Nonfiction thriller about the Soviet naval mutiny that inspired The Hunt for Red October.
Veteran novelist Hagberg (Allah’s Scorpion, 2007, etc.) teams with Gindin, one of the officers aboard the ship, who is now a U.S. citizen. FFG Storozhevoy was an antisubmarine frigate, a long, narrow, fast ship designed to hunt and destroy U.S. nuclear subs. In November 1975, the ship was in harbor at Riga, Latvia, being made ready for two weeks of repairs after a six-month cruise. Senior Lieutenant Gindin, at 24 a proud member of the Soviet navy, was in charge of the engine room. Hagberg conveys the barriers Gindin had to overcome as a Jew in the Soviet system while laying groundwork for the plot by Captain Valery Sablin, the ship’s third in command. The abundant details about running the ship and daily life in the Soviet navy are sure to please military buffs and techno-thriller fans alike. But at the narrative’s center stands the enigmatic Sablin, a true believer in the ideals of Marxism/Leninism who was appalled by the corruption of the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union. Believing that a majority of his fellow Russians shared his vision of a free Rodina (motherland), he planned to sail the ship near Leningrad and broadcast a tape pleading for the bureaucrats’ overthrow. At first, his scheme succeeded. He tricked Captain Anatoly Potulniy, the ship’s commander, into a locked room and armed enough crewmen to imprison those officers who did not support him. Then Sablin’s luck began to run out. His tape, rather than being broadcast, was sent out on an encrypted military channel. One officer escaped to spread the alarm. Whatever chance the mutiny had of succeeding was gone as soon as the Kremlin learned of it. Hagberg manages to build and maintain the suspense even though readers know that the plot’s failure is preordained.
A little-known slice of Cold War history, as experienced by an insider and vividly retold by an old pro.