The Assault on Mavis A
Time for another installment in the series of book reviews which I call "Books That are not Worth Reviewing" -- This time, it's the "nautical thriller" The Assault on Mavis A, written by Norman Stahl and published in 1978. Of all the books I've reviewed, few have had as little information available online as this book. There's no real review of it, and very little information at all, other than pictures of the books for the copies available on eBay and elsewhere. And yet, someone thought it was worth translating into both Swedish and Norwegian. This book fits the definition of a Book Not Worth Reviewing perfectly. It has no apparent worth or value, and since no one else is talking about it, I intend to review it here in great detail.
Norman Stahl got his start working in advertising. He was creative
director of Ted Bates Worldwide, working on ads for Pepsi, Dodge, HBO,
and apparently he worked on this famous Palmolive ad:
According to the book, Stahl is a pilot, "an avid follower of air racing," he lives on Long Island, and this is his first book. After publishing this book, he wrote two other novels. As little information as there is for Mavis A online, these other two books have even less data -- I have found no reviews at all. Towers, charts the history of two families in NYC. The Burning Man is a thriller involving a KGB sleeper agent posing as an adulterous priest. I sure hope I didn't pick the worst of the lot for reviewing!
He also co-wrote A Fellowship of Valor: the Battle History of the United States Marines, which looks like a very well-regarded book.
I found my copy of this book at the Montague Bookmill, and bought it for 99 cents. Judging from the bookplate, they got it from "The Young Men's Library Association", which is the name of the library in Ware, which has a fairly random history.
Roughly speaking, this is a book about the hijacking of the largest oil tanker built, and an attempt to crash it into the largest oil rig ever built. It's a "naval thriller" involving a big slow ship and a stationary target. It's not exactly Tom Clancy, or even Under Siege. Here's the summary from the inside of the book:
For thirty terrifying hours in the heart of a wild North Sea storm, a handful of doomed men fight a war for the solvency of the West.
The key to British survival is Mavis A, an immense oil platform fueling an entire economy. Bent on destroying it are the hijackers of the supertanker American Enterprise, a third of a mile long and the greatest mobile structure ever built by man. From the moment commandant Dominic Quinn and his desperate handful of IRA guerrillas seize the Enterprise until they steer its million deadly tons at the towering legs of Mavis A, history swings in the balance.
The relentless battle demands every ounce of courage and ingenuity from the opposing forces. On the American Enterprise, Quinn must control not only his own band of hand-picked killers and demolition men, but the captured crew of the supertanker, including the beautiful, lonely woman who plays both sides. On Mavis A, the fists and brilliance of platform master Noel Cullenbine must deal with the murderous subversion of Scottish nationalists who have infiltrated the crew, and with the final defense of his critically damaged platform.
The Assault on Mavis A builds in tension with every page, finally exploding in a climax as mighty as the forces at work within its narrative.
That's a pretty thorough summary of the book -- I should stop right now!
This book accomplishes the thankless task of taking a moderately interesting concept, and turning it into a story that is dull, overly complicated, and at times utterly vulgar and disgusting. There's a certain amount of excitement via killing and violence, and yet most of the book is about a fairly slow ship moving toward an immovable target without any conflict at all. There's some sex, but it's definitely not sexy -- more on that later. It definitely doesn't live up to the billing on this alternative cover to the book:
There's a lot of overwrought prose, like this bizarre sentence from the opening of the book: "Like many of the insignificant, the North Sea has a vile and dangerous temper." This doesn't even make sense. In what way is the North Sea insignificant? The North Sea has played a critical role in European history for the last 600 years. Stahl is clearly an amateur historian, but his love of adjectives goes way too far here.
Between the liner notes, and the helpful maps and diagrams included at the beginning of the book, there's basically no point in actually reading this novel. BUT I DID.
