BOOKS: AIRCRAFT AMUCK

IN HIS LATEST, MICHAEL CRICHTON EXPLAINS PLANES

Michael Crichton's new novel, Airframe (Alfred A. Knopf; 351 pages; $26), is so camera ready, it might be poured directly onto the screen. That quality gives the book immediacy, but don't give the credit to Crichton's literary skill. He simply sketches in the familiar elements--a determined, divorced heroine; techno-speak; footsteps in the dark--and the reader, conditioned by the scores of suspense films he has seen, reflexively provides the art direction, special effects and stars (say Jodie Foster and perhaps Courteney Cox in a surprisingly strong Best Supporting Actress-nominated performance).

Casey Singleton works for Norton Aircraft in California. When an accident occurs...

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