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Research That Puts You on the Edge of Your Seat

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When I first started writing my first novel about Jonathan Preston in 2012, I was astonished that I could sit down at my computer and watch as I typed what came through my brain onto the screen. It was like someone stood over me and poured the information into my brain, and all I had to do was type. Fortunately for me, a lot of preparation and research went into the process before I ever started typing. Yes, writing a novel, short story, or a children’s book takes research and preparation—and sometimes lots of it.

I wrote my first novel in six months. After I finished Operation King Cobra, I kept on typing and finished Call for Blood in another six months. I nearly quit writing after I published Operation King Cobra because of the horrible experience I went through with my publisher. Thank God, they went out of business because they were scoundrels—promising the world, but delivering nothing except a printed book. After that experience, I began self-publishing so I could control the process.

My fourth novel, Imminent Threat, continues the WWII espionage, sabotage, and intrigue in the first three novels, except this one, is total fiction. I took a mission that the Imperial Japanese Navy planned but didn’t execute and said, “What if they did go through with their mission to strike the US with a biological weapon?” However, writing this novel was much more difficult and required extensive research.

So, here’s my elevator pitch: Imminent Threat by Steve Doherty is a thriller in the tradition of Tom Clancy’s Hunt for Red October and Clive Cussler’s Black Wind, about one of the US Army’s most successful covert operatives—Jonathan Preston. Weeks before Japan surrenders, a Japanese intelligence czar secretly sends out two aircraft carrier submarines to strike the US mainland with a deadly biological agent. Preston and his US Army counterintelligence team race against time to stop a Japanese agent, Asami Nakada, from taking possession of the biological weapon and striking Washington D.C. This Jonathan Preston thriller will, once again, have you on the edge of your seat.

Imminent Threat Excerpt

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As Commander Iura walked around the I-405 and first gazed upon the submarine, his first thoughts were: She’s a monster. As large as a small cruiser. With his erect, five-foot athletic frame, a stoic face displaying a prominent nose, gibbous black eyes, and a thin, clipped mustache, he marched around the boat like a Bantam rooster lording over its yard of hens. He was in love with the black leviathan.

As Iura continued his walk, he observed the sub’s sail was at least three stories tall. Her overall length was 400 feet, with a 23-foot beam, and she displaced 6,560 tons submerged. I-405 had a maximum surface speed of 18-knots and could travel 37,500 nautical miles without refueling. She could carry 1,750-tons of diesel, more than enough fuel to reach the United States moving east across the Pacific or west through the Indian Ocean into Atlantic, and return home. And she carried enough provisions for 120-days at sea for her complement of 156 sailors, aviators, and aircraft maintenance crews. No American submarine was comparable, he thought.

Her armament was just as impressive. She had eight forward torpedo tubes and carried twenty Type 95 torpedoes; each with a 1,210-pound warhead that could travel 13,000 yards, which was three times the range of the American Mark 14 torpedo. The most unusual aspect of the I-405, however, were the three Aichi M6A1, Seiran, special-attack planes, secured in a watertight hanger. Each Seiran could carry a 1,760-pound bomb; the largest aerial bomb in the Japanese arsenal.

Iura thought, I-405 could do very little damage to a large US city, but it could easily take out the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

The most out-of-place looking part of the I-400 class submarine was the round, 102-foot long aircraft hangar that extended over the deck of the boat. At twelve feet in diameter, the hanger was capped with a cone-shaped outer door secured by a two-inch rubber gasket to make the seal watertight. The attack aircraft moved from the interior of the hanger on catapult rails that ran the length of the hanger. After the Seiran bomber rolled out of the hanger, its wings rotated ninety degrees hydraulically and locked into flight position. Crews could then attach the two pontoons and have the aircraft readied for takeoff in under fifteen minutes.

Extending forward from the hangar was an eighty-five-foot long pneumatic catapult. The compressed air catapult could launch the four-ton, two-seat, low-winged monoplane, powered by a 1,410-horsepower Daimler-Benz DB 601 liquid-cooled V12 engine, down the length of its foredeck. As the catapult approached the bow, it rose on a five-degree incline to give the aircraft additional lift. Each Seiran carried a crew of two: a pilot that acted as the bombardier, and a navigator that served as the radio operator and gunner.

On top of the aircraft hangar was three Type 96 triple-mount 25-millimeter (mm) or one-inch anti-aircraft cannons, two positioned aft and one forward of the conning tower, and a single 25-mm anti-aircraft cannon positioned aft of the bridge. The cannons could fire 220 rounds per minute; each shell weighed over five pounds. A single Type 11, 140-mm or five-inch deck gun was located aft of the hangar. The gun’s 84-pound projectile could reach a target over nine miles away.

