Where is this page in my Den? → The Virtual LibraryHistoryArchaeology
Military Fiction
The Battle of Trafalgar (painting)

"The Battle of Trafalgar" by British artist Joseph Mallord William Turner

Military fiction is exactly what it sounds like: stories about warfare and soldiers, set in the past or present of the real world, rather than the future or a fantasy milieu. It's among the oldest forms of fiction -- one could argue that even The Iliad is partly a form of military fiction. I have a variety of military fiction, most of it set in some time within about the last 200 years.

The saga of Horatio Hornblower

The Hornblower Saga, by British writer/historian C. S. Forester, is widely considered one of the best military-fiction series ever written. I certainly agree with that assessment. Forester wasn't very good at writing characters, but his descriptions of action, and of how sailing warships worked, are so powerful and vivid that they carry the series all by themselves.

The Hornblower Saga is set in the Royal Navy during the Age of Sail, mostly during the Napoleonic Wars. Horatio Hornblower, a young man of good birth and education but no prospects, chooses to make a career of the Navy and joins up as a midshipman, an officer of the lowest rank. From there, the books in the series trace Hornblower's life and naval career during and after the wars.

  • MR. MIDSHIPMAN HORNBLOWER
    Author: Forester, C.S.
    Copyright:1978
    Publisher: Little, Brown
    ISBN: 0-316-28912-4
    A collection of ten short stories that follow Hornblower's experiences as a midshipman. The first story is set aboard the ship of the line HMS Justinian. The rest are all set aboard the large frigate HMS Indefatigable. The stories take Hornblower through his first taste of combat, his first command of a prize ship, captivity in a Spanish prison, and more. The book ends with him obtaining his promotion to lieutenant. Most of these stories sound like pure fiction. It was something of a surprise to me to learn, several years after reading this book, that while Hornblower himself is a fictional character, Sir Edward Pellew is a real historical figure with a phenomenally distinguished war record.
  • LIEUTENANT HORNBLOWER
    Author: Forester, C.S.
    Copyright:1980
    Publisher: Little, Brown
    ISBN: 0-316-28921-3
    Hornblower is junior lieutenant aboard the ship of the line HMS Renown, on a mission to Caribbean waters. Though Hornblower is central to the story, he's not the primary viewpoint character. Instead, the story centers on Lieutenant William Bush, and sees Hornblower through Bush's eyes. The main story follows Renown through a voyage to the West Indies and an assault on a Spanish stronghold on the island of Haiti. Matters aboard the ship are vastly complicated by the fact that the captain is mentally unstable and getting more so. One of the ways his insanity shows is as paranoia against his officers ... and officers in the old Royal Navy were horribly vulnerable to malicious actions by an ill-intentioned senior.
  • HORNBLOWER AND THE HOTSPUR
    Author: Forester, C. S.
    Copyright:1990
    Publisher: Back Bay
    ISBN: 0-316-29046-7
    Hornblower is promoted to commander and takes command of the sloop of war HMS Hotspur, just before the end of the Peace of Amiens. Hotspur becomes part of the Channel Fleet, blockading the French fleet based at Brest. The routine of life on blockade duty is broken by gales, raids on French territory, and other sorts of actions. During this time Hornblower makes a name for himself as a daring, skilled, and intelligent officer. This is probably my favorite of the Hornblower books; Hornblower and many of the people around him are fairly well-developed characters, and Forester manages to include the whole spectrum of experiences that a Royal Navy ship's captain might have: planning, combat, writing reports, fighting bad weather, shipboard discipline, dealing with the politics of the fleet command, and so on. Toward the end of the book, the fictional Hornblower again takes a peripheral part in a real engagement: the British interception and capture of the Spanish Flota (treasure fleet) in fall 1804.
  • HORNBLOWER AND THE ATROPOS
    Author: Forester, C. S.
    Copyright:1981
    Publisher: Little, Brown
    ISBN: 0-316-28929-9
    Hornblower leaves Hotspur when he's promoted to Captain. After a brief interlude he takes command of the slightly larger sloop HMS Atropos. He's then posted to the Mediterranean, where Atropos is assigned a salvage mission. Nothing is ever easy for Hornblower, though, so this is not an ordinary salvage mission. A treasure ship has sunk within Turkish territorial waters. Hornblower's assignment is to recover a large amount of silver from the wreck without letting the Turkish authorities find out about it.
  • BEAT TO QUARTERS
    Author: Forester, C. S.
    Copyright:1966
    Publisher: Little, Brown
    ISBN: 0-316-28932-9
