"Roy Hilman was a famous aviator and Australian hero. A pilot in the Great War, a stunt flier in early Hollywood, a trans-Pacific pioneer and a national celebrity, Hilman was a man drawn upwards by dogged, dazzling ambition. Seemingly unbreakable, idolised by a nation, he was also menaced by shadows.
"Roger McDonald puts this Roy Hilman of popular legend and official biography into human perspective in Slipstream, a richly perceptive, many-layered exploration of the tensions between reality and illusion in the life of a man who was also a myth.
"In the foreground of the novel are the people closest to Hilman: his wife Olga, seduced by the velocity of flight and the man who controlled it; Charles Coulter, Hilman's sponsor, abandoned by Olga for the man he backed financially; Claude McKechnie, Hilman's official biographer, a young man in search of an idol; Leonard Baxter, who braves public outrage and sacrifices his career for the love of another man's wife. All are bound together by intrigue and colliding emotions, their complex responses to Hilman coloured by their own dreams and desires.
"Against a background of business, politics and flying, this absorbing novel examines the price of fame as it is expressed in the life of Roy Hilman, a figure whose haunting power is inseparable from the pure fascination of flight itself."
Everything in the life of a famous man is supposed to mater but whether it does is doubtful.
Much has been written about Roy Hilman and an often-used photograph appears in newspapers on certain anniversaries - Roy in his leather flying helmet looking preoccupied, determined, seemingly abstracted from life.
There are men still alive who flew with Roy and they meet each year to honour his name. Yet mention his wife who ran off before the last flight, or the American millionaire who presided over his late career, or the girl he was seeing at the time of his death, and the old flyers are likely to show offence.
From the Picador paperback edition, 1992.
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Last modified: July 16, 2001.