Donlay, Philip 1956(?)-

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Donlay, Philip 1956(?)-


Born c. 1956; divorced; children: Patrick. Hobbies and other interests: Fishing, kayaking, the outdoors.


Home—Minneapolis, MN, and VA. Agent—Kimberley Cameron, AAR, Reece Halsey North, 98 Main St., Ste. 704, Tiburon, CA 94920. E-mail—[email protected].


Pilot. During early career, worked as a Cessna flight instructor, private pilot for the Saudi royal family, and various cargo and other piloting jobs; Pepsi Americas, Minneapolis, MN, senior captain for flight operations.


Category Five (novel), Creative Arts Book (Berkeley, CA), 2003, published as Category Five: The Hurricane-Force Novel, J. Boylston (New York, NY), 2008.

Code Black (novel), ibooks (New York, NY), 2007.


Philip Donlay has been a pilot most of his life. Two years after receiving his license at the age of seventeen, he was teaching people how to fly Cessna airplanes at a dealership. When he was twenty, he was a copilot for the Saudi royal family. He found a variety of other piloting jobs over the years until landing a position with Pepsi Americas. Because he flies planes only about two weeks a month, this has left Donlay with plenty of free time to pursue his interest in writing. The idea for his first successful novel, Category Five, came to him in 1999. As he recalled in an article for the Saint Paul Pioneer Press: "I'd written a couple dreadful novels that, thank God, nobody published…. After Hurricane Floyd, I used my aviation background and wove romance and a super hurricane into the fabric of my story. My big literary influences are Ernest K. Gann (also a pilot), Alistair MacLean, Clive Cussler and Tom Clancy. Their books were the template I tried to follow."

Donlay found a literary agent, who sold the book to a small California publisher. Unfortunately, the company went bankrupt. With the encouragement of fellow author Vince Flynn, Donlay self-published his book, spending twenty thousand dollars of his own money for printing and distribution costs. When the book sold well at BookExpo America, it drew the attention of an imprint of publisher Simon & Schuster, which had, ironically, previously rejected it. Since then, Category Five has drawn considerable praise from critics, and Donlay is planning on expanding the work into a series, including the sequel, Code Black.

The hero of his books is Donavan Nash, an experienced pilot who is also the head of a company called Eco-Watch. In Category Five several elements come into play to move the action along. As the title indicates, the main threat is a huge hurricane that threatens to wipe out America's eastern seaboard. The hurricane is imperiling the lives of a government research team, including Nash's lover, Dr. Lauren McKenna, and Nash is called in to help in the rescue. Lauren is, meanwhile, worried about her daughter's life being threatened by the hurricane, and there is a government plan to use a nuclear warhead to help divert the storm. A Small Press Bookwatch reviewer reported that this "gripping, tension-filled saga" is "superbly written."

In the sequel, Code Black, Nash is a passenger on a plane bound for Chicago when the flight is hit by another aircraft. In the midst of a winter blizzard, Nash must pilot the plane after the crew is killed and part of the fuselage is ripped off. On the ground, Lauren devises a risky scheme to save the plane and her lover. Booklist critic Michael Gannon wrote that the "suspense never lets up" in this "great vacation read."



Booklist, May 1, 2006, Michael Gannon, review of Code Black, p. 71.

Saint Paul Pioneer Press, December 8, 2004, "Minneapolis Author Draws on His Experience as a Pilot in His New Thriller about a Hurricane."

Small Press Bookwatch, September, 2004, review of Category Five.


Contacto, (April 8, 2008), "Mid-air Collision. Think It Can't Happen?," review of Code Black.

CrimeSpree Magazine, (April 8, 2008), Gary Schulze, review of Category Five: The Hurricane-Force Novel.

Dawson Times, (October 30, 2007), "Pilot Reveals Potential Dangers of Congested Skies."

Other View, (April 8, 2008), review of Code Black.

Philip Donlay Home Page, (April 8, 2008).