    Hornblower moves up to command of a frigate, HMS Lydia, and voyages to the Pacific with orders to foment a rebellion in Spain's Central American colonies. But events don't go as planned: after capturing a large Spanish ship, the fifty-gun Natividad, and turning her over to the rebels, Hornblower finds that Spain has changed sides, and he must now defeat the very rebels he so recently supported. Even worse, he has to also play host to an English noblewoman, Lady Barbara Wellesley, who has commandeered the Lydia to take her back to England. While this is #5 in the series sequence, it's actually the first Hornblower novel that Forester wrote. It's among the weakest in terms of characterization, but among the best in the descriptions of sailing warships and combat in the age of sail. The accounts of the ships and sea-battles, especially the long engagement between the Lydia and the Natividad, are second to none.
  • SHIP OF THE LINE
    Author: Forester, C. S.
    Copyright:1966
    Publisher: Little, Brown
    ISBN: 0-316-28936-1
    Hornblower's success in the Pacific has brought him command of a seventy-four-gun ship of the line, HMS Sutherland. With two other ships of the line he heads for the Mediterranean, and for several months this small squadron wreaks havoc along the south Spanish coast. Hornblower's part in this consists mainly of a rapid-fire series of actions that leave the local French forces reeling: captures of ships, cutting-out expeditions, an attack on a French army marching along a coastal road. By the end of this concentrated flurry of action, you understand very well why Napoleon feared and hated the Royal Navy more than any other fighting force he faced.
  • FLYING COLOURS
    Author: Forester, C. S.
    Copyright:1966
    Publisher: Little, Brown
    ISBN: 0-316-28939-6
    Hornblower's ship is a wreck, and he and all his crew (those that are still alive) are prisoners of the French. As a propaganda move, Bonaparte orders that Hornblower and his First Lieutenant William Bush be brought to Paris for trial and execution as war criminals. Along the way, though, they manage to escape and find refuge with a French ex-nobleman who hates Bonaparte. After hiding there all summer, Hornblower sets out to escape from France and return home to England.
  • COMMODORE HORNBLOWER
    Author: Forester, C.S.
    Copyright:1972
    Publisher: Little, Brown
    ISBN: 0-316-28938-8
    After a period of shore leave, Hornblower is made Commodore, given command of a squadron of six ships, and sent to the Baltic to fight against French attacks on Russia and Sweden. After an encounter with a French privateer, Hornblower uses his squadron to aid the Russian defenders of a coastal town named Daugravgriva against a powerful French army. The story of Napoleon's disastrous campaign against Russia is told secondhand, through despatches from the main front. While there are assorted political intrigues and other conflicts going on, the best thing about this book (as usual with the Hornblower books) is the exquisitely precise descriptions of early-1800s naval weapons and tactics. Here, the high point is the use of two "bomb-vessels" (small ships with two huge mortars as their main armament) to attack a French privateer that can't be reached in any other way.
  • LORD HORNBLOWER
    Author: Forester, C.S.
    Copyright:1974
    Publisher: Little, Brown
    ISBN: 0-316-28943-4
    After a year on sick-leave (he'd been infected with typhus), Hornblower returns to active duty and is given orders to recapture a mutinous brig, HMS Flame. After doing so, Hornblower gets caught up in great events: the invasion of France, the surrender of Napoleon, his return from exile, and the brief campaign which ends at Waterloo.
  • ADMIRAL HORNBLOWER IN THE WEST INDIES
    Author: Forester, C.S.
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Back Bay
    ISBN: 0-316-28941-8
    Hornblower has finally risen to the rank of Admiral, as the officer commanding His Majesty's Ships and Vessels in West Indian waters. This book was built out of several short stories, and it shows in the heavily episodic nature of the plot. For the most part the stories are pretty good, though. Among other problems, Hornblower must deal with pirates and slave-runners, survive a hurricane, and defuse a thorny political situation when a privateer for the revolutionary Simon Bolivar claims to be a British warship.
  • HORNBLOWER DURING THE CRISIS
    Author: Forester, C.S.
    Copyright:1967
    Publisher: Little, Brown
    ISBN: 0-316-28944-2
    This final book in the series is an anthology. The main part is a fragment from a novel Forester was working on when he died, titled "Hornblower During the Crisis." It fits between HORNBLOWER AND THE HOTSPUR and HORNBLOWER AND THE ATROPOS in the series continuity. After leaving Hotspur, Hornblower assists in the brief capture of a French brig. While aboard the brig, he takes the French captain's papers, including a precious prize: an original signature by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Hornblower's fertile imagination then spawns a plan to forge a despatch from Bonaparte, and use it to lure the French and Spanish fleets into a decisive battle. That's as far as the actual story goes; story notes fill in what Forester had in mind for the rest of the novel. Two short stories round out the book. "Hornblower's Temptation" is set during Hornblower's time as a lieutenant on Renown, and concerns his dealings with an Irish rebel and deserter captured by the Channel Fleet. "The Last Encounter" is the very last of all the Hornblower stories. Set in 1848, it concerns Admiral of the Fleet Hornblower's encounter with Louis Napoleon, who was later Emperor Napoleon III of France.

