Call it coincidence or call it conspiracy (and some who obsessively follow the case are perhaps just crazy enough to do so), but Geoffrey Gray's new book "Skyjack," about the unsolved 1971 D.B. Cooper skyjacking case, will be be released on August 9, just a week after the FBI claimed to have a new lead on the notorious crime.
According to the Associated Press, the FBI was given a tip by a retired police officer who had been told that a man who died in a car crash in the Pacific Northwest could be D.B. Cooper. Cooper has not been seen or heard from since he captured headlines in 1971 by highjacking a plane, exchanging its passengers for cash, and then parachuting out over unsettled country in the Pacific Northwest. (Some of the ransom money, however, was found several years later near the Columbia River).
Although many tips about the D.B. Cooper case have poured in over the years, the authorities have found this one to be particularly interesting because of the low-key nature of the tipster. FBI spokeswoman Ayn Sandalo Dietrich told Slate magazine that the source offering information on the case has seemed intent on avoiding the limelight, which she found "pretty interesting" as many leads over the years have turned out to be publicity ploys.
Slate Magazine says that DNA testing to match DNA from the possible suspect and traces of DNA and fingerprints found on D.B. Cooper's tie, left on the aircraft, is currently underway. Aside from what Cooper left on the plane, the FBI has very little physical evidence linking anyone to the 1971 skyjacking, which ended with Cooper parachuting out of the plane into a rainstorm.
Don't however, expect an arrest in the case, warns The Daily Beast, which is reporting that the possible suspect died 10 years ago from natural causes. (In 1971 the suspect was said to have reported injuries sustained in what he said was a car crash.)
Gray's book, which comes out next week, doesn't include anything about this new lead, and seems likely to raise more questions about the case than it answers. It should, however, be an entertaining read for those interested in the notorious folk hero who managed to outmaneuver the federal government.
"Skyjack" takes an unconventional look at the D.B Cooper case. Gray was the first reporter to be given access to the FBI files on the skyjacking, which will make his book a must-read for Cooper enthusiasts. The book follows three different storylines: a first-person, real-time retelling of the skyjacking, which is said to be unprecedented and riveting; an examination of all the likely Cooper suspects and those involved in the case; and Gray's experience as he becomes more and more obsessed with solving the case.
There is rumored to be a curse that befalls anyone who looks into the Cooper case too closely. It is said to lead to madness, obsession, depression, and even suicide. Gray writes that as he fell deeper and deeper into the case his obsession grew, and his book now also reads as a first-person look at the belief in a D.B Cooper curse and the effect that Cooper's myth has had on popular culture.
Gray has said in an interview with the Today Show that he doubts that the new suspect will lead to any big breaks in the case, told NBC News, but he can't help but be pleased about the likely jump in book sales "Skyjacking' will get from the appearance of this well-timed new lead. Since the D.B. Cooper case is already surrounded by conspiracy theories, a book on the case and a new suspect popping up in the same week should have Cooper conspiracy theorists buzzing gleefully.
Megan Wasson is a Monitor contributor.