Excerpt From “Off the Chart” by Smith Hagaman

Is it possible to escape from hostile soldiers in an airplane that has no wings? Is it possible for a modern airliner to crash so that no one knows where it is? What would you do if you found a substitute for petroleum?

Smith Hagaman’s first novel is an epic tale of hardy souls who survive a horrifying tragedy only to discover the most dangerous part of their story has just begun. There are murderers in their midst and intrigue in their journey back to civilization.


From above, the clouds looked soft and lazy, but when the plane flashed through them, the plane’s speed astonished both pilots. One quick swirl and they were out. Like in many emergency situations, things now seemed to be in slow motion. Under the clouds they could see, but it was darker than above. They looked to be about 1,000 feet above the ground. To the left was a jagged mountain, straight ahead was a deep, rough valley, to the right was a wooded upslope. Wells turned toward the slope.

Jerry screamed,, “Mace, go straight! You’re going to hit that slope!”

Wells shouted, “Flaps down!” Then he shouted again, “Jerry, you get on that damn wheel and help me go up that slope. We’re going to fly up that hill until we stall her out. Do it or the black box will tell on you.” The wheels down alarm came on. “Help me hold her just off the trees. We want to stall her with her nose up just a little.” All four engines quit at once and even with the wheels down alarm on, it seemed awfully quiet.

If the crew could have seen it all from above, they would have seen this huge flying machine slowing as it flew upward just above the trees. The stall alarm came on. The body of the plane started hitting the tree tops as it got lower, then the tree tops started hitting the wings like machinegun fire. The swath it cut through the woods was straight until the left wing came completely off. When that happened, the resistance of the right wing caused the whole plane to slew around to the right. As it spun right, the fuselage struck an outcrop of rock and cracked in two like an egg just behind the business section. That rear part of the plane, with over 200 people in it, teetered for a moment and then fell over a cliff and dropped about 1,000 feet.

At the edge of a small lake near by, a flock of ducks exploded into the air and began to circle wildly. A moose raised its head high in the air with wet vegetation hanging from its mouth. It listened for a moment and then went back to foraging. The forest was still again.


Smith Hagaman says he wrote “Off The Chart“, his first book, in just six months because he didn’t know any better.

He was born in the N.C. mountain town of Boone in 1925. Twenty-four years later he graduated from UNC. His father, an educator, was overheard telling a friend, “Yes, he has graduated from Chapel Hill, but he is a pretty good boy, I think he’ll get over it.”

He has been married to Vicki, a champion golfer, for 62 years. His advice to young men on how to have a happy marriage: “First, marry a good looking babe. That’s what I did.”

He adds, “I have played golf for over sixty years and I believe the abuse and humiliation I suffered from that game has hardened and matured me into the author I am today.”


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