Dispatched on a trial run, NASA's SuperAegis satellite has been created as the foundation of an international antimissle defense system. But moments after dispatch, it vanishes. Rear Admiral Jake Grafton fears something worse than a grave malfunction--he suspects sabotage...
The USS America--the world's most technically advanced nuclear submarine--is launched on its maiden voyage. Then shortly after steaming out of harbor, the unthinkable happens. Pirated by terrorists, America disappears beneath the roiling waves of the Atlantic, its Tomahawk warheads aimed directly at the United States...
An ingeniously calculated war has been waged--but the rouge enemy is far more insidious than Jake Grafton ever imagined. His mission: ferret out the core group responsible, overtake the stealth sub, and destroy it. But times is running out, and the race is on for Grafton to blow the covert operation out of the water before an entire nation is brought to its knees.
About the Author
Date of Birth:July 19, 1946
Place of Birth:Morgantown, West Virginia
Education:B.A., West Virginia University, 1968; J.D., University of Colorado, 1979
Read an Excerpt
By Stephen Coonts
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2001 Stephen Coonts
All rights reserved.
A small band played lively Sousa marches as USS America, America's newest nuclear-powered attack submarine, prepared to get under way on its first operational cruise. The raucous crowd on the pier was in a holiday mood that balmy September Saturday morning. As seagulls skimmed over the heads of the happy onlookers, the band swung into a heartfelt rendition of "Anchors Aweigh." The line handlers on America's deck threw the last of the lines to the sailors on the pier, severing the connection between the sub and the land.
The sailors in white uniforms standing on the small, flat, nonskid surface atop the curved hull were going to sea for three months. As the gulls cried and the music floated away on the sea breeze, they took their last fond look at America — wives and kids and girlfriends and scores of navy officers high and low, miles of gold braid, and despite the early hour, barely eight A.M., dozens of civilian dignitaries up to and including an undersecretary of defense and the secretary of the navy. The congressional delegation from Connecticut was there — the boat had been constructed at Electric Boat — and of course various other senators and congress people high and low, those who were on defense committees in their respective houses and those who merely wanted to be seen on the evening news back home. Most of the political people even had a pithy sound bite ready if they were lucky enough to have a microphone thrust at them.
As the distance between the sub and pier widened, sailors blew their families kisses and everyone waved. When the last notes of "Anchors Aweigh" drifted off on the breeze, the band began playing "The Navy Hymn." Many of those on the pier and the sub's deck swabbed moisture from their eyes.
"Oh, hear us when we cry to thee, for those in peril on the sea," the skipper of the sub sang under his breath as he watched the pier slide aft.
"What a day!" the officer of the deck said, glancing at the wispy cirrus high above in the cerulean sky. This morning the sea breeze was light, just enough to roughen the surface of the water and make the sun's reflection on the swells twinkle wildly, as if the sunlight were reflecting off diamonds. Gulls hovered almost within arm's reach of the sail, begging for a handout.
America's commanding officer, Commander Leonard Sterrett, was shoulder-to-shoulder with the officer of the deck and two lookouts in the tiny, cramped bridge atop the sail. A temporary safety railing had been rigged around the bridge, but it would be removed and stowed before the boat dived. A hatch would then be lifted hydraulically into place to seal the opening.
The tug pulling the sub away from the pier seemed to be pulling effortlessly, with little white water from her screw.
With the band still playing, Captain Sterrett ordered everyone except the watch team on the bridge to go below. Time to say good-bye to earth and sky and families and get about the serious business of taking a brand-new, state-of-the-art attack submarine on patrol for the very first time.
Leonard Sterrett had been eagerly anticipating this day from the moment he had been told, three years ago, that he was to be America's first commanding officer. He had been working to earn a submarine command since that summer day twenty-three years ago when he walked through the gate at the Naval Academy in Annapolis to begin his plebe summer. Now he had it. The responsibility for a capital ship worth two billion dollars manned by 134 men was all his.
He turned in the cramped open bridge and waved one last time at the people on the dock, especially his wife and parents, who had shared his dream all these years. He could see them and his teenage daughter waving back.
Then he turned to face the sea.
The officer of the deck, Lieutenant Ellis Johnson, seemed to read the CO's mood. "Congratulations, sir," he murmured, just loud enough to be heard.
"Thank you," the skipper said and smiled at the sea and sky.