Close section

Military fiction of WW2

Of course, real wars offer plenty of material for military-fiction writers. As I'm interested in the history of WW2, I also enjoy good, technically accurate WW2 military fiction.

  • FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE
    Author: MacLean, Alistair
    Copyright:1968
    Publisher: Fawcett
    ISBN: 0-449-23949-9
    WW2 novel set in spring 1944. After destroying the guns of Navarone, Captain Keith Mallory and his team of commandos is sent into Bosnia to help free a trapped force of Yugoslav Partisans and destroy the German forces threatening them.
  • GUNS OF NAVARONE, THE
    Author: MacLean, Alistair
    Copyright:
    Publisher:
    ISBN:
    The only way to evacuate the garrison leads past the German-held island of Navarone, and an enormous rock fortress that holds two battleship-caliber heavy guns. No ship can approach without being sunk; no airplane can make a bomb run on the cave that holds the guns. The only chance to destroy the guns is a strike by a carefully selected team of commandos. The team must travel to Navarone by boat, land on the island without being detected by the Germans, then travel overland to the fortress, get inside, and destroy it. They have a long way to go, most of it through enemy-patrolled waters, and a series of misfortunes seem determined to end their mission before it begins. Some of the misfortunes seem more than coincidental, and are -- a traitor has betrayed the team to the enemy. This novel is usually considered MacLean's best. It was made into a classic war movie by the same name.
  • H.M.S. ULYSSES
    Author: MacLean, Alistair
    Copyright:1955
    Publisher: Fawcett
    ISBN: 0-449-12582-3
    MacLean's first WW2 novel, and one of his best. HMS Ulysses is a Royal Navy light cruiser assigned to the Murmansk (Arctic) convoy run. She's fast, powerful, well-equipped, modern -- and carries a dying captain and a mutinous crew. She and her squadron have been assigned to escort the eighteen loaded merchant ships of convoy FR-77 to Russia. The Germans will do everything they can to stop the convoy. 'Everything' includes attacks by U-boats, two- and four-engine bombers, and even Germany's only surviving heavy cruiser. The Arctic convoy run was among the most thoroughly miserable parts of the naval war, and MacLean does a creditable job of showing just how awful it was. Part of the novel's success probably stems from the fact that MacLean was there -- he was a crewman in the Royal Navy during WW2, and served aboard a light cruiser on the Arctic convoy run.
  • LAST DOGFIGHT, THE
    Author: Caidin, Martin
    Copyright:1974
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN:
    Novel of air combat in WW2, between a US Army Air Force group and a Japanese Naval air flotilla.
  • RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP
    Author: Beach, Edward
    Copyright:1955
    Publisher: Pocket
    ISBN:
