Navy pilot Jake Grafton took the fight to the enemy in the Vietnam War, winning the Congressional Medal of Honor and becoming a legend in the military community. But now he must navigate life both in the cockpit and in the halls of power as he finds himself on the front lines of a new kind of war . . .
The Intruders: In this sequel to Flight of the Intruder, Grafton is stationed in the South Pacific on the USS Columbia, where his new mission is to educate an unruly group of Marines in the art of flying from an aircraft carrier. They better be fast learners, because they’ll have to work together to survive against an enemy unlike any they’ve ever faced.
“In the realm of today’s military fiction, Mr. Coonts’s The Intruders is as good as they come.” —The Dallas Morning News
The Minotaur: Grafton is heading up a top-secret stealth bomber program at the Pentagon when a series of mysterious deaths occurs, leading him on a manhunt within the US government for a Soviet mole code-named the “Minotaur.” If he can’t find the traitor, Grafton could lose far more than just his career . . .
“Wildly inventive.” —Ocala Star-Banner
Under Siege: In this New York Times bestseller, when a vicious drug lord is captured and brought to Washington, DC, for trial, his fanatically loyal private army prepares to launch an attack on the United States—and its president. The only man who can stop the bloodshed and take down the assassins is Jake Grafton.
“Will keep you glued to your seat on a roller-coaster ride of adventure.” —USA Today
The Red Horseman: As the USSR falls, newly appointed intelligence chief Jake Grafton knows that even as one threat falls, several more are waiting to get their hands on the former Soviet nuclear arsenal. And as he tries to stop a possible Armageddon, someone who is supposed to be on Grafton’s side is working to make sure he fails.
“Quick-firing excitement, plot, and action . . . Coonts at his best.” —The Dallas Morning News
About the Author
Stephen Coonts (b. 1946) was born in Buckhannon, West Virginia. He is the New York Times bestselling author of twenty-eight thriller and nonfiction titles, including The Intruders, The Minotaur, Under Siege, The Red Horseman,and The Cannibal Queen. A combat pilot in the Vietnam War, Coonts’s technical knowledge of aviation and warfare has contributed to the enormous popularity of his novels. The author currently divides his time between his home in Colorado and a farm in West Virginia, where he does much of his writing.
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
The huge ship towered above the pier that projected into the bay. The rain falling from a low, slate-colored sky made everything look dark and wet — the ship, the pier, the trucks, even the sailors hurrying to and fro.
At the gate at the head of the pier stood a portable guard shack where a sailor huddled with the collar of his pea coat turned up, his hands thrust deep into his pockets. There was no heater in the wooden shack so the air here was no warmer than it was outside, but at least he was out of the wind. Raw and wet, the swirling air lashed at unprotected flesh and cut like a knife through thin trousers.
The sailor looked yet again up at the projecting flight deck of the great ship, at the tails and wing butts of the aircraft sticking over the edge. Then his eyes wandered back along the ship's length, over a thousand feet. The gray steel behemoth looked so permanent, so solid, one almost had to accept on faith the notion that it was indeed a ship that could move at will upon the oceans. It looked, the sailor decided, like a cliff of blue-black granite.
Streams of water trickled from scuppers high on the edge of the flight deck. When the wind gusted these dribbles scattered and became an indistinguishable part of the rain. In the lulls the streams splattered randomly against the pier, the camels that wedged the hull away from the pilings, and the restless black water of the bay.
The sailor watched the continuous march of small swells as they surged against the oil containment booms, swirled trash against the pilings, and lapped nervously against the hull of the ship. Of course the ship didn't move. She lay as motionless as if she were resting on bedrock.
Yet she was floating upon that oily black wet stuff, the sailor mused. This 95,000 tons of steel would get under way tomorrow morning, steam across the bay and through the Golden Gate. All of her eighty aircraft were already aboard, all except the last one that was just now being lifted by a crane onto the forward starboard elevator, Elevator One. This past week had been spent loading bombs, bullets, beans, toilet paper — supplies by the tractor-trailer load, an endless stream of trucks and railroad cars, which were pushed down tracks in the middle of the pier.
