Clyde Cludwell is one of America's most popular authors. He claims to have over 300 million fans, though this has sometimes been pointed out as a slight exaggeration. (Publishers Weekly notes the actual number at more like 50,000.) Cludwell began in the seventies with the swift success of Sink the Titanic!, The Wacky Afghanistan Affair, Sink the Titanic Again, and Another Goddamn Book About the Titanic. Cludwell is especially proud that Boatman's World described him as "the most oceanographically correct of the James Bond imitators."
With all that in mind, we're sure our readers will appreciate an excerpt from Skank 109!, Cludwell's breakout success which many will remember from the long hot summer of 1982. Then-president Ronald Reagan said, "It is my favorite book, or would be, if I ever read books. My aides tell me he is quite good." In this book the character of Dirk Diver really comes into his own, a man who can deliver pertinent fisticuffs and decipher an oceanographic chart as well as any man, yet is equally adept at handling the weaker sex and all of their nonsense.
Without further ado, here is the riveting first chapter of Skank 109!
The DC-57 bomber looked like a very old coffin. Perhaps it was because of its oblong shape, or perhaps it had to with the metallic coldness of its ancient chrome job. The light of the winter moon gave it an eerie appearance, one which a better writer might have described in more vivid detail.
Second Brigadier Bombardier Admiral Benton Onton-Voss, thirty-two years in the navy, didn't like the plane at all. As he studied of airplane blueprints and weather maps, the intense look on his face could only be compared to General Patton when he took a piss on the Rhine. "I don't like this damn thing at all," he said, with the grim intensity of a man who has stood by as his fellow soldiers got their heads blown off in the heated pitch of battle, who has watched Communists slowly die and Nazis break down under the harsh light of interrogation and beg weepingly for their mothers, and no longer enjoys any of it.
Second lieutenant Oswald Brigaboon cleared his throat. He was obviously frightened of the much older man. He was a clean-shaven young man, and speaking up to tougher and more rugged older men with many more years of experience was not his usual way of doing things. But he took a deep breath and spoke. "Sir?" he asked, "What in God's name are you talking about?"
"I'll show you what I'm talking about. Meteorologically speaking, this goddamn thing is a nightmare. The boys upstairs have assigned a top priority cargo highly classified transport haul to a low priority junker unclassified transport. You might as well throw a fifty thousand gold shipment in an old tin can and toss it at a forty-knot wind."
"All the men say she runs pretty smooth."
"Smooth? Flying this thing is like pouring hot enchilada sauce into a stomach already belching from a hundred scorching ulcers. She's no more fit for flying than an eight-year-old broad with corns on her feet and nineteen kids under her belt. I'd sooner fly a tattered hang glider into a volcano filled with a hundred hungry coyotes."
"I think you're exaggerating, sir."
"Exaggerating? The fuselage is a nightmare of protruding cables, damaged ailerons, entangled hydraulic lines, and broken bolts. The engine has more faulty cowl flaps than a museum full of Japanese tiger sharks and the control panel is harder to read than a book of Virgil's poetry translated into Iberian and then into Indo-Chinese and the altimeter needle is limper than an elderly man's jimmy after a marathon of Phyllis Diller films. In short, this thing is about as aeronautically sound as a child's kite tossed into a, a…"
"A forty-knot wind, sir?"
"Hell, yes, and I'll kindly advise you not to interrupt me again in the middle of a confused thought pattern." The younger man could see that he was serious.
Suddenly a shout rang out. "What the hell is it now?" Onton-Voss wanted to know.
"It's the president. He's on the line, and he wants to know if our plane is ready to fly."
"Tell him that thing will fly when I damn well say it will, and not a minute before."
"Goddamn it," Onton-Voss spoke, with the same face of grim intensity to which we previously alluded, "what are we going to do now. This thing can no more make it through the skies than the mummified corpse of some ancient dusty bird, yet we have no other choice."
"The wind's picking up," Brigaboon noted, in a voice that registered a clear note of helpless uncertainty. "How will we ever do it?"
"Damned if I know, young man. With a God's help and a lot of it. We'll need a lot of it, otherwise are asses are all floating straight up retirement creek." The dim light seemed to fade away into total darkness, and then it suddenly became light again. Suddenly a comment rang out from the cold night.
"Perhaps I can be of help." It was a strange voice that spoke out, not one of the usual rank-and-file navy crew. It was a voice old enough to handle its own on a field of aeronautical experts, yet young enough o light up a room with the warm fire of exuberance.
"Who's that?" the old bombardier said, "Why it sounds like…like, Dirk Diver?" His resounding masculine voice could not disguise the uneasy mixture of intrigued delight and enraged arrogance.
There was no mistaking the man who stood before him. With a height at over six feet tall, Dirk Diver could have been chiseled out of granite. He had a face that never failed to project the frightening air of grim doom, but the bulge in his Bermuda shorts never failed to attract the ladies. His golden hair shone with the glow of unadorned youth, yet it was clear from his face that he had read a thousand aeronautical maps and even more oceanographic ones and never failed to decipher every last one of them.
(This concludes the first chapter of Skank 109!)