    A first-person fictional narrative of American submarine combat in WW2, told by submarine commander "Rich" Richardson. He starts as the commander of an S-boat in the Atlantic Fleet in late 1941, just before the war. His Executive Officer's examination for command turns into a disaster that sets the two friends against each other. Then his S-boat is given to the Free Polish Navy. He and his crew, including his angry Exec, are then transferred to the new fleet submarine Walrus and sent to the Pacific to join the submarine war against Japan. Once Walrus is in the Pacific, the story becomes largely a fictionalized account of the submarine war that the author lived through. Richardson commands Walrus on four war patrols, sinks a number of ships, is depth-charged by destroyers and a Q-ship. The story gets more intense when Rich and Walrus tangle with a particular Japanese destroyer captain, Tateo Nakame, known as "Bungo Pete" to the Americans because he operates around the Bungo Suido entrance to the Inland Sea. A number of lightly fictionalized versions of real events, such as the horribly defective Mark 14 submarine torpedo, add extra layers of truth to the story.
  • DUST ON THE SEA
    Author: Beach, Edward
    Copyright:1972
    Publisher: Zebra Books
    ISBN: 0-8217-2580-7
    Sequel to RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP. Military fiction set aboard the US Navy submarine Eelfish in the Pacific in WW2. Unlike RUN SILENT, RUN DEEP, this one is told in third-person style, and I think it loses something because of that.
  • FINAL HARBOR
    Author: Homewood, Harry
    Copyright:1980
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-23823-X
    The story of USS Mako, a fictional sub involved in the Pacific War during the first couple of years of the war. It's also the story of her captain, Arthur Hinman, who runs headlong into a bit of history you won't read much about in the official versions: the wrangling and political infighting that divided the American command staffs during the first two years of the war. Between the faulty torpedoes, the command failures, and other problems, the story of US submarines in the Pacific during 1942 and early 1943 was not a happy one, and Homewood doesn't gloss over any of it. Homewood himself was an enlisted man aboard Pacific Fleet submarines in the war, and brings that point of view to his writing. It makes for a very different tone from all the books written by submarine officers. Much more blunt, down-to-earth, and intense. It's a true shame that this book and its sequel are now out of print -- they're some of the best war fiction I've ever read.
  • SILENT SEA
    Author: Homewood, harry
    Copyright:1981
    Publisher: Bantam Books
    ISBN: 0-553-20923-X
    A direct sequel to FINAL HARBOR, which starts only a couple of days later. This one describes the war experiences of the fictional submarine USS Eelfish, commanded by Michael Brannon, who was Executive Officer aboard the Mako at the beginning of FINAL HARBOR. In SILENT SEA, Eelfish and her crew perform a variety of tasks typical of submarine duties in the Pacific War during 1943-45: besides attacking enemy ships, they run messages, pick up and land special agents, and rescue American flyers from downed aircraft. They also have sideline seats for several of the war's major engagements, like the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

Close section

Secret Agent James Bond

I don't find spy novels especially interesting -- real spy stories seem to beat them all hollow. About the only spy novels I have are Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, which I got into by way of being a fan of the early James Bond films.