* * *
A mile or so away, barely making steerageway, USS John Paul Jones, a guided-missile destroyer, kept a watchful eye on the covey of boats that had gathered to watch America get under way from the New London submarine base. For the last hour a small Coast Guard cutter had done most of the work of keeping the spectator boats corralled, mainly through use of a bullhorn. Overhead a helicopter belonging to a television station circled slowly, shooting footage for the evening news. One of the boats contained a delegation of antinuclear activists who had tried their best to raise a rumpus and be noticed by the camera folks in the news chopper. The Coast Guard skipper had threatened them with arrest and confiscation of their borrowed boat, so they were behaving themselves just now.
Aboard Jones, Captain Harvey Warfield focused his binoculars on America. The sail on the sub was located far forward on the hull, almost as if the attack boat were a boomer full of ballistic missiles. Well behind the sail was the squarish shape of a miniature submarine, a fifty-five-ton delivery vehicle for special-warfare commandos, SEALs. Although it was hard to judge from the portion of the submarine visible above water, to Warfield's practiced eye America looked slightly longer and sleeker than the navy's Seawolf boats. Perhaps the fact that he knew its dimensions exactly, 377 feet long and 34 feet in diameter, colored his perception.
Certainly not the fastest or the deepest-diving U.S. submarine, America was the quietest, without a doubt the ultimate stealth ship. Designed for shallow-water combat, the most difficult environment submarines could fight in, America packed more computer power inside her hull than all the other submarines of the United States Navy combined. Originally the submarine had been laid down as USS Virginia; the name had been changed to get a few more votes in Congress, which was the way things worked in Washington in this age of Pax Americana. These things Warfield knew from press releases and briefings — he wasn't cleared for the really juicy classified stuff, the secrets the submariners put in the I-could-tell-you-but-then-I'd-have-to-kill-you category.
Which was just as well, Warfield thought. Submarines had never interested him much — months submerged, the crew packed into the tiny ship like sardines in a can, the ever-present threat of drowning or being crushed when the hull imploded. ... Just thinking about it was enough to make Warfield's skin tingle. Submarining was tough duty, obviously, and somebody had to do it. Those who did certainly earned their extra dough every month, Warfield thought, and were welcome to it.
Warfield checked his watch. America had cast loose her lines right on time, just what he expected from Lenny Sterrett.
Today the Coast Guard seemed on top of the small-boat situation, the navigator and senior quartermaster were on the bridge, and Warfield's officer of the deck was the best he had, so the captain reached for a pile of paperwork on the small table beside his raised bridge chair. After one last glance around, he picked up the first document in the pile and began reading.
* * *
Standing in the wheelhouse of the tugboat pulling America away from the pier, Vladimir Kolnikov lifted his binoculars and aimed them yet again at John Paul Jones. The destroyer was making only a couple knots, yet it was there, ready.
Ready for what?
That was the question, wasn't it? Ready for what?
How good was the skipper of the destroyer? How fast could he handle the unexpected? How quickly could the crew obey unanticipated directives?
"What do you think?" Georgi Turchak asked in Russian. He was at the helm of the tugboat. The captain of the tug lay in a corner of the small bridge, quite dead.
"You knew there would be destroyers," Kolnikov replied without lowering his binoculars. "We are lucky there is only one."
"What if there is another submarine out there?"
"Then we will soon be dead. Do you wish to back out now?"
"No, damn it. I wish you would tell me comforting things to make me think that we are going to pull this off, get filthy rich, and live to a ripe old age enjoying our money."
Kolnikov turned the binoculars, focused them on the captain of the submarine. He could see the features of his face plainly, see him talking to the officer of the deck, the OOD, and the lookouts, who were looking all over the horizon with their binoculars and paying no attention to the tugboat.
"He's going to want to release the line any moment now," Kolnikov said, more to himself than anyone else. He walked to the head of the ladder leading down.
"Are you ready, Heydrich?"
The man below looked about him at other men hidden from Kolnikov's view. "Eck? Boldt? Steeckt?" There were fourteen men belowdecks, one on the fantail, and of course here on the bridge Kolnikov and Turchak, for a total of seventeen.
Now the man below looked up the ladderway at Kolnikov. His face was one of large cheekbones and tiny eyes. "We are ready, Russki. Give the word."
"Very soon, I think."
* * *
The band was playing "America, the Beautiful" when the OOD used a bullhorn to call the tugboat. He could still hear the music plainly even though the sub and tug were about seven hundred yards from the pier. "We are ready to release the tow," he called.
Releasing the tow was a relatively simple maneuver. When the tugboat reduced power, the towline would go slack so the submarine's deck crew could release it from the towing cleat. Then the tug would accelerate away and the sub would proceed under its own power.
Kolnikov signaled to the man on the fantail of the tug, who began winding the towline tighter around a power winch as Turchak at the helm gently reduced power on the tug's engines.