At the top of the sail lay the bridge or a small open platform, used for observation during surface operations. Towering behind the bridge where the submarine’s radio antennas, two periscopes, and two radar antennas.  One of the radar antennas was the Mark 3 air search radar, capable of detecting aircraft out to a range of forty-three miles, the second, held two horn-shaped antennas for the Mark 2 search radar, used to locate surface ships. It included a non-directional antenna for passive radar detection and an omnidirectional antenna which served as a direction finder for target-detection. The two 40-foot periscopes where of German origin; one was for daytime use and the other for nighttime observation.

To counter the drawback of being the largest submarine every built and having a considerable radar signature, the sub had two anechoic coating on its hull. The layer above the waterline absorbed radar waves, and the layer below the waterline was for protection from eco ranging sonar. The anechoic coating also helped to dampen and reduce any sounds emanating from inside the submarine while submerged. The subs four diesel engines were rated at 2,250 horse-power and drove two propellers to a top speed of 18-knots on the surface, and up to seven-knots submerged.

It didn’t take Commander Iura long to conclude that the I-405 would be challenging to maneuver, just due to her size. Another problem he noticed was the submarines sail, the tower-like structure that housed the bridge. The sail was offset to port by seven feet to make room for the hanger. He knew that this would cause the submarine to be permanently out of balance, and the helmsman would have to steer up to seven-degrees to starboard to navigate a straight course which was equivalent to flying an aircraft in a cross-wind. The offset sail also meant that the submarine would require a larger turning radius when turning to starboard.

In the end, Commander Iura concluded that despite the submarine looking like an awkward, lumbering giant, she was, in fact, a fast, well-armed, and best of all a quiet warship. He also concluded that his secret mission in the I-405 was to be one-way; he knew that Captain Furutani and the Japanese intelligence czar, General Tsukuda, expected him to be a Kamikaze or Divine Wind, and sacrifice his boat and crew after the mission. Even if the submarine did make it through the American network of naval defenses and complete its purpose, it was not supposed to make it back to Japan. It would be as if the I-405 and its submariners never existed.

I-400 class Submarine

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Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s attack on Pearl Harbor had gone better than anticipated. Although he didn’t destroy any American aircraft carriers, he had succeeded in knocking the United States out of the fight for the Pacific for at least six months. Japan didn’t need to defeat the US outright; she just had to hold off the Americans long enough to secure a footing in Asia.

No one knows for certain when Admiral Yamamoto, commander in chief of Japan’s Combined Fleet, came up with the idea of an offensive squadron of aircraft carrier submarines, but he was toying with the idea at a gathering of his senior officers on Christmas Eve 1941. The admiral needed a way to take the war directly to the US mainland because the psychological effect would be devastating. The way to do it was to build a submarine with the range to reach America’s east coast and return to Japan without refueling. A journey of nearly 38,000 nautical miles.

Although Japanese submarines had been carrying aircraft for nearly two decades, all were seaplanes suited only for reconnaissance. Yamamoto envisioned a submarine capable of carrying three dive bombers. His ultimate plan called for 18 special submarines that could launch a total of 36 attack aircraft—officially referred to as the I-400 class.

Interview with a WWII Covert Operative

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STEVE: Jonathan, how and when did you become a US Army covert operative?

JONATHAN: I started in December of 1939. I purchased a soda shop that went out of business from a local bank. It was on North High Street, across the street from the Ohio State University campus. A professor from the university came in and wanted to rent my back room for several evenings in December. I assumed it was for a Christmas party. It was for a party alright, but it wasn’t a Christmas party.

STEVE: What kind of party was it?

JONATHAN: It was for a Communist Party meeting.

STEVE: Seriously?

JONATHAN: As a heart attack. I didn’t find this out until the first meeting. I was bringing food into the room and overheard some of the propaganda this professor was spouting. This guy was talking against our constitution and our republic.

STEVE: Did you throw them out?

JONATHAN: No, I had just opened, and I needed the money.

STEVE: What did you do?

JONATHAN: I called the Secret Service and told them what was going on.

STEVE: Did they come out and talk to you?

JONATHAN: Not for several weeks. Hell, I thought they forgot about me, or worse thought I was a wacko. When they did come, they asked me about what I heard.

STEVE: So, two Secret Service agents came to talk to you?

JONATHAN: No, not Secret Service. One was from the FBI, and one was from Army CID.

STEVE: What is Army CIP?

JONATHAN: Central Intelligence Division.

STEVE: What happened next?

JONATHAN: Well, after they asked about what I had heard in the meeting, they asked if they could install a recording device in my shop and record the sessions. I told them, yes.

STEVE: Did they come back after every meeting and collect the recordings?

JONATHAN: Oh no. They taught me how to change the tapes. They didn’t come back for three weeks. When they did, they took the ones that were recorded on and gave me new tapes.