  • CASINO ROYALE
    Author: Fleming, Ian
    Copyright:1953
    Publisher: Berkley
    ISBN: 0-425-06392-5
    In postwar France, British secret agent James Bond gets an unusual mission. Le Chiffre, a French union leader and covert Russian agent, is trying to get out of money problems via gambling at the casino in Royale-les-Eaux. Bond's assignment: beat Le Chiffre at the gaming tables and ensure the ruin of his union. His problem: the enemy already knows about him and his mission, and is determined to see that he fails. When Bond succeeds in his mission despite a bungled assassination attempt, Le Chiffre resorts to more direct means to get the money he needs. A simple and straightforward story, this novel is made more interesting (to me) by Fleming's meticulous descriptions of Bond's gambling methods and tactics.
  • LIVE AND LET DIE
    Author: Fleming, Ian
    Copyright:1954
    Publisher: Berkley
    ISBN: 0-425-06398-4
    Very old gold coins are being sold in America through the crime network of "Mr. Big," a master criminal whose organization includes only blacks. The coins are apparently treasure-trove, from the treasure of the late-17th-century British politician and pirate Sir Henry Morgan. Because it's happening on US soil, the CIA is involved; because the trove is thought to be on British territory, Bond's Secret Service has a role to play. Bond and American agent Felix Leiter are assigned to penetrate Mr. Big's organization and find the coins' source.
  • MOONRAKER
    Author: Fleming, Ian
    Copyright:1955
    Publisher: Signet
    ISBN:
    A personal mission becomes a professional one after Bond's boss M asks his champion agent to help him find out if multi-millionaire businessman Sir Hugo Drax is cheating in high-stakes card games. M is concerned because Drax has developed a prototype ballistic missile for the British government which is capable of carrying an atomic warhead. The Moonraker is days from its first test and appears to be headed for complete success -- so why was the agent assigned to watch Drax's project suddenly and inexplicably murdered? And just why does Drax cheat at cards? The rationale behind Drax's actions depends heavily on some history that few people know. It's worth noting that Fleming's explanations for his villains' actions are always pretty believable and pretty well rooted in reality, unlike the "crazy superrich man" that's so often used as the villain in Bond movies.
  • DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER
    Author: Fleming, Ian
    Copyright:1956
    Publisher: Signet
    ISBN:
    In a change from his usual international intrigue, James Bond is assigned to infiltrate a diamond-smuggling operation run by American gangsters based in Las Vegas. Along the way he gets a tour de force of the American underworld: crooked horseracing, rigged gaming tables in Las Vegas, and more. He's assisted by his old friend Felix Leiter, who is now a private eye, and by other agents for the Pinkerton's detective agency. Again, a fairly straightforward story that's made much more interesting by the detailed descriptions of gambling and criminal networks.
  • FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE
    Author: Fleming, Ian
    Copyright:1957
    Publisher: Berkley Books
    ISBN: 0-425-05367-9
    The Russian anti-espionage organization SMERSH develops a complex plan to kill a well-known Western secret agent, as another stroke in the Cold War. Their bait: an advanced cipher machine and a beautiful girl. Their chosen target: James Bond. Their plan: Kill Bond in such a way that it looks like suicide, and causes a scandal in England. Bond knows there's something underhanded going on, but he has no idea what until it's almost too late for him to react. The movie version of this is rare among Bond movies in that it sticks quite close to the book, with only a few additions and changes.
  • DOCTOR NO
    Author: Fleming, Ian
    Copyright:1958
    Publisher: Berkley
    ISBN: 0-425-06394-1
    Barely recovered from a near-fatal blunder, Bond is sent on what seems to be a "milk run" mission: investigate the disappearance of a British resident agent in the Caribbean. Agent Strangways and his assistant, a young and very beautiful woman, have both vanished, and the obvious conclusion is that they eloped. Bond knew Strangways, though, and he doesn't believe it. But his only clue is the case Strangways was working on just before he disappeared: a routine investigation of a peculiar, secretive, very wealthy man who goes by the name of Doctor No.
