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When a team of Russian sleeper agents leftover from the Cold War mistakenly takes over an Alaskan radar station during a realistic strategic drill, Russia attempts to cover up its agents' mistake by landing Spetznaz troops on the island. U.S. Marines also land and the battle is joined at the top of the world. Engineer Frank Trask and a small group of the island's survivors, one of whom is a traitor, battle the Russian agents and the brutal arctic weather to survive.

Author's Note:

COBRA DANE centers around an actual sophisticated radar located on the island of Shemya at the tip of the Aleutians. See the photo at the bottom of the page. The COBRA DANE radar tracks space objects,which could be satellites, spent boosters, or nuclear armed Russian ICBMs headed for the United States. The radar also tracks missile test shots that the Russians have fired toward the Kamchatka Peninsula over the years.

The premise of COBRA DANE is tantalizing. Suppose the Russians had teams of sleeper agents at our radar early warning sites to take over the site, then send messages back to NORAD that a Russian ICBM attack was not coming when actually an attack was on the way. The confusion on the part of NORAD whether an ICBM attack was real would make the President hesitate to order a retaliatory strike. In that event, the U.S. would have to absorb the first strike possibly losing the ability to retaliate at all.

When the Cold War came to an end, the possibility of a Russian attack became remote. Then suppose a realistic drill, where the people manning the COBRA DANE radar did not know it was a drill, triggered a takeover of the radar site by Russian sleeper agents leftover from the Cold War.

Since the novel was published civilian personnel have taken over the radar. The author has sent some copies of COBRA DANE up to the island's personnel and has autographed a cover for inclusion in a display of the radar's memorabilia.


76,000 paperback books in print; currently out of print


Villanova Magazine

John Campbell '69 E. E. is a self-taught writer. He never took a course in fiction writing, nor did writing assignments stimulate him much. "I always was interested in writing, but subjects like 'What I did during my summer vacation' turned me off in school", he says. At Villanova, Campbell majored in electrical engineering. During daily business hours, he's a satellite ground technical engineer at Martin Marietta Corp. in King of Prussia, Pa. In his leisure time, the Broomall resident orbits another kind of project: writing techno-thrillers.

In his latest novel, Cobra Dane, the stakes and his imagination run high. World War III and the future of Western civilization hang in the balance when renegade Russian moles known as SVR agents seize a military base in Alaska. They disable America's most sophisticated nuclear early warning system (the Cobra Dane radar that Campbell depicts is genuine). The agents slaughter all all but four of the facility's personnel. The survivors, three men and a woman, not entirely unscathed, are trapped and vulnerable on a remote island. They are the nation's last defense, pitted against the wrath of the key Russian agent and the icy punishment of nature.

Between the covers of Cobra Dane, Campbell sets loose much more: the CIA, U.S. counterintelligence agents, renegade Russian moles, SVR agents (from the elite Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, formerly known as the KGB), NORAD, the military-and Frank Trask. The novel's main character, Trask is a civil service engineer who helps maintain the radar.

"Why not an engineer?" says Campbell, "doctors and lawyers are heroes in novels." Why not indeed? The novel's terrain, after all, as the author intended, is ripe territory for engineers. And as a professional who appreciates sophisticated technology and literally all of its attendant applications, Campbell proves appreciably well that engineering expertise can work as a writer's tool.

Between page 1 and the back cover, this action-packed spellbinder is a read well-worth the suspension of disbelief.

Compared with fiction of other genres, techno-thrillers probably depend more upon a reader's ability to plunge headlong into imaginary worlds. The good, the bad and the ugly-minded are, of course, the meat of this genre. But his book is also a deftly crafted techno,mystery/puzzle, if you will a not-so classic game of who's who.

The search for the illusive Russian agent is a riddle alive throughout and perhaps even beyond the last page. "His code name was Vulcher, Campbell writes, introducing the agent in the prologue. Is Vulcher really who he says he is? Is Vulcher who the reader believes he is? Or do the facts leading to Vulcher's identity create a unity of impression that is deliberately misleading?

Is there more to Cobra Dane than meets the eye in the last chapter? It is possible that the luck of the survivors is not their final destiny. Those few ends left untied raise a couple of questions. Maybe the end of the action is only a pause; maybe the author has in mind a sequel? Only John Campbell knows for sure.

His first book, Raid on Truman, another techno-thriller, published in hardback in 1991 and in paperback in 1992, is about the takeover of a fictional nuclear aircraft carrier called the USS Truman. According to Campbell, President Bill Clinton recently choose the USS Truman as the name for a newly commissioned nuclear aircraft carrier. In addition to publishing the two novels, the alumnus has recently signed a contract for a third book and has caught the eye of a publisher for idea No. 4.

And perhaps there's another sequel underway in the Campbell family, at least in the field of engineering: Campbell's daughter, Christine, is a senior electrical engineering major at Villanova.

Reviewed by Irene Burgo

This is a picture of the real COBRA DANE radar.
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