In May 1968, submarine specialist John Craven, then chief scientist of the navy's special projects office, had just crossed into Virginia from Washington, D.C., on his way home from work when he heard an alarming news report on the radio. The USS Scorpion, a submarine, was missing in the ocean with 99 men on board. On hearing the news, Craven writes, "I immediately turned my car around and headed for the war room of the Pentagon." Amazingly, the loss of the Scorpion coincided with the disappearance of a Soviet submarine. How Craven spearheaded the search for the two ships—a search that inspired The Hunt for Red October—is the centerpiece of this fascinating series of set pieces that delve into the life-and-death mechanics of Cold War–era submarine service. Craven, who had previously been known as the head of the Polaris sub-based missile program, has surfaced mysteriously in the press over the years, most recently in the critically acclaimed Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage; here, he is forthright about much of his background and activities. Anecdote-based chapters include descriptions of repairs to a newly launched USS Nautilus, rough briefings to the press and to the chain of command on Polaris, diving into the transoceanic cable-tapping Man-in-the-Sea program and much more. Craven quotes Byron, Verne and others with feeling throughout, and his explanations of the complicated physics related to his various projects are clear—if sometimes still classified—making this is a distinctively well-crafted intelligence-community memoir. (Apr. 4)
Forecast: As Russo-American relations over espionage heat up, this book should find a general audience primed for a re-examination of the intricacies of the Cold War. While not quite Red October, it should reach beyond the buff market.