"[A] Swashbuckling Thriller…Coonts takes us on a heck of a good ride."Kirkus Reviews
In Pirate Alley, a luxurious vacation cruise to the exotic locales of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden turns into a nightmare for passengers and crew when their ship is suddenly attacked and captured by a band of bloodthirsty Somali pirates. An initial rescue mission ends in failureand the decks are covered in blood. Unless they are paid a ransom of $200 million within seven days, the pirates threaten to execute all their hostages. But information gleaned from a captured Al Qaeda operative indicates that there is a far more dangerous conspiracy afoot.
"Coonts details this ship hijacking and take-down as if he has firsthand experience with the SEAL Teams."Howard Wasdin, author of Seal Team Six
Once the ransom is paid, Islamic militants intend to swoop in and slaughter the passengers in an orgy of terror, hoping to provoke a massive American military response that will set the Muslim world aflame. Jake Grafton is assigned to negotiate with the brutal pirate chief while his right-hand man, Tommy Carmellini, and a team of CIA and Navy SEAL operatives mount an undercover operation not only to save the hostages, but to keep the United States from being maneuvered into a murderous war…
"A stomach-clenching nail-biter that will leave readers exhausted and satisfied."Publishers Weekly
About the Author
STEPHEN COONTS is the author of seventeen New York Times bestselling books that have been translated and published around the world. A former naval aviator and Vietnam combat veteran, he is a graduate of West Virginia University and the University of Colorado School of Law. He lives in Colorado.
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 © 2013 Stephen Coonts
All rights reserved.
Gulf of Aden, November 9
At dawn the sea was moderate, with a four-foot swell with a nice distance between the crests. The rising wind occasionally ripped spindrift from the tops. The boat rode well, topping the crests and shipping just a little water over the gunwales that collected at the bottom.
Mustafa had two men with cans bailing as water accumulated in the boat. There wasn't much of it, so all it really did was soak clothes and weapons. There were a dozen men, so they took turns bailing. The activity helped keep them warm and alert.
They had left the island of Abd Al Kuri off the coast of Somalia in the middle of the night. Above them was a high overcast layer that hid the stars. Mustafa used a compass to hold a northerly course. It was in the hour or so before dawn that Mustafa first saw stars. The wind freshened.
The handheld radio in his pocket came to life. Mustafa held it to his ear. "She is doing thirteen knots, at coordinates —" and the voice read them off. Mustafa wrote the numbers down, then repeated them.
Yes, he had them right. He typed the numbers into his GPS, a little rectangular thing not much bigger than his hand, and watched the numbers light up. Now he had a course and distance. Only forty miles. Three-three-zero degrees.
Of course, she was heading northeast, along the coast of Yemen, so he would point a little more to the east to intercept.
Another voice, distinctive. "Mine is at —" and he read off the coordinates. "They will pass each other in two hours and ten minutes."
There were three other boats in sight in the early light, before the sun rose. They had followed the little light on the masthead. Mustafa turned it off.
The dawn revealed a clear sky and a restless, empty sea. There was a freighter to the east, but Mustafa ignored it and held his course. They were in the sea lanes that ran into and out of the Bab al Mandeb, the asshole of the Red Sea. Only twenty miles wide, that strait handled all the traffic headed to and from the Suez Canal, twenty- three thousand ships a year, almost two thousand a month, an average of sixty-three ships a day. The narrow Gulf of Suez, the Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden were a maritime superhighway, perhaps the busiest on the planet — and it was infested with pirates. Pirate Alley, some people called it, and for good reason. Still, ships had to go through these waters to get to the Suez Canal, or else they had to transit all the way around the continent of Africa, down around the Cape of Good Hope, a place that Mustafa had never been but had heard about. Mustafa had never actually seen a world globe, but he had been told all this and had looked at rough sketches in the dirt, and like many illiterates, he had a good memory.
