EPS Review #137 - What Happened to the Hippy Man?

Hippyman What Happened to the Hippy Man?, by Michael Thexton, Lanista Partners 2006, 222pp.

Mike Thexton went to Pakistan in 1986 to go climbing in memory of his brother, who had died on Broad Peak. Mike was so eager to get home after months of trekking, that he upgraded himself to business class on Pan Am flight 73 from Karachi. This flight was then hijacked on the ground by four Palestinian terrorists, who shot a passenger right away to show they meant business. They then collected passports, but the wily stewardesses hid all those of the white-American passengers, so for the next victim the terrorists chose Briton Mike Thexton.

Mr Thexton tells the story well, which is not surprising since he has lectured about it hundreds of times (the text is conversational in a pleasant ironic British way). By the end of the book he has perhaps packed in too much detail, but you can see that he wanted a complete document of his experience. It would also have been interesting to hear more stories from the other passengers and the exceptional stewardesses, but again Thexton deliberately left these out.

But it is fascinating to learn how everyone froze when they saw the terrorists' guns -- and that in fact the SAS has a policy of shooting anyone who moves when they storm someplace, knowing that innocent people freeze in this way. The terrorists did not know that the cockpit was upstairs, so the pilots had time to use the escape hatch in their roof to leave, which Thexton thinks was the right move and saved lives. Pakistan at first claimed that their special forces stormed the plane, but in fact they did not. Newspapers and TV still say they did - Mike quotes some saying that the media are always correct except in the one story of which you have some personal knowledge. Anyway, why not read the book and find out the rest of the story, which includes the FBI kidnapping the chief terrorist after he serves his time in a Pakistan jail.

And you should read the book because my friend Neil published it! It is fascinating that Amazon lists his book at a discount, and that five sellers are offering it used there, because Neil says the entire stock of the book is sitting in his garage! Amazon must automatically parse some ISBN list and generate the page, and they (and the resellers) must rely on predatory discount schemes. I am amazed that book technology does not seem to have improved any over my lifetime, and Neil confirms that it is still a surprisingly manual and expensive process to make a book. He also notes that once one newspaper writes up a new book (in this case the Telegraph), the others lose interest.

Oh, and set the plane doors to automatic before jumping out, should you ever have occasion to -- this makes the slides deploy. Otherwise it is a long way down.