The first character introduced is Noel Cullenbine, platform master of the Mavis A, newest and largest drilling platform in the North Sea. A ridiculous amount of oil has been recently discovered in the North Sea, which is fortunate because England's economy is in utter shambles. We're told in detail how smart he is:
The mind of Noel Cullenbine had been kept prisoner by the community, like the body of a queen bee. What was in his head was simply too valuable to be left in his own care. He had been a child wonder - a Mozart of science. At the age of seven he had been brought to Edinburgh, at the university's request, to be studied by wondering professors. While his railway-engineer father and seamstress mother fretted in a hotel room the phenomenal ability of their only son to retain, process, organize and transmit information astounded his examiners.
By the age of eighteen Cullenbine had grown to feel that he was unable to touch any thing that breathed, and to try and save himself as a man he rebelled. He disappeared from the university [...] and drifted to work in the oil fields. Here he found the first task he'd ever loved: the brutal challenge of wresting from the earth a running treasure, the energy stored by a hundred million years of suns. He had felt its power beneath his feet as he now felt the shock of waves, and ever since he had wanted to unleash and command its power.
At first he had been content to work, to learn and to make his way slowly up through the lowest backbreaking, limb-crushing jobs. But within a year he yearned to multiply his energies and to be a leader [...] He was a foreman in the toughest fields of Mexico and Texas by the time he was twenty-four. The Limey, as the other workers called him, commanded hard men by becoming a walking terror.
He punished with his voice, which was loud, metallic and abrasive when he raised it. He punished with his fists, which were ridged with knuckles so massive that they might have served for models of a gladiator's glove. And he punished with his scorn. It shot out of his eyes like venom; men who felt it once would perform wonders rather than face it again.
Now, just past forty, Cullenbine needed all these savage talents as the operating boss of Mavis A. Brilliant, computer-nurtured plans flowed into operation largely because of the fists and tongue of this spectacularly effective man.
So, we're told he's smart, and we see some examples of that, but mostly what he does through the whole book is yell, and bash the shit out of people.
Opposing him is IRA commandant Dominic Quinn. Quinn has a plan to ruin England -- he will hijack a supertanker, and crash it into Mavis A. If Quinn succeeds, England will be devastated, and Ireland will be liberated. As part of his plan, Quinn has built a luxurious brothel in the fictional Irish seaside town of Coltry Bay, which is basically a "geological miracle" cooked up just for the book - an incredibly deep yet isolated bay where huge oil tankers dock all the time. Quinn plans to lure a crew into the brothel, hijack a ship, and go from there.
Quinn has managed to lure Will James, one of the junior officers of the American Enterprise -- which without a doubt is the best name ever for an oil tanker -- with free sex and food. Once he has enjoyed "the bone-white nakedness of Mariclare Brady," the first thing he wants to know is "how a brothel, even one so fine, was able to use the tightly controlled company frequency of Petromarine to call the American Enterprise at sea. Or how the call went unentered in the radio log" -- but Mariclare distracts him before he asks -- "James saw only the wide blue eyes locked on his. He did not in time perceive it as the blinkless gaze of a hunting cat, nor feel the paw upon his back." Yipes.
Quinn watches as James and Mariclare eat in his lavish dining room, which supposedly cost 100,000 pounds to build, with Waterford chandeliers, a chef from a famous London Hotel, and a string ensemble with performers who "would have been recognized by name at New York Lincoln's Center." Sounds nice.
He introduces himself to James, and immediately he has the advantage -- James has clearly been enjoying himself, offers his thanks to Quinn, and now Quinn is able to lean on him to insist that the rest of the officers of the American Enterprise should be invited into port immediately. In fact, he's got a list of them in his hand to make sure he's not missing anyone. James doesn't really like the sound of this, so he's reluctant. Mariclare speaks up briefly, and blurts out that Quinn knows a lot about ships -- he clearly didn't want this known -- so he asks her to leave. James was raised to be polite, so he stands up as she goes, and Quinn tells him "You're very polite to your whores." James doesn't really like to hear a woman called that:
The young officer did not like this contempt for the receptacle of his sacred seed. "I suppose a man in your business must have that attitude." It was the noblest defense he had ever made of a woman.
They argue for awhile until Quinn tells James "you do understand that you are not pimpin', if that's what’s on your mind? Your friends will pay nothin'. It is their good will I want." James says that he's been very well-paid, and Quinn replies "As many a pure lad in the twenty-six counties is bein' paid on a front-parlor couch at this exact minute. The cunt is always buyin'. Fur coats, food, security, husbands."