STEVE: How long did this go on?

JONATHAN: Until the end of February 1940. One day they came in collected the recordings and took all the equipment away.

STEVE: It couldn’t have ended there. What happened next?

JONATHAN: I didn’t see anyone for two months. Then one day an Army CID guy shows up and asks me if I would like to serve my country. I said sure. Three weeks later I met the guy at the Fort Hayes Army Post on Cleveland Avenue. He told me that Army CID wanted to train me in clandestine operations. Hell, he had copies of my high school transcripts; I had straight A’s all through school. He said that President Roosevelt knew that war with Germany was imminent and the US would need highly trained operatives when we went to war.

STEVE: How often did you train?

JONATHAN: I trained every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening. I was trained in hand to hand combat and some martial arts fighting that some Englishman taught. I received training in damn near every type of weapon the army used. I became so proficient with a handgun that I could draw and shoot out a flame from twenty feet.

STEVE: How long did this go on?

JONATHAN: After eighteen months, I was so good at everything they made me an instructor, and I began training other guys that the army brought in.

STEVE: Did they pay you?

JONATHAN: Oh, hell no. That was part of my initial agreement, no pay. They said there couldn’t be a paper trail on me or any of the trainees what-so-ever. They must have been keeping all of this from Congress.

STEVE: How long did you do this?

JONATHAN: Until August of 1942, when I was drafted finally and sent to counterintelligence school.

Steve: When were you finally deployed?

JONATHAN: I deployed, along with 44 other highly trained operatives in January 1944. I went to the China, Burma and India Theater of Operations. I don’t know where any of the other went, but after the war was over, I was told of the 44, only two of us survived.

STEVE: That’s an incredible story.

Gold Dominion – Chapter 47

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Jon didn’t have to figure out a plan to bring the Tsukuda group out. They were attacked less than a mile from their destination by two teams of assailants in black automobiles. Jon noticed the first vehicle with a gunman leaning out the passenger window holding a Type 100 submachine gun. Before it turned in front of their Ohta, Jon grabbed the Thompson submachine gun that Yumiko gave him after he got in the vehicle, and thrust it out his window.

Yumiko swerved to the right, which hindered the gunman’s field of fire from the left-side passenger seat, and put Jon in a perfect firing position. Jon fired four bursts into the rear of the vehicle before the assailant could get off his first shot, rupturing the gas tank. The rear of the vehicle erupted in flames, exploded, and careened into the side of a partially collapsed brick building. As they passed the vehicle, Jon noticed that the driver and passenger were engulfed in flames.

The second vehicle turned directly behind Jon’s car and began firing on George, Kathleen and Takara. Jon told Camille to duck and fired through the back window of their sedan. The first burst killed the driver of the vehicle. Jon watched as the vehicle veered to the left and crashed into a one-story building. While George ducked to escape the machine gunfire, Kathleen grabbed Takara Thompson and was leaning out of the rear window of her sedan. Takara slowed their car as they passed the disabled vehicle, and Kathleen unloaded a full clip from her Thompson into it. Kathleen glanced back as the second vehicle caught fire and exploded.

By the time they reached their destination, the Marines were on high alert. The automatic weapon fire and explosions had awakened the two sleeping platoons, and now all 45 Marines were in defensive firing positions when the caravan pulled into the drive.

When George’s vehicle stopped, he let out a sigh. “That was close. Are you okay, Katie?”

“Yes, but I think Takara’s been hit,” Kathleen replied.

As Takara turned the ignition off she slumped over the wheel. She had barely made it to the drive before passing out. George reached for her and noticed blood from a shoulder wound had splattered the driver side window and half of her right ear was missing.

“Go get a corpsman, I’ll get her out of the car,” George said.

When their car stopped, Jon flew out of the vehicle and ran back to George’s car. He had seen Takara slump when her car stopped. He helped George get her into the house and onto a tatami mat, placed a large pillow under her legs, and since she was still unconscious, turned her head to the side so she wouldn’t swallow her tongue and suffocate.

They watched closely as the Navy corpsman cut the blouse from Takara, and used it to clean most of the blood away from the wound. He removed several iodine swabs from his medical kit and cleaned off the remaining blood. Once the blood flow was stopped, he sprinkled two packets of antibacterial sulfonamide on the wound and applied a sterile Carlisle dressing. After securing the dressing with adhesive tape, the corpsman injected Takara with a morphine ampoule syringe in the muscle of her bicep. He also gave her a shot of penicillin to fight off any infection.

After watching the corpsman stabilize Takara, Jon and George walked outside to talk to the Marine captain in charge.

“Captain, I want all your men guarding the house, and another three platoons here in two hours; so get on your walkie-talkie and make it happen. You can use Brigadier General James Sage as the authorizing officer, if you need to,” Jon ordered.

