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Average rating: 6 reviews
Feb 16, 2018
Pilot - Prisoner - Patriot - Book Review
I first met Hugh and Jayne Slatter at a dinner party, at the home of some common friend’s (Kim and Kenny). At the time, I had no knowledge of Hugh’s story or what he, Jayne and their two sons had been through, although I had heard whispers of it. While I knew only that it was a harrowing story and that it had a happy ending, little did I know what that chance meeting might lead to.
My initial contact with Hugh was for technical advice, which from my perspective and my four decades of experience with computers of ALL kinds was a trivial assignment. I won’t go into the details of the support I provided to Hugh, but suffice to say that it ultimately led me to his story, his book – Pilot – Prisoner – Patriot – and a friendship with Hugh and Jayne that I count among my very best.
Reading Hugh’s story is an adventure through Africa during periods of enlightenment, great challenge, despotism and a tyranny that those of lesser character would have a very difficult time surviving, if at all. Hugh and his family, however, pulled through those challenges with the courage, conviction and tenacity of those who are cut and chiseled from the very rock formations their country of origin is formed upon.
Hugh is a ‘character’, in every sense of the word, yet his hard work, his upbringing and the discipline of his military experience dictate the kind of respect and honor of those whose training tells them, “If you’re less than 15 minutes early for a meeting, you’re late!” Having a military background myself (I am a US Navy Veteran), I can and do appreciate that kind of discipline, and I think our common background is at least part of the reason we hit it off so well.
Hugh’s story will astound you; it’s as if you walked down your hallway and into Africa, in the blink of an eye and with nothing more than the clothes on your back. From his childhood (the chapter “Growing up in Africa”) through school, college and into the Rhodesian Air Force, you’re transported through time and space to a world that very few Americans have ever visited, and fewer still have lived in. Hugh is an excellent ‘story teller’ with a great sense of humor, and you will be ushered along to a time and a way of life that simply doesn’t exist anymore.
While Hugh’s childhood and much of his life as a fighter jet and helicopter pilot in the Rhodesian Air Force may seem like something out of a movie, he and his family lived through a historically significant period in South Africa’s long history of turmoil, hardship and tyranny that few Americans know anything about. His story will engulf you, and from the very first paragraph, you won’t be able to put his book down.
His capture and torture by terrorists is a difficult chapter of his book to read, and his imprisonment isn’t much easier. With a ‘little help from his friends’, a few of which were rather famous and well known people, at that time, Hugh and his family escaped to Great Britain and ultimately, moved to the United States where they began their ‘New Life in America.’ From the moment they stepped off the plane, their lives would be forever changed, and for the better. Hugh’s life hasn’t been so much a fairy tale as it’s been the kind of challenge that few would want to even consider.
Hugh's and his family’s rewards, though, have been worth the tumultuous ride and he has become a true American ‘Patriot’, in every sense of the word. Whether that’s a direct reflection of good fortune, hard work or pure stubbornness, and his refusal to accept what fate dealt him, I’ll let you, the reader, decide for yourself. I know the answer to that question and I am honored to call Hugh my friend.
AL Stroh - Brookings, Oregon
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