James thinks he notices something a little strange about Quinn, and he accuses him of being gay -- "You're a homosexual, aren't you?" -- and he's right. Quinn is a gay IRA terrorist. And although James is Catholic, and has been feeling some level of guilt for extramartial sex, "He had been brought up to believe that the power of a boy who had never missed mass was God-given and illimitable over Jews and homosexuals." Always nice to have a firm belief structure to back up your double standards.
Quinn cures James' reluctance to call the ship by forcing him to watch the kneecapping of a supposed IRA traitor. Pretty soon, James has made his call and invited the officers to the brothel. They almost all head into Coltry Bay except for the Captain and First Officer, who stay behind to take care of the ship.
Quinn needs more than a luxurious brothel to pull off his plan. He also needs a team of crack operatives, but there must be a shortage in the IRA ranks, because he stages not one but two prison break-ins. The first is to retrieve an IRA member from a prison hospital where he is actively dying of tuberculosis, and the second is to rescue a bunch of other people from a jail in Belfast. The sick guy is rescued solely for the task of holding his finger on the trigger of a bomb while the other prisoners are rescued -- a decent example of the over-complication that happens in this book. During the escape, the bomb goes off, killing a bunch of guards.
The freed prisoners include Molaise Mullins aka "The Dropper", an IRA demolitions expert, who violently rapes a prison guard with a billy club once he is released, and is smart enough to notice that everyone rescued has experience with boats. I could write a bunch about the rest of the prisoners, but it would take up way too much of this review, and it wouldn't be worth it. I will mention that one of them is a former priest turned gunman -- Father Costello, and another one is named Paddy -- Stahl has a short supply of Irish names and stereotypes.
Meanwhile, on Mavis A, Cullenbine is worried about attacks on his rig, and he is describing the issues to Colonel Lustgarten and his aide Captain Zamke, two Germans who work for the fictional "North Sea Security Services." They have flown in on helicopters on an inspection tour of company rigs -- right before a giant storm comes through that will conveniently isolate them for the next few days.
Zamke, the younger one, is particularly uninformed about the platform, so this provides a convenient opportunity to spend a few pages talking about the weaknesses of the oil rig -- notably, there are no blowout preventers, so if something bad happens to the platform, a lot of oil will be released into the North Sea. Also, half of the crew is Scottish, and none of them like England. As it happens, a couple of the Scots are in cahoots with Quinn -- this book takes place during a period of high Scottish Nationalism -- and they have a bomb in place to disable the radio on Mavis A and wreak havoc in general as part of the plan.
Cullenbine and his boss Magnus describe the potential catastrophe if something happens to Mavis A:
"Not only will this destroy England financially, it would be utterly devastating for the whole planet. What it adds up to," Magnus said, "is that we would greatly damage the ability of the world to feed itself over the next fifty years."
Cullenbine talks about the danger of an oil spill:
As if that isn't enough, if there's an accident, oil will rush out of the wells because there aren't any blowout preventers -- does that ring a bell? "We might have installed choke valves below the sea bed, but they're often troublesome, and given Mavis's extra strength and other precautions we've taken, we thought it more efficient to do away with them. That's a mistake that will need to be corrected someday. We were thinking too much about nature and not enough about men.
There's not a lot of point in criticizing the thought process of fictional characters, but this statement would be ludicrous in a book published today, especially given the history of oil spills in the last 25 years. If this book was published today, the company would just have to say they were cheap, or cut corners to increase shareholder returns, or they'd just be assholes.
The Germans are interesting characters because they are emotionally detached from the events of the book -- they clearly don't care what happens beyond an almost academic interest in doing their jobs. Lustgarten was a General in World War 2, and he doesn't like the British very much. He "allowed himself the moment's luxury of savoring this thought" when discussing the catastrophe that would be a successful attack on Mavis A. And he seems to be grooming Zamke in his own image.
