Cover image for Cuba
Coonts, Stephen, 1946-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
390 pages ; 25 cm
Format :


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Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Library
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As Fidel Castro lies dying in Cuba, the U.S. awaits the unavoidable power struggle, but unbeknownst to everyone, the President of the United States has hidden secret weapons on Cuba's Guantanemo Bay, and when those weapons are discovered by Cuban factions, only Admiral Grafton can save America from

Author Notes

Stephen Coonts was born on July 19, 1946 and grew up in Buckhannon, West Virginia. He received an A.B. degree in political science from West Virginia University in 1968. He entered the U.S. Navy and received his Navy wings in August of 1969. He made two combat cruises aboard the USS Enterprise. After the Vietnam War, he served as a flight instructor aboard the USS Nimitz. He left active duty in 1977 and received a law degree from the University of Colorado School of Law in 1979. He went to West Virginia to practice and later, to Colorado to work as a staff attorney for an oil company.

Coonts published his first novel, Flight of the Intruder, in 1986, which was adapted as into a film in 1991. Since then he has written more than 20 books including ones in the Jake Grafton Novel series, Saucer series, Deep Black series, and Tommy Carmellini series. He also published a work of nonfiction in 1992 called The Cannibal Queen and edited an anthology of true flying stories, War in the Air, in 1996. The U.S. Naval Institute honored him with its Author of the Year Award in 1986 for his novel, Flight of the Intruder.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The popular Coonts mines the original Cuban missile crisis for source material in his latest military-techno thriller. Without preamble, he introduces the threat: a half-dozen ballistic missiles Castro and the Russians secretly stashed in silos after the crisis. Forty years on, Castro is at death's door, his associates jockeying for the succession. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy is covering the extraction from Guantanamo Bay of a chemical/biological weapons stockpile, a task that facilitates Coonts folding in the specs on high-tech military iron (he was a navy pilot before taking up scrivening). He gets to operate the equipment through a snafu: the navy loses track of the toxic warfare weapons. While it searches, a pistol-packing, safe-cracking CIA duo in Havana discover what the Cubans have been developing in their lab (creating a polio warhead for their missiles), and, with gunslinging panache, the CIA guys slickly egress hostile territory, carrying critical targeting information. The winner of the succession struggle knows the Americans have found him out, thus setting the table for novel-ending battles around the missile sites, featuring appearances by seemingly every weapon in the U.S. armory short of the Bomb. Inevitably, the details about the V-22 Osprey and its kindred overshadow the characters flying the planes, but readers gun for Coonts' books because of their dramatic, diverting action. Setting the genre's conventions in a post-Castro context, Coonts delivers the anticipated excitement. --Gilbert Taylor

Publisher's Weekly Review

The future of Cuba is up for grabs in this crackerjack speculative thriller by the author of Flight of the Intruder and Fortunes of War. Coonts regulars Rear Admiral Jake Grafton and staff operations officer Toad Tarkington are providing military cover for a shipment of American chemical and biological weaponsÄweapons that should have been destroyed long agoÄout of Guant namo Bay, where they have been in storage. When the shipment goes missing, it's Grafton's job to find it and get those weapons back. But that's the least of his worries, because Cuba is developing its own biological weapons; as soon as they are ready, they will be loaded onto missiles already aimed at American cities. Meanwhile, an aged Castro is dying of cancer, and even if he lives long enough to name a successor, Alejo Vargas, head of the Cuban secret police, has his own plans for the future of the country. While there's little doubt that Grafton will save the day, Coonts's sharply drawn charactersÄincluding dapper CIA operative and biological weapons expert William Henry Chance and his safe-cracking sidekick, Tommy CarmelliniÄand a plethora of intersecting plot lines take what one character calls "another Cuban missile crisis" to a rousing action finale. But the surprise pleasure here is how clearly Coonts paints a picture of Cuba by focusing on the three Soldano brothersÄHector, a Jesuit priest who may be Castro's chosen successor; Ocho, the handsome ballplayer who has the chance to sail to Florida with the woman he got pregnant; and Maximo, the finance minister who is more interested in money than the revolution. This gripping and intelligent thriller is a standout for Coonts, taking the death of Castro as a starting point for an all-too-possible scenario of political turmoil and military brinkmanship. $325,000 ad/promo; author tour. (Aug.) FYI: In one of this season's more interesting coincidences, Coonts chooses for his epigraph the same poem by Jos‚ Mart¡ as does Amy Ephron in her book White Rose, reviewed above. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Fidel Castro is dying of cancer just as the United States decides to move its cache of chemical weapons from its Cuban base. On the way to Norfolk, the freighter carrying the warheads disappears. When the navy discovers it aground on a Cuban island, the weapons and the crew are gone. Rear Admiral Jake Grafton is given the job of figuring out what happened. In the course of the investigation, he finds that Cuba has missiles left over from the Soviet Union's involvement with Castro, and the Cuban government is manufacturing a new strain of polio for which there is no cure. Coonts has perfected the art of the high-tech adventure story. He juggles a multivoiced narrative with action taking place in a number of different locations but seldom loses sight of the direction of the story. This tale of what could happen when Castro dies grips the imagination from first to last. For all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/99; Cuba is currently a popular topic with thriller writers, as seen in Martin Cruz Smith's Havana Bay, LJ 5/1/99.ÄEd.]ÄJo Ann Vicarel, Cleveland Heights-University Heights P.L., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Cuba CHAPTER ONE Guantánamo Bay, on the southeast coast of the island of Cuba, is the prettiest spot on the planet, thought Rear Admiral Jake Grafton, USN. He was leaning on the railing on top of the carrier United States 's superstructure, her island, a place the sailors called Steel Beach. Here off-duty crew members gathered to soak up some rays and do a few calisthenics. Jake Grafton was not normally a sun worshiper; at sea he rarely visited Steel Beach, preferring to arrange his day so that he could spend at least a half hour running on the flight deck. Today he was dressed in gym shorts, T-shirt, and tennis shoes, but he had yet to make it to the flight deck. Grafton was a trim, fit fifty-three years old, a trifle over six feet tall, with short hair turning gray, gray eyes, and a nose slightly too large for his face. On one temple was a scar, an old, faded white slash where a bullet had gouged him years ago. People who knew him regarded him as the epitome of a competent naval officer. Grafton always put his brain in gear before he opened his mouth, never lost his cool, and he never lost sight of the goals he wanted to accomplish. In short, he was one fine naval officer and his superiors knew it, which was why he was in charge of this carrier group lying in Guantánamo Bay. The carrier and her escorts had been running exercises in the Caribbean for the last week. Today the carrier was anchored in the mouth of the bay, with two of her larger consorts anchored nearby. To seaward three destroyerssteamed back and forth, their radars probing the skies. A set of top-secret orders had brought the carrier group here. Jake Grafton thought about those orders as he studied the two cargo ships lying against the pier through a set of navy binoculars. The ships were small, less than eight thousand tons each; larger ships drew too much water to get against the pier in this harbor. They were Nuestra Señora de Colón and Astarte. The order bringing those ships here had not come from some windowless Pentagon cubbyhole; it was no memo drafted by an anonymous civil servant or faceless staff weenie. Oh, no. The order that had brought those ships to this pier on the southern coast of Cuba had come from the White House, the top of the food chain. Jake Grafton looked past the cargo ships at the warehouses and barracks and administration buildings baking in the warm Cuban sun. A paradise, that was the word that described Cuba. A paradise inhabited by communists. And Guantánamo Bay was a lonely little American outpost adhering to the underside of this communist island, the asshole of Cuba some called it. Rear Admiral Grafton could see the cranes moving, the white containers being swung down to the pier from Astarte, which had arrived several hours ago. Forklifts took the steel boxes to a hurricane-proof warehouse, where no doubt the harbormaster was stacking them three or four deep in neat, tidy military rows. The containers were packages designed to hold chemical and biological weapons, artillery shells and bombs. A trained crew was here to load the weapons stored inside the hurricane-proof warehouse into the containers, which would then be loaded aboard the ship at the pier and transported to the United States, where the warheads would be destroyed. Loading the weapons into the containers and getting thecontainers stowed aboard the second ship was going to take at least a week, probably