Sunday, October 23, 2005

Submarine Commander Writes Thriller - Will "Mission Complete" Rival Tom Clancy's Success?

Captain Wigley (USN retired), a USNA graduate, spent twenty-nine years on active duty involved directly or mostly with sophisticated nuclear submarines. Better schooled in military and political science than Tom Clancy, Wigley also posesses the operational experience and insider's knowledge of submarine details necessary to write a convincing thriller.

His first novel, Mission Complete, revolves around the terrorist takeover of a U.S. nuclear attack submarine. USS Tigerfish has been pirated at anchor off Piraeus and is still operated by its American crew under brutal torture by communist guards. The commanding officer of the USS Jackfish SSN-945, attends a highly classified conference where it is revealed that an ultimatum was delivered to the President of the United States from a terrorist group demanding ransom money and disarmament of the U.S. strategic (nuclear weapons) arsenal. If the ultimatum is not met in 5 days (Christmas Eve), the terrorist will launch the Tigerfishes nuclear cruise missiles, annihilating Norfolk, Washington, New York, and Groton, Connecticuit.

Will Wigley's book be as successful as Tom Clancy's benchmark, The Hunt For Red October? Both involve attention to technical and operational details concerning military intelligence activities, one of the most secretive operational branches of the military, and technologies beyond the grasp of even average American techies. A best seller, Red October and its sequel books made Clancy wealthy. The USA box office performance of the film is in the all-time top 300 records (at #220). You will see from what follows that Clancy holds a 3-point lead over Wigley before the possibility of a cinematic production or sub-sim games are even considered:

Setting: Both involve the Cold War era - Mission Complete terrorists have soviet communist connections (versus outright Islamic) SCORE: Clancy 1 ; Wigley 0.

Currency: Tom Clancy was an early, and to many, surprising defender of Islam after the WTC terror attacks. One of the first experts interviewed on CNN on (the date of) 9/11, he defended Islam as a peaceful religion. Wigley seems to just wimp out of the area entirely.
SCORE: Clancy 0; Wigley 0.

Realism: Red October was inspired by real events; On November 8, 1975, the Soviet Navy frigate Storozhevoy mutinied, which at the time the West believed was an attempt to defect from Latvia to Gotland. The mutiny was led by the ship's political officer, Captain Valery Sablin. Since the mutiny was unsuccessful; Sablin was captured, court-martialed and executed.
SCORE: Clancy 1; Wigley 0.

Triteness: USS Tigerfish unlike Clancy's story, is not the name of a real or former U.S. submarine. The fact that the name has been used in two Cold War era books (Ice Station Zebra and O God of Battles is an indication that rather than helping Wigley as it did Clancy, the USN may actually be restricting Wigley's story to trite fictionality.
SCORE: Clancy 1; Wigley 0.

Mission Complete
may be an exciting read (disclosure: too early for reviews), but Clancy wins, hands down. Why? The U.S. military assisted Clancy's success chiefly for submariner recruiting purposes. For the time being, there are too many U.S. submarines and therefore, even one of the toughest military volunteers to recruit, submariners, may soon be surplus (one needs only recall the attempted BRAC closing of the Groton submarine base, drastically declining contracts for new sub construction, and the subs budgeted for future fleets).


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