Carrying her planes and five thousand men, the ship would leave the land behind and move freely in a universe of sea and sky — that was a fact amazing and marvelous and somewhat daunting. The carrier would be a manmade planet voyaging in a universe of water, storms, darkness, maybe occasionally even sunlight. And on this planet would be the ants — the men — working and eating, working and sleeping, working and sweating, working and praying that somehow, someday the ship would once again return to the land.
And he would be aboard her. This would be his first cruise, at the age of nineteen years. The prospect was a little strange and a little frightening.
The sailor shivered involuntarily — was it the cold? — and looked again at the tails of the planes projecting over the edge of the flight deck. What would it be like to ride one of those planes down the catapult into the sky, or to come across the fantail and catch one of the arresting gear wires? The sailor didn't know, nor was it likely he would ever find out, a fact that gave him a faint sense of disappointment. He was a storekeeper, a clerk. The aviators who would fly the planes were officers, all older and presumably vastly more knowledgeable than he — certainly they lived in a world far different than his. But maybe someday. When you are nineteen the future stretches away like a highway until it disappears into the haze. Who knows what lies ahead on that infinite, misty road?
The sailor wasn't very interested in that mystical future: his thoughts turned glumly to the here and now. He was homesick. There was a girl at home whom he hadn't been all that serious about when he joined the Navy after high school, but the separation had worked its insidious magic. Now he was writing her three long letters per week, plus a letter to his folks and one to his brother. The girl ... well, she was dating another guy. That fact ate at his insides something fierce.
He was thinking about the girl, going over what he would say in his next letter — her last letter to him had arrived three weeks ago — when a taxi pulled up on the other side of the gate. An officer stepped out and stood looking at the ship, a lieutenant, wearing a leather flight jacket and a khaki fore-and-aft cap.
After the cab driver opened the trunk, the officer paid him and hoisted two heavy parachute bags. One he swung onto his right shoulder. The other he picked up with his left hand. He strode toward the gate and the guard shack.
The sailor came out into the rain with his clipboard. He saluted the officer and said, "I'm sorry, sir, but I need to see your ID card."
The officer made eye contact with the sailor for the first time. He was about six feet tall, with gray eyes and a nose that was a trifle too large for his face. He lowered the bags to the wet concrete, dug in his pocket for his wallet, extracted an ID card and handed it to the sailor.
The sailor carefully copied the information from the ID card to the paper on his clipboard as he tried to shield the paper from the rain. LT JACOB L. GRAFTON, USN. Then he passed the credit-card-size piece of plastic back to the officer.
"Thank you, sir."
"Okay, sailor," the lieutenant said. After he stowed the card he stood silently for several seconds looking at the ship. He ignored the falling rain.
Finally he looked again at the sailor. "Your first cruise?"
"Where you from?"
After a last glance at the airplanes on the flight deck above, the officer reached for his bags. He again hoisted one of the parachute bags to his right shoulder, then lifted the other in his left hand. From the way the bags sagged the sailor guessed they weighed at least fifty pounds each. The officer didn't seem to have any trouble handling them, though.
"Iowa's a long way behind you," the lieutenant said softly.
"Good luck," the lieutenant said, and walked away down the pier.
The sailor stood oblivious to the rain and watched him go.
Not just Iowa ... everything was behind. The ship, the great ocean, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia — all that was ahead. They would sail in the morning. Only one more night.
The sailor retreated to the shack and closed the door. He began to whistle to himself.
An hour later Lieutenant Jake Grafton finally found his new two-man stateroom and dumped his bags. His roommate, a Navy pilot, wasn't around, but apparently he had moved into the bottom bunk.
Jake climbed into the top bunk and stretched out.
Just five months into his first shore tour — after three years in a fleet squadron with two combat cruises — his tour was cut short. Now he was going to sea again, this time with a Marine squadron.
Amateur hour! Jarheads!
How had he gotten himself into this fix anyway?
Well, the world started coming unglued about three weeks ago, when he went to Chicago to see Callie. He closed his eyes and half-listened to the sounds of the ship as it all came flooding back.
