cover image Going Deep: John Philip Holland and the Invention of the Attack Submarine

Going Deep: John Philip Holland and the Invention of the Attack Submarine

Lawrence Goldstone. Pegasus, $27.95 (378p) ISBN 978-1-68177-429-9

In this delightful biography, John Holland (1841–1914), the little-remembered inventor of the military submarine, receives a well-deserved publicity boost from historian Goldstone (Drive! Henry Ford, George Selden, and the Race to Invent the Auto Age). Holland’s lifetime obsession did not interest the U.S. Navy, but it intrigued Irish revolutionaries who financed his 1881 vessel, the Fenian Ram, which could cruise underwater and fire a torpedo. Internecine quarrels dried up support, however, and Holland abandoned the project. In 1895, the hidebound Navy finally awarded him a contract but added impossible design requirements to the propulsion specifications. Desperate, Holland was able to scrape together funding to build the submarine he wanted. Launched in 1898, this model worked beautifully, but Navy officials rejected it for obscure bureaucratic reasons. Holland was near bankruptcy when an entrepreneur, Isaac Rice, offered help. Rice’s money and political influence turned the tide but not before Holland had signed over his patents. By the time the Navy commissioned the USS Holland, in 1900, its inventor was marginalized and he eventually died in obscurity. The book is bogged down by digressions into Holland’s political struggles, but Goldstone revives the reputation of a great American inventor who has become the answer to a trivia question. Agent: Michael Carlisle, InkWell. (June)