longer. The first ship, Nuestra Señora de Colón , Our Lady of Colón, had been a week loading, and would be ready to sail this evening. Jake Grafton's job was to provide military cover for the loading operation with this carrier battle group. His orders raised more questions than they answered. The weapons had been stored in that warehouse for years--why remove them now? Why did the removal operation require military cover? What was the threat? Admiral Grafton put down his binoculars and did fifty push-ups on the steel deck while he thought about chemical and biological weapons. Cheaper and even more lethal than atomic weapons, they were the weapons of choice for Third World nations seeking to acquire a credible military presence. Chemical weapons were easier to control than biological weapons, yet more expensive to deliver. Hands down, the cheapest and deadliest weapon known to man was the biological one. Almost any nation, indeed, almost anyone with a credit card and two thousand square feet of laboratory space, could construct a biological weapon in a matter of weeks from inexpensive, off-the-shelf technology. Years ago Saddam Hussein got into the biological warfare business with anthrax cultures purchased from an American mail-order supply house and delivered via overnight mail. Ten grams of anthrax properly dispersed can kill as many people as a ton of the nerve gas Sarin. What was that estimate Jake saw recently?--one hundred kilograms of anthrax delivered by an efficient aerosol generator on a large urban target would kill from two to six times as many people as a one-megaton nuclear device. Of course, Jake Grafton reflected, anthrax was merely one of over one hundred and sixty known biological warfare agents. There were others far deadlier but equally cheap to manufacture and disperse. Still, obtaining a culture was merely a first step; the journey from culture dishes toa reliable weapon that could be safely stored and accurately employed--anything other than a spray tank--was long, expensive, and fraught with engineering challenges. Jake Grafton had had a few classified briefings about CBW--which stood for chemical and biological warfare--but he knew little more than was available in the public press. These weren't the kinds of secrets that rank-and-file naval officers had a need to know. Since the Kennedy administration insisted on developing other military response capabilities besides nuclear warfare, the United States had researched, developed, and manufactured large stores of nerve gas, mustard gas, incapacitants, and defoliants. Research on biological agents went forward in tandem at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and ultimately led to the manufacture of weapons at Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas. These highly classified programs were undertaken with little debate and almost no publicity. Of course the Soviets had their own classified programs. Only when accidents occurred--like the accidental slaughter of 6,000 sheep thirty miles from the Dugway. Proving Ground in Utah during the late 1960s, or the deaths of sixty-six people at Sverdlovsk in 1979--did the public get a glimpse into this secret world. Nerve gases were loaded into missile and rocket warheads, bombs, land mines, and artillery shells. Biological agents were loaded into missile warheads, cluster bombs, and spray tanks and dispensers mounted on aircraft. Historically nations used chemical or biological weapons against an enemy only when the enemy lacked the means to retaliate in kind. The threat of massive American retaliation had deterred Saddam Hussein from the use of chemical and biological weapons in the 1991 Gulf War, yet these days deterrence was politically incorrect. In 1993 the United States signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, thereby agreeing to remove chemical and biological weapons from its stockpiles. The U.S. military had been in no hurry to comply with the treaty, of course, because without the threat of retaliationthere was no way to prevent these weapons being used against American troops and civilians. The waiting was over, apparently. The politicians in Washington were getting their way: the United States would not retaliate against an enemy with chemical or biological weapons even if similar weapons were used to slaughter Americans. When Jake Grafton finished his push-ups and stood, the staff operations officer, Commander Toad Tarkington, was there with a towel. Toad was slightly above medium height, deeply tanned, and had a mouthful of perfect white teeth that were visible when he smiled or laughed, which he often did. The admiral wiped his face on the towel, then picked up the binoculars and once again focused them on the cargo ships. "Glad the decision to destroy those things wasn't one I had to make," Toad Tarkington said. "There are a lot of things in this world that I'm glad I'm not responsible for," Jake replied. "Why now, Admiral? And why does the ordnance crowd