"Do you know Chicago?" Callie McKenzie asked.
It was 11 A.M. on a Thursday morning and they were on the freeway from O'Hare into the city. Callie was at the wheel.
Jake Grafton leaned back in the passenger's seat and grinned. "No."
Her eyes darted across his face. She was still glowing from the long, passionate kiss she had received at the gate in front of an appreciative audience of travelers and gate attendants. Then they had walked down the concourse arm in arm. Now Jake's green nylon folding clothes bag was in the trunk and they had left the worst of O'Hare's traffic behind.
"Thank you for the letters," she said. "You're quite a correspondent."
"Well, thank you for all the ones you wrote to me."
She drove in silence, her cheeks still flushed. After a bit she said, "So your knee is okay and you're flying again?"
"Oh, sure." Unconsciously Jake rubbed the knee that had been injured in an ejection over Laos, six months ago. When he realized that he was doing it, he laughed, then said, "But that's history. The war's over, the POWs are home, it's June, you're beautiful, I'm here — all in all, life is damn good."
In spite of herself Callie McKenzie flushed again. Here he was, in the flesh, the man she had met in Hong Kong last fall and spent a bittersweet weekend with in the Philippines. What was that, seven days total? And she was in love with him.
She had avidly read and reread his letters and written long, chatty replies. She had told him she loved him in every line. And she had called him the first evening she arrived back in the States after finishing her two-year tour in Hong Kong with the State Department. That was ten days ago. Now, here he was.
They had so much to talk about, a relationship to renew. She was worried about that. Love was so tricky. What if the magic didn't happen?
"My folks are anxious to meet you," she said, a trifle nervously Jake Grafton thought. He was nervous too, so nervous that he couldn't eat the breakfast they had served on the plane from Seattle. Yet here with her now, he could feel the tension leaving him. It was going to be all right.
When he didn't reply, she glanced at him. He was looking at the skyline of the city, wearing a half-smile. The car seemed crowded with his presence. That was one of the things she had remembered — he seemed a much larger man than he was. He hadn't changed. Somehow she found that reassuring. After another glance at his face, she concentrated on driving.
In a moment she asked, "Are you hungry?"
"Oh, getting there."
"I thought we'd go downtown, get some lunch, do some sightseeing, then go home this evening after my folks get home from the university."
"Sounds like a plan."
"You'll like Chicago," she said.
"I like all American towns," he said softly. "I've never yet been in one I didn't like."
"You men! So hard to please."
He laughed, and she joined in.
He's here! She felt delicious.
She found a parking garage within the Loop and they went walking hand in hand, looking, laughing, getting reacquainted. After lunch with a bubbling crowd in a pub, they walked and walked.
Of course Callie wanted to hear an account from Jake's own lips about his shootdown and rescue from Laos, and they talked about Tiger Cole, the bombardier who had broken his back and was now undergoing intensive physical therapy in Pensacola.
When they had each brought the other up-to-date on all the things that had happened to them since they last saw each other, Callie asked, "Are you going to stay in the Navy?"
"I don't know. I can get out after a year in this shore tour." He was a flight instructor at Attack Squadron 128 at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, transitioning new pilots and bombardier-navigators (BNs) to the A-6 Intruder. "The flying is fun," he continued. "It's good to get back to it. But I don't know. It depends."
"Oh, this and that." He grinned at her.
She liked how he looked when he grinned. His gray eyes danced.
She thought she knew what the decision depended on, but she wanted to hear him say it. "Not finances?"
"No. Got a few bucks saved."
"On a civilian flying job?"
"Haven't applied for any."
"On what then, Jake?"
They were on a sidewalk on Lake Shore Drive, with Lake Michigan spreading out before them. Jake had his elbows on the railing. Now he turned and enveloped Callie in his arms and gave her a long, probing kiss. When they finally parted for air, he said, "Depends on this and that."
"You and me."
The admission satisfied her. She wrapped her hands around one of his arms and rested her head on his shoulder. The gulls were crying and wheeling above the beach.
