’s Best Books to Read in July
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month for July 2015
  • A People Pick of the Week for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4.333333 out of 54.333333 out of 54.333333 out of 54.333333 out of 54.333333 out of 5 by Suzy sew | 3/3/2016

    " Lovely listen, great narration which was clear, precise and sounded like John Wayne at times. Follows the everyday goings on of a couple and their friends who live their lives in the shadow of the space programme - the husband being a test pilot for the early NASA programme. I felt it gave a good insight into relationships and the other side of the space race. A well written drama not an action page turner. Highly recommended. "

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About the Author

Benjamin Johncock was born in England in 1978. His short stories have been published by the Fiction Desk and the Junket. He is the recipient of an Arts Council England grant and the American Literary Merit Award and is a winner of Comma Press’ National Short Story Day 2012 competition. He also writes for the London Guardian. He lives in Norwich, England, with his wife, his daughter, and his son. The Last Pilot is his first novel.