FINAL BEARING by George Wallace


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From Keith (Wizard of the Wind, 1997, etc.) and retired US Navy commander Wallace: a pulpish sea-opera that’s firm on the submarine stuff if shaky on the storytelling.

The U.S.S. Spadefish, once in the very forefront of nuclear attack subs, faces the ignominy of decommissioning. Its skipper, “razor thin” and razor-sharp Commander Jonathan Ward would like the gallant old boat to go out in style, and he’s delighted when the idea of a final mission is broached, even though the task itself is on the unconventional side: a role in the war against South American drug trafficking. A multinational organization of anti-drug warriors called the Joint Drug Interdiction Agency has set its sights on the infamous Juan de Santiago, Colombia’s leading purveyor of crack and heroin, who suddenly has a new and improved powder to push. To snort it once is to belong to us, de Santiago proclaims triumphantly before his distributors. “He’s smart,” Ward is told. “He’s dangerous. And he’s crazy as a loon.” Smart may be overstatement, but crazy nails it. Consider: when de Santiago, a.k.a. El Jefe, learns there’s a traitor in his inner circle—the mysterious El Falcone—he takes out the entire inner circle. That is, he invites his four closest underchiefs (and their womenfolk) to a shipboard party, then blows up the ship. So much for El Falcone, he boasts—incorrectly, as it turns out, since the pesky spy, in company with almost everyone else El Jefe comes in contact with, outwits and outmaneuvers him. Flash forward—many pages—and there’s Spadefish, submerged, keeping tabs interminably on the Helena K, the druglord’s ship, until, at length, the obligatory confrontation takes place with its all-too-predictable resolution. Now zoom in on Spadefish, lying in harbor, waves lapping respectfully at the decommissioned sub’s worn-out flanks: “The brave old girl was going to her final rest at last.”


Pub Date: April 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-765-30415-5
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Forge
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2003


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