The McKenzies lived in a brick two-story in an old neighborhood. Two giant oaks stood in the tiny front yard between the porch and the sidewalk. After apparently struggling for years to get enough sunlight, most of the grass had surrendered to fate. Only a few blades poked through last autumn's leaf collection. Professor McKenzie appeared to be as enthusiastic about raking leaves as he was about mowing grass.
Callie introduced Jake to her parents and he agreed that he could drink a beer, if they had any. The professor mixed himself a highball and poured a glass of wine for each of the ladies. Then the four of them sat a few minutes in the study with their drinks in hand exchanging pleasantries.
He had been in the Navy for five years, liked it so far. He and Callie had met in Hong Kong. Wasn't this June pleasant?
Callie and her mother finally excused themselves and headed for the kitchen. Jake surveyed the room for ashtrays and saw that there weren't any. As he debated whether he should cross his legs or keep both feet firmly on the floor, Callie's father told him that he and his wife taught at the University of Chicago, had done so for thirty years, had lived in this house for twenty. They hoped to retire in eight years. Might even move to Florida.
"I was raised in southwestern Virginia," Jake informed his host. "My Dad has a pretty good-size farm."
"Have you any farming ambitions?"
No, Jake thought not. He had seen his share of farming while growing up. He was a pilot now and thought he might just stick with it, although he hadn't decided for certain.
"What kind of planes do you fly in the Navy?" Professor McKenzie asked.
So Callie hadn't mentioned that? Or the professor forgot. "I fly A-6s, sir."
Not a glimmer showed on the professor's face. He had a weathered, lined face, was balding and wore trifocals. Still, he wasn't bad looking. And Mrs. McKenzie was a striking lady. Jake could see where Callie got her looks and figure.
"What kind of planes are those?" the professor asked, apparently just to make conversation.
"Attack planes. All-weather attack."
"Any time, anywhere, any weather, day or night, high, low or in the middle."
"You ... drop ... bombs?" His face was blank, incredulous.
"And shoot missiles," Jake said firmly.
Professor McKenzie took a deep breath and stared at this young man who had been invited into his house by his daughter. His only daughter. Life is amazing — getting into bed with a woman is the ultimate act of faith: truly, you are rolling cosmic dice. Who would have believed that twenty-five years later the child of that union would bring home this ... this ...
"Doesn't it bother you? Dropping bombs?"
"Only when the bad guys are trying to kill me," Jake Graft on replied coolly. "Now if you'll excuse me, sir, maybe I should take my bags upstairs and wash my face."
"Of course." The professor gestured vaguely toward the hallway where the stairs were and took a healthy swig of his highball.
Jake found the spare bedroom and put his bags on a chair. Then he sat on the bed staring out the window.
He was in trouble. You didn't have to be a genius to see that. Callie hadn't told her parents anything about him. And that look on the old man's face! "You drop bombs?"
He could have just said, "Oh, Mr. Grafton, you're a hit man for the Mafia? What an unusual career choice! And you look like you enjoy your work."
He dug in his pocket and got out the ring. He had purchased this engagement ring last December on the Shiloh and carried it with him ever since, on the ground, in the air, all the time. He had fully intended to give it to Callie when the time was right. But this visit ... her parents ... it made him wonder. Was he right for this woman? Would he fit into her family? Oh, love is wonderful and grand and will conquer all the problems — isn't that the way the songs go? Yet under the passion there needs to be something else ... a rightness. He wanted a woman to go the distance with. If Callie was the woman, now was not the time. She wasn't ready.
And he wasn't if she wasn't.
He looked disgustedly at the ring, then put it back into his pocket.
The evening sun shone through the branches of the old oak. The window was open, a breeze wafted through the screen. That limb — he could take out the screen, toss down the bags, get onto that limb and climb down to the ground. He could be in a taxi on the way to the airport before they even knew he was gone.
He was still sitting there staring glumly out the window when Callie came for him thirty minutes later.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"Nothing," he said, rising from the bed and stretching. "Dinner ready?"
Excerpted from "The Jake Grafton Collection"
Copyright © 1994 Stephen P. Coonts.
Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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.
Table of Contents
THE RED HORSEMAN,
A Biography of Stephen Coonts,