“Nostalgic and heart-rending... hypnotic. Not only has [Johncock] stripped his narrative down to sleek, aerodynamic paragraphs, but he tells much of this story in clipped dialogue that only suggests the pain swelling beneath the lines... the effect is supercharged Hemingway at 70,000 feet.”

Washington Post

“A remarkable achievement... Johncock weaves a beguiling story... This is a book that hooks the reader from the very first sentence... lit by the fire of 1960s adventure, and also by the blazing beauty of a new literary star.”

Boston Globe

“Reading Johncock one is reminded of Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy and especially of James Salter’s The Hunters. His mastery of the American idiom is perfect. This is a first-rate novel by a major new talent. Ten out of ten.”

The Spectator

“With great skill (and some nerve), Benjamin Johncock has inserted his fiction into the true history of the early space race and it’s almost impossible to see the join. A big, muscular novel... tenderly undercut by the quite different theme of a marriage and a family under unbearable stress... convincing and moving.”


“Transports readers to a time of scotch-soaked bars, Walter Cronkite on the news, and astronauts as superheroes... Ingeniously plotted, deftly written, and engrossing.”

People Magazine, Best New Books

“His descriptive writing has a clean grace that recalls Cormac McCarthy... Johncock’s story and characters take flight: this is a very promising debut.”

New Statesman

“A taut domestic drama whose stringent prose evokes the emotional and physical landscape of a time and a place, this is a remarkably accomplished debut.”

Mail on Sunday

“One of the most authentic pieces of fiction set in America in years. Johncock writes paragraphs that are often only seen by master craftsman with many books already to their name. A distinct and unique new voice in fiction... reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy. If the National Book Award opened up its prize to novels not just written by Americans, but set in America, The Last Pilot would have to be considered for that award. Johncock shatters previous attempts at writing about American life from an outsider’s perspective.”

Huffington Post

“In this riveting and beautifully written novel... Johncock brings fresh perspective and new energy to this old story ground.”

Daily Mail

“A spare gem of a novel.”

—BBC Culture

“Tightly told with searing uncomplicated prose, The Last Pilot is as engaging for its emotional gravitas as it is for its enthralling story of the race to space – I couldn’t put it down.”

—Amazon: Best Books of the Month

“This marvellous book captures the excitement of the space race alongside the emotions of Jim and Grace. Johncock seamlessly blends history and fiction, science and intimacy.”

Sunday Express

“A Great American Novel – written by a Brit.”

Times Higher Education

“A stellar debut... one of those terrific reads that deliver a compelling story against an interesting historical backdrop.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“A touching and fascinating tale of a man forced to choose between family and his place in the history books.”

We Love This Book: Book of the Week

“Johncock has earned his ‘right stuff’ merit badge.”

San Diego Tribune

The Last Pilot may be Benjamin Johncock's first book, but it reads like he's a seasoned pro, with descriptions and dialogue so rich that it's impossible not to get invested in the book's characters...You may cry, but this story is worth every tear.”


“With its Lucky Strike-smoking hero, pithy prose and terse, no-frills dialogue, this classic tale of love and loss is steeped in the American tradition… Although the idea of the personal and professional in conflict is a familiar one, this big-hearted, atmospheric narrative is charged with the tension of the times and carried along by its compassionately imagined characters.”

The Lady

“A quick read with punchy, spare dialogue that makes the action pop. Johncock strikes just the right balance, marrying facts and real life people with fictitious characters... A contemplative book that will spark many a conversation.”

The Missourian

“A powerful story of courage and redemption, The Last Pilot portrays an emotional time in American history through the Harrisons' marriage-a tale of world events larger than the young couple, the joys and hopes of parenthood and the crushing burden of devastating loss.”


“A test pilot pushing the sound barrier. A husband consoling his childless wife. An astronaut training for the impossible... Spanning the aftermath of World War II to the '60s, The Last Pilot offers a heart-wrenching tale of loss and discovery.”