  • GOLDFINGER
    Author: Fleming, Ian
    Copyright:1959
    Publisher: Signet Books
    ISBN:
    Who is Auric Goldfinger? He seems to be a successful small businessman, jewelry-maker, and gold exporter. In reality he's one of the wealthiest men in England -- and all of it in solid gold, which the Royal Bank of England thinks was smuggled out of England. At their request, Bond makes contact with and then follows Goldfinger in an attempt to figure out whether Goldfinger is smuggling gold, and if so, how? The original assignment becomes almost moot when Bond stumbles onto Goldfinger's true master plan: the greatest bank robbery in history. Goldfinger has allied himself with a dozen American crimelords, and intends to raid Fort Knox. Bond is captured but manages to avoid having his true identity uncovered. Instead, he becomes one of Goldfinger's advisors, unwillingly helping Goldfinger while looking for a way to turn the tables on him.
  • THUNDERBALL
    Author: Fleming, Ian
    Copyright:1961
    Publisher: Berkley Books
    ISBN: 0-425-06428-X
    The organized crime syndicate known as S.P.E.C.T.R.E. has stolen two atomic bombs from the RAF and is using them in a game of global blackmail. James Bond is one of hundreds of agents sent out to all corners of the globe, to try to find the missing bombs before SPECTRE's deadline expires. His assignment is the Bahamas; his partner, none other than his old friend Felix Leiter, recalled to duty by the American CIA. His opponent: Emilio Largo, field commander for SPECTRE.
  • SPY WHO LOVED ME, THE
    Author: Fleming, Ian
    Copyright:1962
    Publisher: Berkley Books
    ISBN: 0-425-05372-5
    An unusual entry in the series, this is written in first person. A young woman working at a remote hotel/resort finds herself in the middle of a battle between James Bond and a couple of very nasty thugs, agents of the resort's owner who wants to burn it as an insurance scam. Ian Fleming never much liked this novel (for good reason, I think), which is the main reason why the movie version shares nothing with the novel beyond the title.
  • ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE
    Author: Fleming, Ian
    Copyright:1963
    Publisher: Signet
    ISBN: 0-451-12107-4
    After the Thunderball affair, SPECTRE's leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld disappeared. Now he's surfaced again, and Bond goes after him. The trail leads to an estate high in the Alps, and a new and diabolical plan against England. Along the way, Bond encounters a beautiful, suicidally depressed young woman named Tracy di Vicenzo, whose father happens to be Marc-Ange Draco, head of the Union Corse, the most powerful crime organization in France. Draco finds some information on Blofeld's whereabouts, and Bond pursues it to Blofeld's new lair, a remote skiing hostel in the Alps. Blofeld is up to his old tricks, it turns out, planning a biological-warfare attack on England. Unable to get any help through his Service, Bond instead turns to the Union Corse to assemble an assault team and destroy Blofeld's mountaintop retreat.
  • YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE
    Author: Fleming, Ian
    Copyright:1964
    Publisher: Signet
    ISBN: 0-451-12108-2
    In deep depression after the death of his wife, Bond is sent on a diplomatic mission to Japan, to form an alliance between the British Secret Service and the Japanese Secret Service. "Tiger" Tanaka, leader of the Japanese organization, requests an unusual form of assistance from Bond in return for the alliance: help him kill a Westerner named "Dr Shatterhand," who has set up a "garden of death" where more and more Japanese are going to commit ritual suicide. Who is this mysterious Westerner? None other than Bond's nemesis: Ernst Stavro Blofeld!
  • MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, THE
    Author: Fleming, Ian
    Copyright:1965
    Publisher: Signet
    ISBN: 0-451-12106-6
    Bond goes up against the world's greatest assassin: Francisco Scaramanga, in an operation to both kill Scaramanga and ruin a criminal enterprise he's running in the Bahamas.
  • FOR YOUR EYES ONLY
    Author: Fleming, Ian
    Copyright:1960
    Publisher: Signet
    ISBN:
    An anthology of five short stories, which tell of some of Bond's shorter missions.
  • OCTOPUSSY
    Author: Fleming, Ian
    Copyright:1965
    Publisher: Signet Books
    ISBN: 0-451-11878-2
    Another collection of short stories about some of Bond's shorter missions.