Mustafa al-Said was good at his job and made a fine living working at it. No other job in Somalia paid as well as being a pirate captain, except of course being the pirate sheikh, a warlord, and having a dozen or so captains with their own boats working for you. Pirating was dangerous work, but so was fishing on the open ocean, and pirating paid so much better.
Better to die at sea than starve to death, Mustafa thought.
So here they were, under a cloudless sky, on a wide, empty, restless ocean. The men were looking around in every direction, searching the horizon for a mast, a wisp of smoke, anything. The weather was far from ideal for a pirate ship: Every minute they were here increased the chances that a patrol plane would fly over to check them out. Or that the mast peeking over the horizon would turn out to be a warship.
Mustafa didn't know how radar worked, but he knew the warships could see through night and fog and his chances of spending the day here at sea undiscovered were slim. Further, he knew the warships could easily outrun his skiff, which normally had a top speed of perhaps twenty knots in a calm sea. In this swell, with ten men and weapons aboard, something less. However, for this mission the boat sported a new engine, one that pushed it at thirty knots when run flat out. The other two boats following him to the left and right were similarly equipped.
Mustafa listened to the steady throb of the engine and smiled. German. For this victim they would need the extra speed.
The men sensed their precarious position, and they were restless, even though they said nothing to Mustafa, in whom they had confidence. He had earned it. He had been to sea fifteen times in the past year and had taken six vessels, which had put plenty of money in the pockets of the men who sailed with him. The men knew his reputation and vied to crew for him. Sixty men had volunteered for this voyage, and he had picked his crew from among them. Some of them had sailed with him before, and he trusted them to obey orders. The others were recommended by powerful men in the village and on the coast, warlords, so he had taken them to preserve his relationships.
He was thinking of relationships now, of the political riptides that ruled the villages along the coast, of the money to be earned, of the protection he needed when ashore to ensure no one stole his money or killed him to take it. He needed a warlord and the warlord needed him.
He also needed the warlord's organization to ransom the ships and crews he captured. He, Mustafa al-Said, couldn't demand ransom from shipping and insurance companies spread around the globe, but a warlord could. His was Sheikh Ragnar, and he had the contacts Mustafa lacked. Without a warlord, Mustafa was merely a poor bandit with a boat. With Ragnar, he was a successful pirate, with money and women and a future.
He kept the skiff heading northwest for another hour. He got another call on the radio, from a different fishing boat. His victim had been sighted again. Mustafa updated his GPS.
"They will pass each other in an hour and twenty-two minutes."
Mustafa looked at his watch, then at his GPS. He throttled back a few hundred RPM.
The boat rode better taking the swells at an angle. Mustafa wished he could increase his speed. The faster he went, the less chance he would be intercepted by warships. Still, today he didn't want to arrive early. Timing would be the key to this capture.
He had sufficient fuel to run all day at this speed, then turn back for the Somali coast this evening and make the village on the island with a comfortable margin.
One of the men pointed out a plane running high, merely a speck against the blue sky. The dawn was here, and in minutes the sun would be rising.
Mustafa checked the engine RPMs, oil pressure, temperature and the boat's heading. He glanced at the GPS. Soon, he thought. Soon.
"Allah akbar," he shouted, God is great, and the men responded. One fired his weapon into the air. The reports were flat, lost in the vastness of this wilderness of sea and water. Still, all the men cheered. They were confident and ready. They drank water and ate and stared into the distance, looking for a smudge of smoke, a mast, some telltale mark upon the horizon.
If only they could find that ship ...
Soon, Mustafa thought.
* * *
The captain of Sultan of the Seas was a Brit — all the officers were British, Australian or South African. His name was Arch Penney. In addition to his professional qualifications, which were absolutely top-notch, he had another trait that fueled his rise to the top in the cruise ship business: He had an uncanny ability to remember faces and names. He knew — and used — the names of every officer and man and woman in the crew, and he was quickly memorizing the passengers on this voyage. This morning as the sun peeped over the eastern horizon he was walking the deck, saying hello to early risers. He called most of them by name.