―Paste Magazine, Best New Books of the Month

“It takes a confident writer to cover material that Tom Wolfe defined as his own in The Right Stuff. Benjamin Johncock proves that he has the chops to put his own spin on the matter. Johncock writes spare sentences, each diamond-like, free of any cloudiness caused by extra words. The prose is beautiful.”


“A soaring, exhilarating, emotional read, a mesmerising family story... that plumbs the depths of grief and mental illness. He conjures the feel of a place so completely that it is hard to believe Johncock was not raised in the sun-strafed Californian desert.”

Eastern Daily Press

“An arresting debut... Comparisons to Cormac McCarthy aren’t wide of the mark – heartbreaking and brilliant.”

Portsmouth News

“An impressive debut... a marvellous, emotionally powerful novel.”

Publishers Weekly (starred & boxed review)

“An ideal read for history buffs and space race enthusiasts.”


“This first novel is engaging and believable, and it's compelling to revisit the events of the space program.”

Library Journal

“The Last Pilot deftly evokes America’s ramp-up to the space program so skillfully you can almost feel the sandblasted landing strips.”

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

“Johncock is being compared to Cormac McCarthy... A much-needed fix for those suffering from Mad Men withdrawal.”

The National

“The dialogue is clean and smooth and Johncock’s spare prose gallops along at a fair pace.”

Herald Scotland

“Johncock’s characters are his real accomplishment. The author

offers such emotional insight.”

Big Issue

“Far and away the best debut novel of the year. It left me an emotional wreck. The writing stands head and shoulders above most other debut novels. The spare style is reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy, Hemingway, and especially Updike (The Last Pilot reminded me in spades of Rabbit Run). One of the most confident, assured debut novels I have ever read. Emotionally gripping, and absolutely compelling, I cannot recommend this highly enough.”


“While realistically describing the struggles Harrison faces in finding the courage to transcend a personal tragedy in the service of his country, Johncock also draws on true-life historical details to tell, in beautifully measured prose, a riveting good yarn.”

—Book List

“5/5. A truly marvellous read.”

—The Reading Agency

It captures a sense of time and place in a very evocative way and explores the personal challenges of one family whilst society changes in the background, in a manner reminiscent of Mad Men. There are some beautiful, sad moments as well as a fascinating insight into the space race and the sacrifices and courage it required.”

Soho House Books to Read In July

“An exploration of a marriage at the same time as frontiers are being pushed... beautifully executed. Benjamin Johncock is a name that you’ll be hearing more of.”

—BBC Radio Oxford

“Johncock threads fictional protagonists through a milieu with many familiar historical characters without awkward traces of literary Photoshopping.”

The Pueblo Chieftian

“Masterful, nail-biting and heartfelt.”

—BookBrowse (Editor’s Choice)

“Johncock has the Carveresque ability to pack feeling into and between and beneath a few words of dialogue; and the Salterish knack of constructing the tightest of sentences. There are moments of desert heat which recall Cormac McCarthy; dust bowl fences and silence Steinbeck.... How does one end up writing like Carver, Salter, and Yates without reading them? His sentences are taut, quivering units, vibrant under pressure like engine casing or the desert heat shimmer. Johncock’s novel of marriage and family and endeavour is a truly impressive achievement. Indeed, The Last Pilot is one of the best debuts I’ve read in a long time. Sentence by sentence, it’s one of my favourite books of the last few years.”

—Words of Mercury

“The transcendent beauty of the prose owes much to its restraint and rawness, absolutely symbiotic with the story it sets out to tell.”

—On the Literary Sofa: Summer Reads 2015

“Written in sparse, quick prose that balances sadness and action, The Last Pilot is a stunning debut that is as engrossing and profound as it is entertaining.”

—Shelf Awareness

“As near perfect as it’s possible to be when it comes to genius storytelling, emotionally resonant use of language and the ability to get you right in the heart.”

—Liz Loves Books

“There are almost too many great things that could be said about The Last Pilot. It can take more than one and still less than a half dozen novels by one author before their writing is recognized. In Johncock’s debut, he only needs 300 pages. His writing is incredibly terse, but super efficient. The dialogue between characters is wholly believable and emotionally raw. Character exchanges are often very short worded, but the words used are incredibly effective, conveying loads of emotion and meaning. It’s very reminiscent of Hemingway. The journey that the reader makes is simply incredible. There is no doubt this novel will stand among the best of 2015.”