In some ways, they serve as some sort of vaguely detached chorus. They work for the English, but they certainly aren't pro-England. They spend the early part of the book researching possible attacks, studying news reports, and making connections between the hijacking and Mavis A. And they discuss all of these events as sort of a detached summary of what is going on. And all the time that they are trying to learn what is happening, they are sitting on Mavis A, in the middle of a huge storm, and they serve as the only connection between the two sides until the end of the book.
Back in the brothel, the officers of the ship are enjoying themselves, until Quinn has them dragged naked into his office, and tells them he needs help hijacking their boat. Of course, he doesn't tell them the actual plans -- he tells them that the plan is simply to hold the ship ransom. They'll sail around in the North Sea until they get their money, then escape to Libya. And what's strange about this is that they seem pretty happy to comply. It's one thing to be kidnapped and have your boat hijacked, and something else to be excited about it. But, Quinn basically convinces them that they're going to have a great adventure and have a story to tell their whole lives.
Quinn felt a thrill like a fighter who had struck a perfect blow. He had hit the Americans precisely square and true. Using only his tongue, he had turned the frightened captives into comrades. The spirit of mischief and adventure -- always underrated as a shaker of events -- had hold of them; he could see it plainly in the sly grins that they exchanged, first with another and then with him. What stories they would live to tell. Days or weeks in the hot eye of a watching world. Poking a stick in the eye of their millionaire bosses and not having to pay for it. Jesus, they might have pulled this off themselves. Libya. So long, straight world; sorry, tired wife and girlfriend.
Toss some booze into this last bit and it's like a Raymond Carver story set on an oil tanker.
While all this happens, First Officer Owen Browne is watching a storm brew on the American Enterprise when his wife calls him from their quarters. Browne is a careerist who wants to move high in the company. He's a good sailor, but he considers his Harvard MBA to be more valuable, and he's very open about his desire to leave the boat and get a management position with Petromarine -- the company which owns the American Enterprise. Ethel is very attractive -- she "had the blond good looks of the high-school cheerleader she had once been. Her nose was tiny, her breasts were large, and the stylish wire-framed glasses that she was never without made her enormous brown eyes bigger yet." But her relationship with her husband is strained, mostly because of his career drive.
Ethel has been on the ship for two years, travelling along with Owen. She's the only woman on the boat -- since the American Enterprise almost never docks in a port, no one really wants to stay on it voluntarily. And since Owen is really only concerned with his career, he doesn't even take shore leave or vacations. But having Ethel on the boat is a source of tension for the crew. "Being the only woman on a big ship that sailed for months without shore leave made Ethel the sole subject of intense sexual focus, and she was not unaware of it... Only her husband seemed unaware of her sexual presence."
Ethel convinces Owen to get a little kinky, and gets him to have sex on the bridge of the deck. But oops! -- they're caught in the act when the terrorists and crew return.
The Captain of the boat quickly learns to appreciate Quinn. "Captain Cody had taken a grudging liking to Dominic Quinn... Above all, Cody admired people who made things happen swiftly." He seems to understand that he doesn't have too much control over the situation, so he focuses on getting the ship moving. "They roused the general-purpose seamen that they needed and ordered them to their posts." -- This book has enough characters, but this is literally the only mention of non-officers on the crew.
There's a fairly mushy paragraph about the boat departing:
To a man who has made a life of sailing, the departure is the climax, the voyage itself is anticlimactic. Every man on the bridge felt the same deep tremor as the water widened between ship and shore. The vessel so dwarfed even the tallest structure in town that it almost seemed as though they were slipping away on a safer solidity than the shore itself. Cody was commanding immeasurably more wealth, power and structure than had Nebuchadnezzar in Babylonia. Standing behind the captain, Dominic Quinn felt that his Kalashnikov assault rife was as powerless as a broomstraw against the juggernaut under him.
I don't even know what to say about this. That is some extremely overwrought prose -- Stahl does enjoy flexing his writing skills.
With the boat underway into the North Sea, very little happens for a big chunk of the book. The middle of this book is really muddled, with extra characters and plot points that are largely unneeded. The Dropper spends awhile wiring the structure of the boat to explode, and the crew doesn't really seem to mind. The big storm they are sailing through gets bigger and bigger. The American Enterprise doesn't have any trouble with it -- if anything, it's helping them to hide. But somehow, a plane from "IMAPO" -- the Intergovernmental Maritime Anti-Pollution Organization -- spots the tanker, and figures out that it is off course. The IRA folks are all shocked to see it flying. IMAPO hunts down polluters, but mostly exists in this book to mock bureaucracy, and to serve as confirmation that Mavis A is the probable target of the attack.
We learn a bit more about Quinn, who is in love with Roland O'Driscoll, one of the IRA terrorists, but nothing ever happens. "Quinn didn't try it much anymore. He had never succeeded in twenty years, and by now he knew he never would." O'Driscoll is terrified of drowning -- he watched his brothers and fathers drown in a storm when their fishing boat sank -- so maybe it was a mistake to bring him on a mission where you plan on crashing a ship in the North Sea, but Quinn hasn't told anyone other than Dropper his whole plan yet.
Eventually, the officers of the ship realize that Quinn is lying to them about his plan. The hijackers haven't made any demands yet. They haven't announced that they hijacked the ship, or even stated any intentions. Browne and Cody predict that they are probably planning to scuttle the tanker in the North Sea, which would be bad enough -- and they haven't even figured out about the oil rig part yet. They decide to try and detonate the bow storage tank of the tanker -- it doesn't have any oil in it, but the gasses left behind are highly explosive, and we learned earlier in the book that this was a constant concern. If they can cause an explosion, the ship will take on water, and hopefully start dragging on a shallow point in their course, which should disrupt the terrorist plans.
Browne volunteers to ignite the tank, all while griping about his marriage -- it's pretty dangerous, whoever does this will probably die in the explosion. "Oh I'll do it. It's a chance to move up faster -- one way or the other." But they decide to wait for a little while before trying something that desperate.
While they wait, it's time for a very awkward dinner with the officers and the terrorists. There's a nasty argument where Ethel, angry with her husband, comes to defense of the Dropper. Suddenly, he is smitten with her, as we learn in this strange passage.
The Dropper's heart opened to Ethel. For the first time he looked at her directly. In all, he was a good-looking man... In another place, he would have taken the time to fall in love with her. She had the look of his sisters as children, lifted laughing and dripping from the kitchen washtub by his mother.
This is just a weird bit of writing. The Dropper is attracted to Ethel, but what do his looks, or his naked siblings, have to do any of with that?
While the Dropper decides to seduce her, Owen freaks out after the argument and tells Ethel to remain locked in her cabin. "She had changed sides." In their cabin, Ethel takes triple a normal dose of sleeping pills, but then accepts a visit from the Dropper. He basically proposes marriage, and reveals the full plan to destroy the boat. They start to have sex, and then Ethel pukes all over him and passes out. We are left to ponder what happened next. Basically this book is full of unsexy sex.
Meanwhile on Mavis A, they've figured out that they are a potential target of the American Enterprise. They discuss the possibilities and whether it is even feasible to shut down the rig and make it safe for a collision. But the rig isn't built to deal with this sort of disaster -- there's no valves or blowout preventers on the sea floor to shut down the wells. Cullenbine does the math and figures that if they shut down the rig, it will take up all the time they have until the American Enterprise might get there (naturally), and that it would probably cost 10 million pounds to repair the damage. That's a little too much for management to handle. Even though Cullenbine warns that "If that oil starts pouring into the ocean, half the people on this planet might have to start looking for someplace else to live. Like Mars." they decide to wait until they have decent confirmation that they are the target before shutting down the rig.
Meanwhile, we get a lot of details about the problem of prostitutes being smuggled onto Mavis A -- and they're not for the faint of heart.