Captain Penney was a few years over forty, looked eight or so years younger and was about five feet eight inches tall. He was tanned from years of standing on open bridge wings and wore his hair short so the sea winds wouldn't mess it up or put it in his eyes. His looks were only average, but his personality made him unforgettable. His smile lit up his face, and he used it often because he was a genuinely nice guy who liked people. His officers liked to speculate about when he was going to retire from the cruise line and go into politics, where his charisma, personality and phenomenal ability to put faces and names together would undoubtedly be richly rewarded.
What his officers didn't know was that he had been offered the rank of senior officer of the cruise line, in charge of the operations of all five of its ships, and he had turned down the post. He liked what he did, and he liked having his own ship.
Whenever possible, his wife and children accompanied him on his various cruises. Arch Penney was that rarity, a truly happy man.
Last night, leaving his officers to complete the transit of the Bab al Mandeb, he walked about the passenger lounges murmuring names. "Mr. Bass, Mrs. Bass." He shook hands, smiled, asked the routine questions about how were they enjoying the cruise, were their accommodations adequate, and how was the service?
A German who still used the old "von" was aboard, Von Platen. He was accompanied by three men who apparently were his lieutenants in a car manufacturing company, Juergen Hoff, a man named Schaffler, and a young man with an unruly mop of hair, Boltz. There were some Italians, an Irish construction mogul named Enda Clancy who was apparently out of the house-building business after the housing market collapse, a retinue of British dowagers and the usual mob of Americans, which comprised about half the passenger list.
Last night he greeted the sisters, Irene and Suzanne, by name, and the Denver radio talk-show host, Mike Rosen, a genial, intelligent man with the demeanor of a college professor in mufti. The Americans liked to be called by their first names, so Arch Penney obliged. "Keith, Dilma, Ari, Buck, Chad, Chuck, Betty, Toby, Obed ..."
Then there was Meyer Brown, a sixty-something retiree on the make, if Arch's instincts were right. What he didn't know was that Irene and Suzanne called Brown "Putty," since he had made a remark at the bar last night that set them giggling. "I'm just putty in a woman's hands, although everything I have isn't all putty."
Brown apparently had an American woman, Nora, in his sights. Nora's daughter was nowhere to be seen. Brown was hovering over Nora, trying to keep his eyes off the striking cleavage, and entertaining her with stories of his many adventures.
The North African, Mohammed Atom, was reading something and studiously avoiding his fellow passengers, so Arch passed him with only a head nod, which Atom didn't return. Penney knew Atom's reputation, that he was an arms dealer to rebels all over the Middle East, including al Qaeda, although no one had yet caught him with enough evidence to prosecute.
This was, Arch Penney thought, a typical passenger list for this time of year. Almost no children and many gray heads.
This morning there were only three exercise nuts on the upper deck, jogging to burn off alcohol and last night's gourmet feast. Penney completed his circuit, greeting the crewmen he met by name, running his eye over everything, and headed for the bridge, where he found his first officer had things well in hand, just as Penney knew he would. The chief officer was Harry Zopp, from South Africa. It was, Penney thought, just a matter of time before Zopp got his own ship.
"Captain," Zopp said respectfully.
"Harry. How goes it?"
"We're smack in the middle of the northern eastbound traffic lane. We're five miles behind an empty tanker, matching his speed, which is thirteen knots. Six other ships on the radar, closest point of approach will be four thousand yards."
"How are the engineers coming on repairing that evaporator?"
"Expect to be finished by noon, sir."
"Where and when do you expect to pass this tanker that's ahead of us?" The Sultan couldn't remain on schedule if she loafed along at thirteen knots for more than a few hours.
Zopp told him, referring to the chart and the radar screen.
Arch Penney nodded his approval.
Zopp handed the captain three sheets of paper stapled together. Today's Somali Pirate Update from the NATO shipping center. The captain took the time to read every word.
