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Shadow Divers: The True Adventure of Two Americans Who Risked Everything to Solve One of the Last Mysteries of World War IIby Robert Kurson
Readers energized by the suspense and adventure of The Perfect Storm and Into Thin Air will be captivated by this remarkable account of wreck diving and discovery. Interweaving the excitement of locating a previously undiscovered WWII German submarine wreck off the coast of New Jersey, the dangers of deep-sea diving, and the sleuthing undertaken by two divers to discover the U-boat's identity, Kurson narrates a compelling story in which lives are lost and history is rewritten.
Synopses & Reviews
In 1991, acting on a tip from a local fisherman, two recreational scuba divers discovered a sunken German U-boat 60 miles off the New Jersey coast. The wreck lay in 230 feet of ocean water, too deep and dangerous for all but the most accomplished scuba divers. The submarine's crew perhaps 60 men lay dead inside. No historian, expert or government had a clue as to which U-boat the divers had found. By all accounts, there simply could not be a sunken U-boat and crew at this location. Soon, the divers realized that if they did not pursue this mystery, it would remain forever unsolved.
Over the next six years, these men devoted their lives to identifying this sunken U-boat and its crew. They became expert and well-traveled researchers, taught themselves German, befriended U-boat aces, turned back fanatics and conspiracy theorists, hunted clues in Germany, corrected history books presumed to be gospel, and constructed original and ingenious theories. In between, they made some of the most daring and dangerous scuba dives ever attempted.
Over those six years, three of their colleagues died exploring the wreck, including a father and son team. As the challenge grew more deadly and the clues dried up, the two divers once bitter rivals — became best friends. As the mystery choked their marriages and threatened to consume them, each realized that he was on more than a mission to identify a lost U-boat. Each of them, they realized, was on a mission to discover himself.
In 1997, when it looked as if the U-boat would never surrender her name, the two divers conceived a plan so daring, so risky, that each of them presumed it would end in death. The book concludes with this final dive — one that literally came down to the final breath.
"This superlative journalistic narrative tells of John Chatterton and Rich Kohler, two deep-sea wreck divers who in 1991 dove to a mysterious wreck lying at the perilous depth of 230 feet, off the coast of New Jersey. Both had a philosophy of excelling and pushing themselves to the limit; both needed all their philosophy and fitness to proceed once they had identified the wreck as a WWII U-boat. As Kurson, a writer for Esquire, narrates in this debut, the two divers next undertook a seven-year search for the U-boat's identity inside the wreck, in a multitude of archives and in a host of human memories. Along the way, Chatterton's diving cost him a marriage, and Kohler's love for his German heritage helped turn him into a serious U-boat scholar. The two lost three of their diving companions on the wreck and their mentor, Bill Nagle, to alcoholism. (Chowdhury's The Last Dive, from HarperPerennial in 2002, covers two of the divers' deaths.) The successful completion of their quest fills in a gap in WWII history — the fate of the Type IX U-boat U-869. Chatterton and Kohler's success satisfied them and a diminishing handful of U-boat survivors. While Kurson doesn't stint on technical detail, lovers of any sort of adventure tale will certainly absorb the author's excellent characterizations, and particularly his balance in describing the combat arm of the Third Reich. Felicitous cooperation between author and subject rings through every page of this rare insightful action narrative. If the publishers are dreaming of another Perfect Storm, they may get their wish. Agent, Heather Schroder.7-city author tour; first serial to Esquire; rights sold in Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the U.K. (On sale June 29)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Shadow Divers surely ranks with Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm and Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air in the realm of nonfiction adventure." Chicago Sun-Times
"Exquisitely researched and superbly told...will leave even armchair adventurers gasping for breath." People (Critic's Choice...four stars)
"Absorbing...From U-boat history to the mortal dangers of diving...Kurson explains it all, even as he's spinning a fantastic yarn that happens to be true." Newsweek
"The play on words is irresistible: Once you dive into Kurson's estimable book, you will not surface again till the end." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"[A] well-paced tale of adventure on the high seas." Kirkus Reviews
Recounts the 1991 discovery of a sunken German U-boat by two recreational scuba divers, tracing how they devoted the following six years to researching the identities of the submarine and its crew, correcting historical texts and breaking new grounds in the world of diving along the way. 100,000 first printing. First serial, Esquire.
An engrossing saga of the suspenseful, intriguing, and dangerous underwater investigation of a Mystery U-boat.
Robert Kurson's Shadow Divers, about the divers exploring a sunken shipwreck off the New Jersey coast, is a gripping account of real-life adventurers and a real-life mystery. In addition to being compellingly readable on every page, the book offers a unique window on the deep, almost reckless nature of the human quest to know.
-SCOTT TUROW, author of Reversible Errors
A tremendously suspenseful story of discovery that comes as close as any book could to providing the reader with approximate sensations of deep sea diving and of life on a submarine at war, and that leaves us with a hell of an impression of the grit, guts, and compassion of a U-boat crew and the two American divers who risked everything to solve the mystery of their last mission.
-JOHN MCCAIN, author of Faith of My Fathers and Why Courage Matters
Robert Kurson's status as an undiscovered pleasure among Chicago readers is about to change, I suspect, in a hurry. Shadow Divers is so culturally astute and terrifyingly suspenseful that it should reach the sort of audience John Berendt, Susan Orlean, Jon Krakauer and Laura Hillenbrand have recently earned. Kurson's new focus is the larger historical world--a world of U-Boats, forensics and lung-crushing pressure--and his prose is, as always, plain gorgeous.
-JAMES MCMANUS, author of Positively Fifth Street
A winning tale exceedingly well told, Shadow Divers takes us on a dangerous and seemingly quixotic descent into the murk-and then, in a fog of nitrogen narcosis, brings us back to the surface with a richer, fuller fathoming of a history we only thought we knew.
-HAMPTON SIDES, author of Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
ROBERT KURSON earned a bachelors degree in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin, then a law degree from Harvard Law School. After working as a features reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago magazine, he moved to Esquire as as a contributing editor. His award-winning stories have also appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, and other publications. He lives in the Chicago suburbs and can be reached via the Internet at www.robertkurson.com.
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