The distance between tug and submarine began to decrease, while the men on the sub's deck waited in vain for slack to develop in the line.
It took several seconds for Captain Lenny Sterrett and the OOD, Ellis Johnson, to comprehend what was happening. Sterrett spoke sharply to Johnson, who barked into the bullhorn, "Get off the winch and give me some slack."
The white foam coming from the tug's fantail ceased as the distance between the two vessels closed. Kolnikov shouted at the man on the winch, waved his arms excitedly, and the distance continued to close until only a few feet of water remained between the two hulls.
Then smoke erupted from the fantail of the tug. Three seconds later, a minor explosion along the tug's waterline blew water into the air. The man on the fantail went over the side. Kolnikov rushed down the ladder from the tug's bridge and raced for the afterdeck.
Two more crewmen appeared on the tug's deck and ran aft.
"Man overboard, civilian from the tug!" The OOD shouted this message into the intercom, and in seconds it blared on the boat's loudspeakers.
In the control room the chief of the boat pronounced a curse word. "Oh, man!" he said. "First Greenville, then this!" Everyone in the control room knew what he meant — if the civilian in the water drowned before the sub crew could pull him out, the media would savage the navy and Captain Lenny Sterrett, which would probably sink his naval career.
Meanwhile the two vessels drifted without power. No slack developed in the towline, which continued to pull the vessels together until the tug's stern gently contacted the anechoic skin of the submarine below the waterline.
In the sub's tiny cockpit, Lenny Sterrett was trying to sort it all out. The men on the linehandling party on the submarine's deck threw the man in the water a line. He came clambering up it hand over hand with surprising agility.
"Cut that tow line," Lenny Sterrett roared at the senior petty officer on the sub's deck, who turned to grab an ax that had been thoughtfully carried on deck, just in case.
Too late. The man coming up the line pulled a weapon from beneath his loose-fitting wet shirt and shot the six unarmed men in the line-handling party as fast as he could pull the trigger. Then he scrambled for the open deck hatch.
All Lenny Sterrett heard were pops from the silenced reports, but the sight of falling men galvanized him, cleared away the cobwebs. He keyed the intercom and roared, "General quarters. Close all watertight doors. Prepare to repel unauthorized boarders."
Those were his last words, because even as he said them, a man with a sniper rifle standing on the wing of the tug's bridge shot him.
When the skipper went down, bleeding profusely, the OOD stood for a second, too stunned to move. The sight of two men crossing the line that held the sub to the tug hand over hand galvanized him. He jumped down the hatch into the sail. "You two, clear the bridge!" he shouted back up at the lookouts.
Neither man made it down the hatch. The sharpshooter on the tug didn't miss.
When he realized what had happened, the OOD closed the hatch and feverishly worked to dog it down. This evolution could not be done quickly. Unlike World War II submarines that patrolled on the surface and crash-dived to evade enemies, America was designed to submerge when leaving port and stay submerged for months.
Meanwhile, in the control room, the radioman punched a button to allow him to transmit on the ship-to-ship plain-voice frequency, Navy Blue. He was wearing a headset. "Mayday, America," he said. "Unauthorized armed personnel attempting to board America. Request assistance ASAP. Mayday."
The chief of the boat, who had been standing behind the helmsman, for in this new class of submarine there was only one, reached above his head for the safety cover that shielded the SCRAM button, which would drop the rods into the reactor, stopping the nuclear reaction. He broke the safety wire on the cover and lifted it.
* * *
Valuable seconds were wasted as the OOD wrestled with the hatch dogs. Finally he got them secured to his satisfaction, then he dropped down the ladder to the first deck, where he rushed below to the control room.
"Boarders," he roared. "SCRAM the reactor. Close all the hatches. Don't let them —"
At that moment two men carrying silenced submachine guns rushed in and shot Ellis Johnson. They each fired one aimed shot; the bullets struck the lieutenant square in the back. The chief of the boat already had his hands up, reaching for the SCRAM button, so they ignored him. He jabbed in the red button.
And nothing happened! Warning lights should have lit up like a Christmas tree, the power in the boat should have switched to battery backup. ...
"Hands up," the intruders roared, and one man stood with his weapon on the sailors as his companion dashed aft toward the engine and reactor spaces. The radioman was listening to excited voices from John Paul Jones.
He keyed the mike with his foot control. "Intruders in America —" he began, then they shot him.
The American sailors stood stunned, shocked, speechless. Unsure of what they should do to resist, most of them simply raised their hands and remained frozen. Those who had other ideas were mercilessly shot by the gun-toting men who came pouring through the main deck hatch in front of the sail and ran through the submarine.