"November 15, Somali Basin. Latitude 07 01 S, Longitude 041 22 E. Alert Number 165/2011. Warning — Warning — Warning — At 0403 UTC November 15 a merchant vessel is currently under attack by pirates in the above position.
"Alert Number 164/2011." The position followed. "A Pirate Action Group consisting of 2 x skiff with 5 POB, weapons and ladders reported in the above position."
There was more, two pages of it. Arch Penney read every entry, taking the time to refer to the chart to check the various positions.
"The murdering bastards are busier than they were last month," Zopp remarked. "The international task force has a chopper patrolling this sea lane this morning. He went over about twenty minutes ago, heading northeast, probably to check out the Stella Maris." The Stella Maris was another cruise ship, one that had sailed from Doha and was on its way to the Suez Canal, backtracking the route just traveled by the Sultan. They were scheduled to pass each other this morning.
Penney nodded and handed the report back without comment. He went out onto the open wing of the bridge to catch a few moments of peace before the passengers all woke up and the day really got under way. There was a high overcast and a nice breeze from the west. This time of year the wind wasn't warm, but it was very dry.
Novembers had wonderful reputations for perfect weather in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. The summer monsoon was over, and the heat of the deserts to both sides was beginning to dissipate. Truly, the Red Sea was something special. Without a river running into it carrying silt and debris, it was the cleanest ocean on earth, with clear water and hundreds of coral reefs.
The Gulf of Aden, however, was another matter. This was merely an arm of the Indian Ocean. Windy and choppy this morning.
Captain Penney drew in a deep breath of the wind off the Arabian Peninsula. Clean and dry. "Pure," the Arabs liked to say, "like Islam." Penney thought the desert wind smelled empty, like nothing at all. As he stood there, he watched a freighter with rusty sides pass his ship to port on its way into the Red Sea.
Arch finally walked inside the bridge and took a careful look at the radar picture. He spent a few minutes discussing traffic with his first officer.
The radar was always full of contacts; avoiding collisions required the most careful diligence. Harry Zopp was up to the task, Penney knew. He trusted him. Still, he was the captain, legally, morally and ethically responsible for this ship and the lives of everyone aboard her, so he monitored the bridge team in narrow waters, mentally weighing every decision, every order.
Fortunately they were out of the Bab al Mandeb, so the Sultan had more room to maneuver. Not only did the bridge team need to avoid other ships and fishing boats, they needed to be able to outrun and outmaneuver pirate skiffs.
When Harry Zopp had passed the tanker ahead of them and the Sultan was steaming northeastward at nineteen knots, paralleling the coast of Yemen, Arch Penney went below to have breakfast with his wife.
* * *
"She's up to nineteen knots now," the voice on Mustafa's radio said. "Should meet the other ship in forty-one minutes."
Mustafa typed the new coordinates into his GPS. The speed increase meant he was going to be a few minutes late. Just a little. He jammed the throttles forward and adjusted his course.
The men heard the change in the engine's song and felt the prop bite deeper into the sea. They hung on tightly and ignored the spray coming over the bow when the boat nosed into a swell. Their eyes were on the horizon. Soon.
Excerpted from Pirate Alley by Stephen Coonts. Copyright © 2013 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.
What People are Saying About This
"Stephen Coonts proves once again, he is the master of the ship. This time in the terrorist infested high seas where Grafton and Carmellini, are fully-kitted, synched, and on target. Pirate Alley is full-steam-ahead, action-packed, chaotic, and final—but with black cladded Navy SEALs in the mix, the fight is anything but fair." —Dalton Fury, New York Times bestselling author of Kill Bin Laden
“Pirate Alley is fast-moving, scary, and realistic. Starting with a bang, it then gets even better. Steve gives us real pirates, not Johnny Depp with eye shadow.” —Larry Bond, New York Times bestselling author of Exit Plan
"The one-sit read champion of the season, Stephen Coonts's Pirate Alley races though a maritime terrorist attack in the Red Sea, creating a vivid cast of heroes, victims and villains. It has the feel of a documentary but the soul of an intimate drama, a trick that's extremely hard to pull off."
