I have re-read two books by Stephen Coonts, Flight of the Intruder and The Intruders. They tell the story of Jake Grafton, a US Navy pilot flying the Grumman A-6 Intruder, during his second Vietnam war cruise in 1972 and a peacetime cruise in in 1972. Coonts was an Intruder pilot himself, and it shows in his books. The stories and technical details are excellent, but he manages to avoid the techno-babble that would be incomprehensible to many readers.
Flight of the Intruder, published in 1986, was the first novel by Coonts. It describes the air war against North Vietnam through the eyes of an A-6 pilot. Constantly facing danger for worthless targets and losing his bombardier to a lucky shot, Jake Grafton decides to bomb an unauthorized target. He gets away with it, but his plane is eventually shot up above Hanoi and he ejects above Laos.
The book manages to tell several smaller sub-stories while simultaneously building suspension and driving forwards the main plot. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and recommend it to anyone with an interest in Vietnam-era aviation. It was also made into a film, but I prefer the book.
Four more Jake Grafton novels followed, all of them set later and in a more Clancy-esque style. The real sequel to Flight of the Intruder was then published in 1994: The Intruders. Six months after being shot down, Jake returns to sea and flying the A-6 in a Marine squadron. The Intruders is mostly a collection of various flying episodes Coonts witnessed himself or heard about. There is less of a general plot – Jake’s unability to decide how to go on, his relationship to Callie, and survival. Still, the story grips you and you can’t put the book down. The only thing I could criticize is the James Bond-like ending.
So if you’re into aviation and military novels, read these two books! If you like Tom Clancy’s story style, you should also take a look at the other Jake Grafton novels.