Cover image for Searching for Johnny
Searching for Johnny
Gibbins, James.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Book, [2002]

Physical Description:
388 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Format :


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Spanning Wuthering Heights' moors, the Atlanta of a latter-day Scarlett O'Hara, and the urban landscape of present-day America, Searching for Johnny tells the story of a young American flier killed in England during World Ward II, whose legacy is inextricably linked to a chance encounter over fifty years later.
Amanda is a movie producer shooting a film about American fliers on a former bomber base in Yorkshire. One evening she takes a walk along the abandoned runway...and steps into another time. Here she meets Johnny, a captain in the U.S. Eighth Air Force, a warm and intelligent young man who is, in reality, a ghost of the past. During the final month of filming, the near-perfect re-creation of the old base forms a window into another era where Amanda and Johnny continue to find each other and gradually fall in love. Yet when the film is finished, as quickly as Johnny appeared, he disappears forever, leaving Amanda with a string of questions and a heart full of mysterious memories.
Unable to forget her experiences at Yorkshire, Amanda sets off on a journey across America in search of Johnny's identity, in hopes of discovering the long-buried secret that cost him his life. In the course of investigating this young soldier's death, Amanda finds herself contemplating the death of the vintage American spirit.

Author Notes

James Gibbins was born and raised in England. He was a staff correspondent in the U.S. for Reuters, The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Daily Mail, and spent six years as a feature writer with The Daily Express. He lives with his wife in Greece, where he took early retirement from journalism to write novels and plays.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

A nostalgic debut novel tailor-made for the current patriotic climate. The narrator, Amanda, is producing a movie about American pilots based in Britain during World War II, using an old British airfield as its set. One night as she wanders a runway alone, she meets a soldier named Johnny, a golden boy who seems to know her--from the 1940s. After initial skepticism, she accepts this time warp and falls in love with him, only to lose contact with him all too quickly. Her research reveals that Johnny was killed in the war, and she heads to America to confront her demons and pump his old war buddies for information. What she learns, amid the ramblings of the old men, is that the sinister truth about Johnny's death has been covered up for years and that there are still people invested in keeping it that way. Despite its slow pace and unapologetic melodrama, this is a suspenseful tale that is not so much a love story as a love letter to the past and its heroes. --Carrie Bissey

Publisher's Weekly Review

British-born Gibbins's U.S. debut is an imaginative tale of an impossible love, a stylish fantasy that can be compared favorably to the work of Jack Finney. Amanda, a British producer of a movie about WWII American fliers at a former bomber base in Yorkshire, walks onto the tarmac one evening and meets an American pilot she assumes is an actor. He is not: his name is Johnny, he's a captain from the U.S. Eighth Air Force and he died in 1944. Having somehow traversed time, Amanda continues to do so. She and Johnny meet again, go on outings together and eventually fall in love. But when production of the overbudget movie is halted, Johnny disappears forever. Obsessed with her strange experience, Amanda begins a quest for truth and justice. She tracks down the surviving members of Johnny's bomber crew and, in an odyssey across America, interviews these old men in hopes of learning the truth about Johnny's life and death. As each crew member recounts his own memories, in a leisurely and sometimes confusing fashion, Amanda comes to believe that Johnny was murdered, that his death was the focus of a major coverup. The truth is doled out in bits and pieces, and the fine line between withholding information for purposes of suspense and authorial deceit comes perilously close to being crossed. Gibbons does a fine job of writing from the female point of view, though a secondary theme the decline of the pioneering American spirit is less successful, and many of the descriptions of America seem to come from travel brochures. (Apr. 18) Forecast: Gibbins received solid reviews in the U.K. for President Limey and Sudden Death. Handselling to readers with an interest in WWI as well in unsentimental investigations into the "ineffable mysteries" of memory and the human heart could boost modest sales. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved