Ten Reasons Why “USS Alcatraz” Was Written
A thriller with a submarine on the cover suggests many things – from Tom Clancy to Das Boot and countless other underwater military yarns. Phil Robinson’s USS Alcatraz is a different beast entirely, a churning and rousing dive into what he calls “mayhem and skullduggery.” We asked Phil why he created such a wild story and what animates him as a storyteller. Here are his 10 reasons.
- I wanted to write a book that was outrageous and fun, with huge characters that you could hiss and boo.
- The USS Alcatraz exists in the same sort of alternate reality as other big adventure stories, like Raiders of the Lost Arc or Batman. The idea behind it—that a wealthy malcontent can drop his enemies to the bottom of the ocean—is a fun one. The story is supposed to be plausible, rather than likely.
- I started writing because I was bored with thrillers that read like non-fiction memoirs. I didn’t want to read about soldiers unpacking and packing rucksacks and discussing their load-out and mission planning. I am much more interested in mayhem and skullduggery.
- Like most men my age I probably have MacGyver issues. I am more interested in a character improvising with what’s around him, than pulling out the greatest piece of gear ever.
- The “what if” at the heart of the story really grabbed me. What if you could make a submarine into a prison?
- As soon as I started researching the book I realized that building a prison sub from scratch would take too much time and cost way too much. Stealing one and refitting it would be much smarter. I searched around for submarines that had been lost at sea and found this old cargo submarine project in Archangelsk that suffered problems with brittle titanium hulls. Perfect, I thought, I can have Carson steal one!
- I quickly realized that it never really mattered to Carson if his new prison submarine was really sea-worthy; he was only going to sink it again anyway.
- Anyone looking for a book about submarine warfare is in for a shock. The USS Alcatraz is more sunken death-trap than underwater war machine.
- I grew up reading graphic novels and thrillers side by side. I think the two genres have bled together here. I owe as great a debt to Frank Miller and Alan Moore as I do Tom Clancy or Alistair Macclean.
- Too many books are written with the film in mind. I wanted to write a story without limits that jumped around the world. That’s one of the great things about the novel format; you can leap between characters at will and go where your imagination takes you.