—Stephen Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of I, Sniper, Point of Impact and The Third Bullet
“Steve Coonts is a masterful storyteller—and PIRATE ALLEY his most chilling thriller yet. Never will you see the duplicity of world politics—let alone cruise ships and Somali bandits—in the same light again.” —W.E.B. Griffin & William E. Butterworth IV, bestselling authors of EMPIRE AND HONOR and THE LAST WITNESS
“Start with a band of ruthless Somali pirates in a story that has too often shown up on the front pages of the New York Times, add Jake Grafton and Tommy Carmellini, plus a heavy dose of SEALs on the hunt, and Stephen Coonts’s new novel PRIATE ALLEY is one hell of a read! A tale of modern day swashbucklers whose leader is the most ruthless pirate since Blackbeard makes for a book you simply cannot put down. Hats off to Steve for another rip roaring story.” —David Hagberg, author of Abyss
“A great, realistic read that could mirror current events. Coonts details this ship high-jacking and take-down as if he has first hand experience WITH the SEAL Teams. After reading this, you will want to postpone that cruise that goes anywhere near the Horn of Africa.” —Howard Wadsin, author of Seal Team Six
“Stephen Coonts takes another master turn with Pirate Alley. . . . Coonts weaves a realistic and frightening multi-layered story. . . . The buildup and final denouement will cost more than a few readers a good night’s sleep—and change the way you view pirates, cruise ships and Washington forever.” —Jim DeFelice, best-selling author of American Sniper and The Helios Conspiracy
“Start Pirate Alley at your peril and then plan for a long night. You won't be able to put it down....Filled with the courage and smarts of Stephen Coonts' SEAL Team heroes. —Former Defense Secretary William Cohen
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This type of story has a predictable ending but Coonts does a great job of getting there. It rips the romance myth of piracy off of it's ugly face. It exposes that government will always put its political face first and incompetence hides behind the bold and skilled until it is safe to come out. In this story the outcomes is how it should be but it leaves a question of would it be?
I couldn't put it down! It slowed down a bit near the end, but still one of the best books i've read this year. I am now a Coonts fan. Definately recommend.
Good read if you want an action story about piracy. A lot of Special Forces action without going too over the top. I could just happen!
Coonts has done it again. This is a fantastic novel with plenty of action, bad guys you'll love to hate, and good guys to root for. A few unexpected twists, and that makes the novel that much better.
The book represents what the US should do to combat piracy on a regular basis. A clever way to defeat the bad guys. I am a big Coonts fan that started with 'Flight of the Intruder'.
Coontz never disappoints! Couldnt put it down!
This ripped from the headlines story is a great read. If you've never read Stephen Coonts this isn't a bad place to start. If you are a long time reader of Coonts you will enjoy seeing Jake Grafton takes a more active role in this novel. Fear not, Tommy Carmelinni is in the middle of the action and as sarcastic as ever. And if you've been wondering whatever happened to Toad Tarkingon he makes an apparence as well.
Steve Coonts delivers another Grsfton/Carmellini winner!
Fast paced, holds your interest
This was a real "page-turner" even on my Nook! I enjoyed this book so much that I bought another Stephen Coonts book when I finished it. The events in this fiction book could very well happen -- or at least most of them.
As usual, Stephen Coontz has written a novel that starts off innocently, and builds to a fine finish.
I am a huge Coonts fan, but this was not as good as most of his books. Lots of action, but needs a little bit more on character development. Ending was similiar to many of his others so it wasn't jaw dropping. Still, a fun read. Reads a lot like a screen play.
As with all of his work, I had trouble putting this one down. Started reading at 12:30 AM and finished the book at 6AM. Great read!
Hi River waves and blows a kiss at you.
"Captain! I need moonsalt as soon as we hit port for a spell to rebel storms..."
There! *He points to a blackened ship mast poking up just over the canopy of trees.*
Still love reading his books just wish deep black would come back