—As The Plot Thins

The Last Pilot is simply wonderful – an extraordinary achievement. Its portrait of this little (and extremely unusual) part of America from the late 1940s until the 1960s feels completely authentic and real–quite a feat for a debut British author. Its prose is beautiful...blending history and fiction seamlessly...I loved every page.”

—For Winter Nights

“A stellar tale of loss and love - Johncock weaves an awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping, and sky-shattering account that holds the potential to break the sound barrier of the reader’s life.”

—Necessary Fiction

“Domestic and emotional - I loved it.”

—Just William’s Luck

“An epic family drama… a strong debut. You can sense the time Johncock has dedicated to honing his prose: this is a lean, evocative novel... deeply moving and well handled. The Last Pilot explores the conflict between loyalty to one’s country and one’s family, and a particular form of tight-lipped masculinity which prizes practical skills over emotional sensibility, creating an evocative atmosphere which runs through the text.”

—Workshy Fop

“An incredible novel. The prose is absolutely stunning. Highly recommended.”


“Ten out of ten. Johncock manages to blend the facts with the fiction to give us something that is thrilling, so profoundly touching, you can’t help but be moved.”

—Shiny New Books

“A novel of the year: sonorous, tender, brutal and haunting, Johncock creates a miasma of emotion in minimalized, taut dialogue and prose (one thinks of Carver and Hemingway) and the prose drives the fearless beauty of this intensely personal novel. Immobilizing – yup, it is that good.... A love story so tender that it swells with wonder. Don’t miss it. 5+/5”

—The Review Broads

“One of the most beautiful novels I’ve ever read about the infinite capacity of the human heart to dream, love, grieve, survive and live despite the heart-breaking impact of adversity. Prepare to have your heart shot into the galaxy of human emotion. Pack plenty of tissues.”


“I felt the same thrill reading The Last Pilot I felt as a kid watching Apollo 11. An expansive, joyous look at the possibility of humanity – even in the face of tragedy.”

—Raging Biblioholism

This book hit me hard in the gut... one of the better books I’ve read this year. I guess I’m a sucker for a rich story with beautiful writing. I wish I could write more about this, but I just finished it yesterday and it’s still a little raw. Sitting too close to the surface. You should read it.”

—Jaclyn Day

“A painful portrayal of how grief and loss can test the most sturdy of relationships.”

—Still Not Fussed

“A very comprehensive and tightly written first novel.”

—Trip Fiction

“A powerful look at grief and loss, and the need to come to terms with one's feelings”

—It’s Either Sadness or Euphoria

“I fell into this book like a falling star.  Jim Harrison, already a test pilot, wants to go into the wild beyond above the earth.  At least until he found that he was going to be a father, something he and his wife thought would ever happen . . .  Debut author Johncock swirls into the narrative real history that makes the tale that much more engrossing, and gives a very impressive debut novel.  I'll be keeping my eye on this guy, and so should you.”

—Jackie Blem, Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, CO

“A tremendous debut! The subject matter is compelling and the story is heartbreaking at times, but what set it apart for me was the style in which Benjamin Johncock tells this story.  Brilliant!”

—Julie Slavinsky, Warwick's, La Jolla, CA

“Filled with dialogue that cuts like a knife, The Last Pilot is a riveting time capsule of a novel that tells the gripping story of Jim Harrison, an Air Force test pilot, working at NASA during the 1950s glory years . . . But the dangers and magnitude of space exploration pale in comparison to Harrison's life-on-earth challenges . . .  An emotionally raw, riveting read.”

—Susan Hans O'Connor, Penguin Bookshop, Sweickley, PA

“Prepare yourself for a one sitting read. This tautly crafted domestic drama is set against the backdrop of the early days of NASA.  . . Readers won't be able to leave these characters until they turn the final page.  Benjamin Johncock's novel is a gorgeous exploration of loss, forgiveness, and courage. The Last Pilot is a remarkable debut.”