Kolnikov was the last of the intruders to board. He paused on the deck, watched one of the Germans chop the towline through with an ax. The fantail of the tug was already awash. The demolition charges had produced noise and smoke and blown a nice hole in the side of the tug below the waterline, all of which was calculated to cause confusion on the American sub, where the sailors' innate caution would be overridden by the obvious peril of the man in the water and those aboard the tug. And it worked.
The downwash of the helicopter buzzing overhead made it difficult to stand on the open deck. Kolnikov lifted his submachine gun and squeezed off a burst. He was so close to the chopper that he saw holes popping in the Plexiglas. The machine veered away rapidly.
The destroyer was still a mile or so away, barely moving.
Kolnikov lowered himself into the open hatch.
* * *
"Captain, we have received a radio message from America. Armed intruders are boarding."
Aboard John Paul Jones, Captain Harvey Warfield took about two seconds to process that information.
Excerpted from America by Stephen Coonts. Copyright © 2001 Stephen Coonts. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A tremendous thriller. a wonderful storyline. A non-stop suspense-filled thriller. A great read. Close to reality. Read this book in a complete week! A Grabber.
Like all such novels, Coonts' 'America' is a warning, perhaps a prophecy that we shouldn't take lightly. This book is a great action drama and in light of recent events in NY and DC, it's well worth the read as it's his best book yet. I also recommend another book that deals very realistically with nuclear terrorism which is Alec Donzi's thriller THE CONSULTANT.
Stephen Coonts and I have the same roots. Both former Vietnam era vets now writing Navy genre books. Although, he is much more sucessfull at this than I. For this reason I enjoy reading every Jake Grafton novel that I can get my hands on. Stpehen's descriptions of our Navy, of its people and of its machines are beyond reproach. In this story spy sub USS America, I thought of the USS Jimmy Carter,the real spy sub, goes missing. Jake learns that a group of CIA operators 'spooks' may have swiped the sub. Their target is the White House. (Good choice. If you're trying to hit the broadside of a barn a huge white house would be an easy target. Dont' you think?) The Tomahawk cruise missle is designed to fly through a one meter window and is about 90% accurate on target. With a range of 1,500 miles, a Tomahawk lauched from Cuba would hit its mark. So the shot on the White House was not that difficult. Coonts is a relentless storyteller. If you enjoyed Cuba or Hong Kong you will love this book as well. As a side note. I read a review that said,'...rivals Clancy for fiction-as-realism and Cussler for spirited action.' I disagree. Stephen Coonts' writing and storytelling skills stands alone as one of the modern standards to which all genre writers should strive to achieve. Put this book on your must real list.
not quite as good as america but in the ballpark. plot turned enough to not be able to see what was coming in a dozen differebt directions. tommy carmelli was back with coolhand jake and the toad as well as rita and jakes family.
From the start, Coonts grabs you and thrusts you into the thick of things. No meandering about like many authors do. His books are a great escape from the harsh realities of life. Character development is superb. Although not as good as Hong Kong, still rates a 4-Star Admiral in my book. Going to pick up Saucer next!
I'm agreed with what that other dude said , this book should've said a little more .
Coonts contiues the Grafton saga in the newest book "AMERICA". keep you riveted till the last page.
i thought this book could have said just a little more.
I have been a Coonts fan for years and I've read all of his fictional novels. For a while Mr.Coonts had stopped writing, but he has turned out four books in the last two and half years. 'America' is a great read. I was actually reading this book when the terrorist attacks occurred. This book has different types of terrorist targeting some of the same buildings which were recently hit and/or targeted in real life. In that respect, this is a chilling book. Of more importance, Mr. Coonts has once again written a book which wraps the reader not only around the action, but also around it's characters. Of the four recent books written by Mr.Coonts,'Cuba' is probably the best, but 'America' is a close second. One final note, if Mr. Coonts should ever retire Jake Grafton, I believe his CIA spook, Carmeilli, would make a great replaement. P. S. If you like Clancy novels, but recently tire of the endless drivel, you must read Coonts!!
Things get too tidy, unrealistic for nothing short of armageddon. The cruise ship part is moronic. Obviously written to be made into a movie, and hence, a payoff. Wait for the movie, if there is one...you'll like it better.
One of the best books I have read. Could not set it down. When I reached the end I was left with a WOW what happened? The ending just dropped !
I was able to read a preview excerpt of this book and it looks great. The writing is as good as I've ever seen from Mr. Coonts and the storyline is one of his best. Can't wait to read the whole book.