Cullenbine has banned liquor and women on the rig. He makes a big show of dumping booze over the side whenever he finds it, but it definitely still exists on the ship. And women are also a problem
Then there were the women. Usually they were the toughest, nastiest whores that the slums of Glasgow could breed. They had to be in order to endure the round-the-clock demands of six hundred hard and lonely men. There had been one girl who had been forced to give herself up for medical attention... the cause of her injuries had not been brutality, but simple wear. As overuse made her performance more and more painful and reluctant, the desperate men had wildly bid up the price of the act. One tool-pusher had given her two hundred pounds for a single act, and here greed had been so great that the had ignored her pain until she had finally fainted and slipped into shock.
I almost stopped reading the book at this point. This is really unpleasant. If you're still reading this review, go chug a beer or at least go stand outside for a minute and catch your breath. Ok, here goes, let's finish this.
Cullenbine has trouble finding women on the ship. They are hidden behind false walls, in makeshift expansions, etc. The two prostitutes currently on the platform, Sadie and Gail, are housed in a tiny chamber buried below the sea floor in one of the legs of the rig. They're 19 years old, and have spent five months in this 8x10' cramped chamber 'serving' sixty men a day. The ventilation is terrible, it's hot, humid, mildew is growing everywhere, and there's barely any light. There's just enough room for two beds. The room hasn't been cleaned in three weeks, the chemical toilet is almost full, and there's not enough water to bathe.
Some other details gleaned from the book:
- There's a twenty-minute limit.
- They have each made over 80,000 pounds.
- They each have a boyfriend in the crew.
- "No group activities, even though the girls had thoughtfully established a rate for it."
For all the details in this section, and I left many out of the review, the prostitutes exist in the novel largely to give Cullenbine something heroic to do after he has a melee involving 40-pound wrenches. That's right, a fight between two men wielding wrenches that weigh forty pounds. Cullenbine decides that he needs to shock some discipline into the crew.
The inactivity forced by the storm made all the jobs facing Cullenbine more difficult. The men would be drunk, lethargic and reluctant to return to their cold, bone-tiring work... It was desperately important that he pound a new sense of discipline into his men. Were there any shortcuts? He had lashed out at them so many times that he had lost some of his ability to shock. But he'd find a way; he always did.
So, he puts on his hard hat, safety glove, boots and a sweater, so that he is "formidably armored for violence." Then he sounds a general alarm to get the crew to congregate in one place, and he picks a fight with one of the Scottish terrorists aboard.
"Forty-pounders," McArdle said. There were gasps and some low whistles. A challenge to fight with the huge forty-pound wrenches was usually a challenge to the death. A refusal to accept meant a trip off on the next helicopter for anyone, including Cullenbine. Forty-pounder fights did not last long; the first man able to bring the jaws-end into solid contact had his win. A blow to a limb caused the kind of bone damage that required wiring, steel pins and surgical shortening. A smash to the torso destroyed organs; kidneys and spleens had to be removed in rags; livers could never be fully repaired; intestines burst and lungs collapsed. Blows to the head were near-decapitations and instant death. Such losers were dragged to machinery-packed areas where making the physical damage appear accidental could be stage-managed.
Quick facts about these Scottish terrorists -- there are five of them aboard, and they have a bomb rigged in the radio system of the Mavis A to detonate it at an opportune time, so that they cannot call for help after the crash. They're monitoring all radio communications so they can act as quickly as possible. They are also well-armed. Cullenbine has identified the five of them as troublemakers, although he doesn't realize the extent of it. He has considered firing them, "but they were in thick with the union stewards, and he didn't need any more labor problems." Quick tip -- a good way to avoid labor issues is to NOT USE VIOLENCE AGAINST YOUR STAFF CONSTANTLY.
Even though Cullenbine is such a good fighter, he loses the fight. At one point, McArdle traps his head in the jaws of his wrench and twists until he Cullenbine falls to the floor. But while all this is happening, Magnus decides to send out a radio message that they might be under attack, so the Scots blow up the radio tower, and things devolve from here. During the distraction, McArdle forgets Cullenbine for more important tasks, so he survives, and recovers remarkably quickly.
