April 1973—a hot and sticky month in the mid-Pacific, the month of hurricane Clarissa.
While Clarissa raged above the surface, the Soviet submarine Doneska sank to the sea bottom some 950 miles northeast of Midway atoll.
And so it began…
And so it did. The sinking of a Soviet Golf-class submarine inspired my novel Fireplay. I started writing almost immediately after reading a lengthy and brilliant account of what was known of the event by Seymour Hersh in the International Herald Tribune. The event itself to this day remains deep in mystery and secrecy but, I am sure, whatever happened is nothing like as I imagined.
Fireplay was my first novel and it was accepted with much enthusiasm by the first agent I approached. It was accepted by the first publisher my agent, in turn, approached. Also with great enthusiasm.
Everybody had high hopes that Fireplay—the title came from the expression ‘playing with fire’—would be an international bestseller.
Possibly fueling these hopes was the fact too that most of the dialogue came straight out the Watergate Tapes which the New York Times had published in great detail. The goings on in Nixon’s Oval Office were absolutely the stuff that came out of cloak-and-dagger spy novels—though, in this case, the stuff from the Oval Office was being put into a spy novel as opposed to coming out of one. I know that both my agent and initial publisher were enthused by this—in retrospect—weirdish aspect of the novel.
Some of Fireplay’s reviews were flattering. The Evening Standard, London, called it ‘the hottest thriller of the year.’ And the Daily Mirror, London, called it ‘…a marvelous nerve-tingling read.’ And while my German publishers announced the coming of a ‘new Frederick Forsyth’ my Spanish publishers quoted the International Herald Tribune as saying , ‘Nadie dejára el libro hasta terminarlo.’ (‘Nobody puts this book down.’ Or, ‘No one leaves the book unfinished, once started.’ Or, something like that. (Though I must say that much as I looked for a Herald Tribune review, I personally never found one, so it seems my Spanish publishers knew more than I did. Maybe I should have looked harder.)
Fireplay did well enough, and a bunch of foreign rights were sold. Even Hollywood expressed some early interest. It was sold in hardback and paperback in English and reprinted more than once in Portuguese. And published in Japanese too. Fireplay also bought me some ‘cred’, at least with my agents and publishers—and publication of my next few novels was pretty much assured.
But English-world best-sellerdom was not to be. Fireplay did not become thriller of the year and I was not the new Frederick Forsyth.
See, again in retrospect, Fireplay had one great flaw. Men don’t read novels, only women do. At least in big numbers that matter to markets. And in its essentially all-male spy world, Fireplay lacked a major female heroine. Q.E.D.
And so, among other improvements in this ebook version, I have revised Fireplay to create such a major female character. John Mallory becomes JoAnn Mallory. Elementary, my dear Watson…
If only I had known that, done that, then…
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Book Description Hutchinson, 1977. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0091294800