During the Cold War, Soviet nuclear submarines tirelessly patrolled the Atlantic. Their missiles took aim at Washington, New York, and other major American cities. But they were also fairly low-tech contraptions, at least in comparison to the sophisticated U.S. subs that quietly tracked them. In 1986, one of these Soviet vessels nearly suffered a meltdown not far from Bermuda in what might have been a worse-than-Chernobyl accident. Hostile Waters
tells this story more like a novel than a textbook, but also makes good use of declassified material and personal interviews. In his brief foreword, Tom Clancy
calls it "one of the most fascinating true submarine stores I have ever encountered"--high praise from the man who brought us The Hunt for Red October.
A U.S. naval officer, a Russian naval officer, and a thriller writer joined forces to produce this dramatic account of the 1986 fire aboard K-219
, a Soviet ballistic missile submarine, and its sinking off Bermuda. Those events have received some previous coverage, but the book goes into far more detail, depicting a classic battle of men against the sea in which a young engineer sacrificed his life to prevent a seagoing Chernobyl and the Soviet captain scuttled the submarine rather than have his crew ordered back aboard. In the best Hunt for Red October
manner, the U.S. Navy is depicted as endangering the survivors in an effort to acquire K-219
, and, indeed, the Soviets receive most of the book's attention and sympathy. The book's novel-like form raises the question, How much has been fictionalized or at least reconstructed to make it read--immensely successfully--like a thriller? Enough, at any rate, to entice HBO into making a TV movie of it, premiering this summer. Roland Green