The Scots destroyed the radio but not the radar, so they try to get that next. There's a brief siege which ends when there's a huge gasoline explosion, killing the Scots. And now it's obvious that Mavis A is in trouble, so Cullenbine locks the crew in legs of rig to force them to cap the wells. During the chaos, a heavy pipe falls over the hatch to the chamber that the two prostitutes are hiding in. They're trapped! Luckily, their boyfriends convince Cullenbine to use his brains to rig some cables to clear the pipe, and they escape from the leg just in time. After this, they disappear from the book, never to be mentioned again.
Browne tries to get to the front of American Enterprise to cause an explosion, but instead he's washed overboard in a fight with a couple terrorists. Meanwhile, Ethel is raped by the Dropper and two of his friends, and when she finds out about her husband, she decides to finish what he started. She fights her way through stormy seas to the front of the boat, breaking bones in the process. She drops a grenade into open tank, cries out "Owen", and dies in a big explosion.
The plan works somewhat -- the explosion knocks a big hole in the ship, and it drags on the seafloor a bit, and slows down, but it's still headed toward Mavis A.
The dramatic conclusion of the book is certainly one of the oddest things I've ever read, and it includes:
- A low speed collision between oil tanker and rig
- The slow realization that if the terrorists back up the tanker and separate it from the rig, it will totally wreck Mavis A
- A drawn out firefight between terrorists with AK-47s and rig workers, led by Cullenbine, and the Germans, armed only with skeet-shooting shotguns.
The ship crashes into the rig! If they can back it up, the rig will be loose and probably it will be bad! But before this happens, Cullenbine hooks onto the ship with a big crane so that it can't move. Cullenbine and his team on Mavis A randomly discovers some skeet shooting shotguns. A skeet-shooter vs. AK-47 firefight might seem like a mismatch to you, and you would be right. The prostitutes' boyfriends get shot right away, and it's not looking good for Cullenbine's team.
But they are pretty smart, and manage to pick off a bunch of terrorists. Lustgarten retrieves an AK-47 and uses it to execute two of the terrorists -- which does not endear him to anyone at all. Unfortunately for him, he's shot dead right after this. Do Nazis believe in karma? Funny line about one of the terrorists here: "His features were twisted with hatred, and he had terrible hairless brows."
In the last moments of the fight, Cullenbine is trapped in the shack that holds the skeet-shooting supplies, and he kills the Dropper with the trap-thrower itself -- death by clay pigeon to the face.
Meanwhile, Quinn has assigned the task of exploding the American Enterprise to Roland O'Driscoll, the man he loves, who is afraid of drowning -- but Roland shoots Quinn and himself rather than face death in the icy seas. And, mercifully, that's the end of the threat. It seems like Stahl forgot a couple of the terrorists at the end of the story, but there's not a lot of point in quibbling over plot points now. WE HAVE SURVIVED TO THE VERY LAST CHAPTER OF THE BOOK!
Anyway, the damage to Mavis A was minimal. In the closing chapter, repairs are already underway, the American Enterprise has been towed off for repairs, and in many ways it sounds like things are returning to normal. In an interview, Cullenbine expresses respect of the terrorists, saying that he admires their plan. Meanwhile the next attack is already being planned by another IRA leader hovering overhead in a helicopter.
It is safe to say this this book has very little lasting value, and it definitely wasn't worth reviewing. At the same time, it's sort of terrifying that this book hasn't been discussed more on the Internet. I picked up my copy of the book not long after the Deepwater Horizion disaster, and the idea of a terrorist trying to damage or destroy an offshore oil platform is both plausible and scary. And it doesn't need to be half as complicated as the plot of this book. I found myself wondering if the government ever asked Stahl his opinion of this scenario. After all, they've employed help from writers with almost no credibility at all.
Stahl continued to write and found success working for Lou Reda Productions, a company which produces a huge amount of content for A&E and The History Channel. Some of his work has been nominated for Emmy awards. Judging from this New York Times profile of him from 1998, he has had a lot of success and clearly enjoys what he does. Because as weak as this novel is, there are moments where the writing rises out of the muck a bit, if even for just a sentence or two.
Stahl dedicated The Assault on Mavis A to "People Who Stick," and I'd like to do the same thing for this book review. Anyone who persevered to the end of this review is truly dedicated the concept of Books Not Worth Reviewing. Thanks!