“No need to, sir. I called for reinforcement as soon as I heard the automatic fire. We were told to expect trouble, and that you would have the authority yourself. I assume you’re Colonel Preston?” the captain asked.


“I’ve also asked for a doctor and ambulance. They should be here in twenty minutes.”

Jon nodded to the Marine captain. This guy is on the ball, Jon thought. Must have gotten a lot of combat time. He’s used to making decisions.

“How many campaigns, Captain?” George asked.

“Guadalcanal, Saipan, and Okinawa, sir. I understand you all have seen your share of Japs, too.”

“Fifty-five missions behind Japanese lines.”

“I’ve been fully briefed on you and Colonel Linka, sir. We’ll take good care of you and your team.”

“I’m sure you will, Captain. I’m Jon and this is George. We don’t use rank in our business, just first names.”

“If you like, you can call me Steve.”

The ambulance arrived within twenty minutes with a Navy physician who reviewed the triage that the corpsman had performed on Takara. After praising the corpsman’s efforts, the physician began administering plasma to replace Takara’s lost blood, to keep her from going into hypovolemic shock, which happens when the blood volume drops, and not enough oxygen is delivered to the body’s cells.


The next morning, General Uchito Tsukuda was angry at himself after receiving word that the American intelligence team had been attacked by one of Asami’s team of assassins. I should have given her specific instructions to leave the Americans alone, Tsukuda thought. Now they know we are after them and will be even more prepared.

Tsukuda stood looking out the second-story window of the East Tower of Tsuchiura Castle, four kilometers northwest of the Tsuchiura Naval Air Base. Standing next to him was Masaharu Sato and Asami Nakada. Because of Asami’s failure, and the arrival of the Allied intelligence officers at the air base early that morning, Uchito was exasperated. He turned and looked directly at Asami.

“Our efforts to eliminate the American team in the Philippines was disastrous. A mistake I will not make again,” Tsukuda stated.

“We should not have used Flores,” Asami said. “You should have sent me instead.”

“If you were well enough, I might have considered it; but now they are in Japan. I will personally deal with them next time. Is that understood?”

“Uncle, please let me handle this,” Asami pleaded. “These are the agents responsible for the deaths of Akemi, Akiko, and Akira. Their lives should be mine to take. I can handle them.”

Tsukuda had trouble controlling his anger. When he composed himself, he admonished her, “Like you handled the attack last night? That was reckless and foolish. The Americans will be twice as prepared to meet our next attack. If you cannot control your emotions and leave you sisters’ deaths out of this, I will replace you. Is that what you want?”

“No, uncle.”

The former commander of the JIA Intelligence Directorate was too fond of his niece to tell her she was incapable of taking on the Americans. “You are too valuable, Asami. This American agent, Preston, is clever, well trained, and extremely dangerous. We must focus on removing the gold from the hidden chambers and securing our future. Once we have the gold, we will deal with the American agents. Is that clear?” Uchito Tsukuda asked.

“Yes, uncle. Very clear.”

Secret Missions in the CBI Theater

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In January 1944, the US Army Chief of Staff sent Jonathan Preston to the China-Burma-India Theater to work jointly with the British Special Operations Executive. His mission assignments were so highly classified that they were verbally delivered by US Army colonels flying into Calcutta directly from the Pentagon.

Dominion of Gold Excerpt

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Excerpt from my third novel Dominion of Gold.

Chapter 3
Luzon Island, Philippines

The next morning, Jon and George were being strapped into the back seat of two Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bombers. At 0300 hours, four dive bombers, plus the two the agents, took off to strike a convoy of Japanese heavy trucks traveling on the road from San Fabian to San Fernando City; the dive bombers were escorted by four Grumman F6F Hellcat night fighters.
Just before dawn, one of the Hellcat’s radar picked up the truck convoy crossing a bridge two miles south of Cabo. The fighters led the way and strafed the trucks; one truck exploded. The dive bombers then zeroed in and dropped four 500-pound bombs each.

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How I became a writer


If you would have told me back in 1970 that one day I would be a published author, I would have told you, “Those are fighting words.”

Really, I hated writing throughout high school and college. I hated it so much that I took nine extra courses and went the non-thesis route for my master’s degree.

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Excerpt – Call for Blood – Chapter One – Calcutta, India

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Camille Dupont noticed Jon Preston’s gaze move from her to the entrance of the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel. She turned her head and saw a party of six entering the room, three men and three women. Camille tensed when she recognized the face of one of the women as a suspected Japanese agent, as she entered with the Indochinese delegation. The agent was more beautiful in person. Her hair was short and matched her oval face. Either she was a mix of Japanese and French, or her eyes had been altered surgically, because they were not typically Japanese. Camille guessed the later.

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