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An Interview With Bestseller Stephen Coonts

Stephen Coonts burst onto the literary scene in 1986 with the runaway bestseller, Flight of the Intruder. Since then he has had seven New York Times bestsellers, six of which starred one of the most popular characters ever in military thriller fiction, Rear Admiral Jake Grafton. With over 15 million copies of his hooks in print worldwide, Stephen Coonts is, one of the most recognizable names writing today. His latest novel, CUBA, brings about the return of Jake Grafton. On the eve of the publication of Mr. Coonts's most exciting and ambitious book yet, he sat down with St. Martin's Press to discuss his work, the Cuba he discovered in his research and interviews, and shaking hands once again with his old pal, Jake.

St. Martin's Press has been kind enough to give me permission to reprint this article in its entirerty.

St Martin's Press: Cuba marks the return of one of the most popular characters in contemporary military thriller fiction, Rear Admiral Jake Grafton. As a writer do you find brining back a character like Grafton sort of like visiting a dear old friend you haven't seen in a while?

Stephen Coonts: I like Jake Grafton, and Toad and Rita and Callie. Writing them can be tons of fun, but at times, I come back to them reluctantly. The more I write them, the more difficult it is to keep them fresh and interesting for the readers.

SMP: Staying on the subject of Jake Grafton for a moment - and again, coming from the place of a writer -does a character like Grafton speak from a different voice for you in his seventh novel, more than he did in his debut?

SC: Grafton speaks with a different voice because he is now a prime mover at the vortex of events, a world away from where he started, which was as cockpit fodder on the bottom of the military food chain.

SMP: How long have you felt the tug on your sleeve of dealing with the Cuban situation in one of your novels?

SC: Cuba has always fascinated me. A tropical paradise roiled by venality, tyranny and grotesque stupidity - you must admit, there is plenty of material there for any writer. I first played with the Cuba theme in Under Siege, when I made the death of Castro in another Cuban revolution a two-chapter subplot. In hindsight, that was an ill-advised move on my part. I should have realized that Cuba was an entire novel in itself, one I might want to do someday, and delayed the subplot from under Siege.

Now I am doing Cuba anyway, with a whole new cast of characters, plot and subplots. Fidel checks out a completely different way. I hope the readers who remember Under Siege forgive me.

SMP: From the people you've interviewed and the research you've done, where do you see the Cuban situation heading?

SC: I predict Fidel will hang on to power until God removes him from this planet. What will happen in Havana then is anybody's guess. The scenario in CUBA is very optimistic, I believe. Still, when Fidel goes, the Cubans will discover that there are billions of dollars waiting to flood the island with development and industry, change that could provide a better living for every Cuban man, woman and child, and for the people on this side of the Florida Straits. A democratic government in Havana free of corruption and dedicated to the rule of law is the first requirement for that prosperous future, I believe.

Perhaps I am naive, but I believe America's best export is our example of good government. Ignoring Bill Clinton - the exception that proves the rule - the reason that America has the best economy on the planet and the highest standard of living is not our natural resources or ethnic mix - it's the fact that we have a living democracy that rests on the rule of law. The electorate makes policy and corrects the inevitable mistakes. Our example of good government is our gift to the human race.

[Page 2 -- Coonts talks about biological and nuclear weapons]

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