need a battle group to guard them?" "What I'd like to know," Jake Grafton mused, "is why those damned things were stored here in the first place. If we knew that, then maybe we would know why the brass sent us here to stand guard." "Think Castro has chemical or biological weapons, sir?" "I suspect he does, or someone with a lot of stars once thought he might. If so, our weapons were probably put here to discourage friend Castro from waving his about. But what is the threat to removing them?" "Got to be terrorists, sir," Toad said. "Castro would be delighted to see them go. An attack from the Cuban Army is the last thing on earth I would expect. But terrorists--maybe they plan to do a raid into here, steal some of the darn things." "Maybe," Jake said, sighing. "I guess I don't understand why we are taking them home for destruction," Toad added. "The administration gotthe political credit for signing the Chemical Weapons Treaty. If we keep our weapons, we can still credibly threaten massive retaliation if someone threatens us." "Pretty hard to agree to destroy the things, not do it, and then fulminate against other countries who don't destroy theirs." "Hypocrisy never slowed down a politician," Toad said sourly. "I guess I just never liked the idea of getting naked when everyone else at the party is fully dressed." "Who in Washington would ever authorize the use of CBW weapons?" Jake muttered. "Can you see a buttoned-down, blow-dried, politically correct American politician ever signing such an order?" Both men stood with their elbows on the railing looking at the cargo ships. After a bit the admiral passed Toad the binoculars. "Wonder if the National Security Agency is keeping this area under surveillance with satellites?" Toad mused. "No one in Washington is going to tell us," the admiral said matter-of-factly. He pointed to one of the two Aegis cruisers anchored nearby. "Leave that cruiser anchored here for the next few days. She can cover the base perimeter with her guns if push comes to shove. Have the cruiser keep her gun crews on five-minute alert, ammo on the trays, no liberty. After three days she can pull the hook and join us, and another cruiser can come anchor here." "Yes, sir." "There's a marine battalion landing team aboard Kearsarge, which is supposed to rendezvous with us tomorrow. I want Kearsarge to stay with United States. We'll put both ships in a race-track pattern about fifty miles south of here, outside Cuban territorial waters, and get on with our exercises. But we'll keep a weather eye peeled on this base." "What about the base commander, sir? He may know more about this than we do." "Get on the ship-to-shore net and invite him to have dinner with me tonight. Send a helo in to pick him up." "Sir, your instructions specifically directed that you maintain a business-as-usual security posture." "I remember," Jake said dryly. "Of course, 'business as usual' is an ambiguous phrase," Toad mused. "If anything goes wrong you can be blamed for not doing enough or doing too much, whichever way the wind blows." Jake Grafton snorted. "If a bunch of wild-eyed terrorists lay hands on those warheads, Tarkington, you and I will be fried, screwed, and tattooed regardless of what we did or didn't do. We'll have to will our bodies to science." "What about the CO of the cruiser, Admiral? What do we tell him?" "Draft a top-secret message directing him to keep his people ready to shoot." "Aye, aye, sir." "Nuestra Señora de Colón is sailing this evening for Norfolk. Have a destroyer accompany her until she is well out of Cuban waters." "Yo." Toad was making notes on a small memo pad he kept in his hip pocket. "And have the weather people give me a cloud-cover prediction for the next five days, or as far out as they can. I want to try to figure out what, if anything, the satellites might be seeing." "You mean, are they keeping an eye on the Cuban military?" "Or terrorists. Whoever." "I'll take care of it, sir." "I'm going to run a couple laps around the deck," Jake Grafton added. "May I suggest putting a company of marines ashore to do a security survey of the base perimeter? Strictly routine." "That sounds feasible," Jake Grafton said. "Tonight let's ask the base commander what he thinks." "Yessir." "Terrorists or the Cuban Army--wanna bet ten bucks? Take your pick." "I only bet on sure things, sir, like prizefights and Super Bowls, occasionally a cockroach race." "You're wise beyond your years, Toad," the admiral tossed over his shoulder as he headed for the hatch. "That's what I tell Rita," Toad shot back. Rita Moravia was his wife. Jake Grafton didn't hear the rest of Toad's comment. "And wisdom is a heavy burden, let me tell you. Real heavy. Sorta like biological warheads." He put the binoculars to his eyes and carefully studied the naval base. Copyright (c) 1999 by Stephen Coonts. Excerpted from Cuba by Stephen Coonts All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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