Close section

Tom Clancy

In 1984, author Tom Clancy invented a new genre of fiction: the military thriller or techno-thriller. Set in the present or near future (at the time of writing), Clancy's techno-thrillers feature military men and their machines at work. In later years he turned more toward political thrillers with a much smaller military component, but I still think of them all as "military fiction:"

  • HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER, THE
    Author: Clancy, Tom
    Copyright:1984
    Publisher: Berkley
    ISBN: 0-425-08383-7
    A new, very advanced Soviet missile submarine attempts to defect to the United States. Complex moves and countermoves ensue as the American Navy tries to find her, while the Soviet Navy tries to make sure she never reaches her destination. The depictions of American and Soviet submarine types, capabilities, and doctrines in this book were so accurate that it's rumored the American government looked into the possibility that there had been an intelligence leak.
  • RED STORM RISING
    Author: Clancy, Tom
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Berkley
    ISBN: 0-425-10107-X
    In this very long novel, Clancy spins a complex tale of a conventional ground war between NATO and the Warsaw Pact, fought in West Germany in the style long assumed by planners on both sides: WW2-style armored/infantry combat, with modern weapons. The reader gets views of the war at sea from a nuclear submarine and a couple of surface ships; the war on land as seen by an American armored-cavalry troop, the war in the air through a variety of viewpoints; the intelligence war; and the special war fought by the commanders and their political masters.
  • PATRIOT GAMES
    Author: Clancy, Tom
    Copyright:1987
    Publisher: Berkley
    ISBN: 0-425-10972-0
    In the internal chronology, this is the first of Jack Ryan's adventures. While Ryan and his family are on vacation in England, they get caught in an attack by Irish terrorists against the Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne. Ryan intervenes, and with a lot of luck he kills one terrorist and captures another. The action then becomes something of a cop/spy thriller, following Ryan's life as the captured terrorist is tried and convicted, then escapes, then makes two separate attempts to get revenge by attacking Ryan and his family back home in America. I find this novel really interesting for two reasons: the detailed description of how the international-intelligence game works, and the material on guns and shooting. Other than that, PATRIOT GAMES is forgettable. Clancy was never very good at writing good characters or believable stories, and he didn't do those things any better in this novel than in any other.
  • CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER
    Author: Clancy, Tom
    Copyright:1989
    Publisher: Berkley
    ISBN: 0-425-12212-3

  • DEBT OF HONOR
    Author: Clancy, Tom
    Copyright:1994
    Publisher: Berkley
    ISBN: 0-425-14758-4

Close section

Other military-thriller authors

Other authors have followed where Tom Clancy led, writing numerous military thrillers set in either the near past or the near future. Some of these are far more real than Clancy ever achieved, largely because the men writing them are themselves military veterans, which Clancy was not, and they understand how combat really works much better than he did. I've sorted these books by author, then by internal order where possible.

