New book by NMA Winner Carol Shaben looks at the safety of our skies

National Magazine Award-winning writer Carol Shaben, whose debut magazine feature “Fly at Your Own Risk” (The Walrus) was a double NMA winner in Investigative Reporting and Politics & Public Interest in 2009, has published a new book the evolved from that original magazine story.

Into the Abyss: How a Deadly Plane Crash Changed the Lives of a Pilot, a Politician, a Criminal and a Cop (Random House Canada) is in bookstores tomorrow, October 16.

We profiled Carol in our Off the Page interview series last spring, where she talked about how she latched on to the investigation of Canada’s aviation safety regulation and was inspired by the story of a particular plane crash in which her father was one of the survivors. [Read “Off the Page, with Carol Shaben“]

From the publisher, about Into the Abyss:

On an icy night in October 1984, a Piper Navajo commuter plane carrying 9 passengers crashed in the remote wilderness of northern Alberta, killing 6 people. Four survived: the rookie pilot, a prominent politician, a cop, and the criminal he was escorting to face charges.

Despite the poor weather, Erik Vogel, the 24-year-old pilot, was under intense pressure to fly–a situation not uncommon to pilots working for small airlines. Overworked and exhausted, he feared losing his job if he refused to fly. Larry Shaben, the author’s father and Canada’s first Muslim Cabinet Minister, was commuting home after a busy week at the Alberta Legislature.

After Paul Archambault, a drifter wanted on an outstanding warrant, boarded the plane, rookie Constable Scott Deschamps decided, against RCMP regulations, to remove his handcuffs–a decision that profoundly impacted the men’s survival. As they fought through the night to stay alive, the dividing lines of power, wealth and status were erased and each man was forced to confront the precious and limited nature of his existence.

The survivors forged unlikely friendships and through them found strength and courage to rebuild their lives. Into the Abyss is a powerful narrative that combines in-depth reporting with sympathy and grace to explore how a single, tragic event can upset our assumptions and become a catalyst for transformation.

For more on Carol Shaben’s new book, watch this video of Random House Canada vice-president Anne Collins talking about Into the Abyss.

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