—Pamela Klinger-Horn, Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, MN

10 Hot Books To Read This Summer.

—Marla Long


—Annabel’s House of Books

“Poignant, tight and spare. The Last Pilot is one of those books that lingers and will be appreciated and read by many a book club.”

—Jandy’s Reading Room


Shortlisted for the East Anglian Book Awards 2015

Selected for Brave New Reads 2016

“By far the best debut novel I’ve read in years... the beauty of this novel is in the balance of the dialogue; the sustained emotion that runs through the whole; the haiku-like simplicity of the prose... The action mostly takes place in the air and in the chambers of the heart. To me, it reads like the reclusive disciple of Cormac McCarthy and Saint-Exupéry.”

—Joanne Harris

“The Last Pilot made me cry and brought back all my old Right Stuff feels. A brilliant debut. I loved it.”

—Helen MacDonald

“A hugely impressive piece of work... an astonishing achievement. I loved it.”

—Ian Rankin

“A confident, engrossing debut novel with great warmth and a real sense of time and place. Great stuff.”

—A.L. Kennedy

“The Last Pilot nods to some august literary forebears—Tom Wolfe, Raymond Carver, James Salter—and yet moves to an internal beat of its own. Covering an era of American aviation from breaking the sound barrier to the space race of the 1960s, its dry, laconic prose is as acute in unpicking the mysteries of marriage and bereavement as it is in conveying the vertiginous limits of ambition and daring.”

—Anthony Quinn

“I read The Last Pilot in a single sitting, drawn into this story of a couple's journey through love and grief as it unfolds during the tense early days of the space race. Told in language as beautifully spare – and unsparing – as a desert or a moonscape, The Last Pilot reminds us in powerful ways that the real unknown frontier still lies within the mysteries of the human heart.”

—Kim Edwards

“Benjamin Johncock is a writer of great craft and integrity. His dialogue is desert-dry, and his sentences crackle with the energy of things unsaid. With The Last Pilot he has done something remarkable: in a novel about the achievements of the space-race, he has shown us that true heroism lies in doing the right thing behind the closed doors of home. Wonderful stuff.”

—Jon McGregor

“Carver is the obvious influence but this is no mere imitation. The writing is machine-cut and spare... like the pilots at this story’s centre, Johncock has dared to reach for the stars.”

—D.W. Wilson


—Jonathan Lee

“A cracking read.”

—John Crace

“Superb - thrilling and very moving.”

—Alan Glynn


—Benjamin Woodard, Numéro Cinq

One of the best debuts I have read in ages. Could have been written by an American heavyweight at their best.”

—Scott Pack, Unbound

“An incredible debut about mental fragility, sacrifices, love, and the interstellar distances we sometimes have to travel internally just to find a level for ourselves. With comparisons to both Cormac McCarthy and Ernest Hemingway, it’s a taut, intense, deeply affecting novel by an unmissable new talent.”

—Leilah Skelton, Waterstones

“Benjamin Johncock is 100% the real deal. The Last Pilot is as good as everyone says. Astoundingly so.”

—Chris McVeigh

My Book of 2015 - Ian Rankin

People Magazine, Best New Books

Best Summer Read 2015 - The Independent

Paste Magazine “Best New Books of the Month”

A Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick

Amazon Best of the Month Pick

S.J. Watson’s Best Summer Read 2015

An Indie Next Pick

Book of the Week : We Love This Book

32 Authors You Need to Know About: Benjamin Johncock - Amazon

Top 10 Independent Fiction Books of 2015 - Wordery

Best Books of 2015 - San Antonio Express

Best Books of 2015 - The Reading Agency

Best Books of 2015 - Bookmunch

Top 10 Books of 2015 - UtterBiblio

The Week’s “Book List” featured book

Editor’s Choice: BookBrowse

Popsugar “Must Read” book

Writers’ Hub “20 Books To Read This Summer”

Library Journal “Book You Should Read This Summer.”

“Top Book Pick” from The National

Norwich Resident “Summer Must-Read”