  • TEAM YANKEE
    Author: Coyle, Harold
    Copyright:1987
    Publisher: Berkley Books
    ISBN: 0-425-11042-7
    Sort of a small-scale answer to Tom Clancy's RED STORM RISING, and based on the same idea of a Soviet-NATO ground war in Europe, this is a novel of armored warfare written from the point of view of a small armored Team (mixed tanks and mechanized infantry). Where Clancy had only a few scenes of armored ground combat, TEAM YANKEE has nothing else but. I can't confirm this, but I suspect that Harold Coyle was himself a tank officer, and commanded a Team during NATO war-games in Europe.
  • WARBIRDS, THE
    Author: Herman, Richard
    Copyright:1989
    Publisher: Avon Books
    ISBN: 0-380-70838-8
    This follows a US Air Force tactical attack wing through a fictional conflict in the Persian Gulf region circa the early 1990s. It focuses on a single junior pilot named Jack Locke. Along the way, it shows him and the wing training and fighting, and also dealing with the labyrinth of Air Force command politics. The combat sequences are very realistic. The behind-the-scenes political crap is infuriating .. which probably means it's also very realistic.
  • CHOOSERS OF THE SLAIN
    Author: Cobb, James
    Copyright:1996
    Publisher: Berkley
    ISBN: 0-425-16053-X
    The USS Cunningham is the US Navy's first stealth warship, fitted with a series of high-tech systems to defeat enemy radar, infrared imaging, and sonar systems. She also carries a wide array of advanced weaponry, from long-range SAMs to heavy land-attack missiles and even a single anti-satellite missile. But the ship, the crew, the captain, and the technology are all untried in combat conditions. In this book, Commander Amanda Garrett and her ship and crew undergo their trial by fire. The government of Argentina is trying to seize control of the San Martin Peninsula on Antarctica. They've already sent an advance force to secure the bases there that were run by other countries. Now they need to reinforce and resupply those bases. The Cunningham is sent to enforce a naval blockade between Argentina and its advance force on the peninsula. In about a week's time, the Cunningham fights four major actions against all the foes a modern warship might face: two different air strikes, a submarine attack, and a vicious surface battle with the Argentine reinforcement convoy and its escorts.
  • FLIGHT OF THE INTRUDER
    Author: Coonts, Stephen
    Copyright:1986
    Publisher: Pocket
    ISBN: 0-671-64012-7
    Coonts's first novel starring Navy pilot Jake Grafton. Probably his best, too. Lieutenant Grafton is an A-6 attack plane pilot assigned to an aircraft carrier operating off the coast of Vietnam. The story follows him through a series of routine missions, the death of his bombardier and close friend, and his decision to commit mutiny by bombing an unauthorized target. The chief attraction of this book is the realism: Coonts was himself an A-6 carrier pilot, and the accounts of carrier operations and combat are written with gut-wrenching realism.
  • INTRUDERS, THE
    Author: Coonts, Stephen
    Copyright:1994
    Publisher: Pocket
    ISBN: 0-671-87061-0
    A direct sequel to FLIGHT OF THE INTRUDER. The Vietnam War is over, and Jake Grafton is assigned to a land-based training squadron for A-6 crews. But Grafton can't forget either the war or the fury he feels at antiwar civilians. After an incident where he throws a loudmouth through a bar window, Grafton is transferred to a Marine A-6 squadron that is going out aboard another carrier. His time with the Marines becomes a tour of peacetime carrier flying: tankers, bombing practice, a "demonstration" over a Russian task force.
  • SEA STRIKE
    Author: Cobb, James H.
    Copyright:1997
    Publisher: Berkley Books
    ISBN: 0-425-16616-3
    After the Argentina battle, the Cunningham is assigned to the Pacific Fleet, just in time to watch as a war breaks out in China. Republic of China troops from Taiwan have allied themselves with domestic rebel groups and launched an invasion of mainland China. The Communist Chinese regime threatens to defend itself with nuclear weapons. The Republic answers this threat by revealing it has acquired nukes of its own. The watching US Naval ships are drawn in when the Chinese sail their only operational ballistic-missile submarine -- invisible and untraceable, the submarine will become a permanent threat. Except .. the submarine never actually left Chinese waters. With her superiors' permission, Commander Garrett takes the Cunningham into Chinese coastal waters in a desperate attempt to find and destroy the submarine before the war goes nuclear.
  • SEA FIGHTER
    Author: Cobb, James
    Copyright:2000
    Publisher: Jove Books
    ISBN: 0-515-12982-8
    Obe Belewa is a career officer in the Nigerian Army. He's also sick of watching Africa tear itself apart, so he sets himself up as a military dictator and takes over first Liberia and then Sierra Leone, combining the two into the West African Union. A United Nations force is organized to counter Belewa's new aggression, against Guinea. The UN force consists of a hodge-podge of units from different countries, which in a typical UN way are hamstrung by a lack of coordination and a worthless command structure. The international forces have only two advantages. One is PGAC-1, three American Navy hovercraft that have been modified into heavily armed "seafighters." The other is the aggressive, skilled Commanding Officer of PGAC-1: one Captain Amanda Garrett. This is an excellent piece of work, well above the run-of-the-mill military thriller, largely because Cobb takes the time to make General Belewa more than a cardboard third-world dictator.

Close section