Shadow Divers


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About the Author

Robert Kurson earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy from the University of Wisconsin and a law degree from Harvard Law School. His award-winning stories have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Esquire, where he was a contributing editor. He is the New York Times bestselling author of Shadow Divers, the 2005 American Booksellers Association's nonfiction Book Sense Book of the Year; Crashing Through, based on Kurson's 2006 National Magazine Award-winning profile in Esquire of the blind speed skier, CIA analyst, and entrepreneur Mike May; and Pirate Hunters. He lives in Chicago.


In 1991, two scuba divers discovered a previously unknown wreck off the New Jersey coast, 230 feet under water. After much difficulty, they identified it as a World War II U-boat. In this absorbing narrative, journalist Kurson follows the divers and their companions through 11 years of nerve-racking diving, research, and self-discovery. Neither German nor American official records could suggest a possible identity; evidence at the scene suggested that a violent explosion had sunk the boat with all hands, but no report was filed for a submarine within 100 miles. Interspersed with these technical complications are biographies and psychological portraits of the major participants. Richie Kohler and John Chatterton, the two divers, became obsessed with identifying the U-boat, taking risks beyond common sense. Eventually, the wreck claimed three divers' lives and two marriages. Highly recommended for World War II, naval, and sport diving collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/04.]-Edwin B. Burgess, U.S. Army Combined Arms Research Lib., Fort Leavenworth, KS Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Kurson's chronicle of an extraordinary deep-sea discovery makes for a captivating audio experience. In 1991, divers John Chatterton and Rich Kohler came across the buried remains of a German submarine just off the coast of New Jersey. Unable to identify the ship and mystified as to its origins, the two men became obsessed with learning where the U-boat came from and what brought it to the bottom of the sea. Although the story's set-up, which comprises most of the first disc, drags, the pace picks up when the partners begin traveling the world, digging up clues. Reader Scott uses character voices but keeps them subdued, even when dealing with the salty language of the seamen. This is a wise move, since there's plenty of drama inherent in the text; lengthy and detailed passages describing deep-water dives, and the horrible things that can go wrong with them, evoke mental pictures that are atmospheric and downright claustrophobic at times. A segment featuring interviews with Chatterton and Kohler rounds out this satisfying audio edition. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (Forecasts, Mar. 29). (July) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-Written with the assistance of the two wreck divers who played major roles in identifying a sunken German U-boat, Kurson paints a dynamic, page-turning picture of determination and compulsion to solve a mystery. Wreck divers risk their lives to find and examine shipwrecks, sometimes retrieving artifacts, but often coming away with just a glimpse of once-majestic ships. So it was with the attempt to determine if unexpectedly large catches of fish off the New Jersey coast reflected the existence of a shipwreck. Teens will be fascinated with the process of locating and identifying the wreck and even making contact with relatives of the original sailors. The wreck was of a vessel that did not appear in any U.S. records of the antisubmarine war. The search of those records provided not only exciting military history, but also valuable information on the evolution of diving. Kurson vividly shows how small groups of determined individuals can extend their reach and achieve goals that many thought impossible. Black-and-white photographs of the original German sailors contrast with color pictures of the search and retrieval of their U-boat and effectively unite the participants yet again.-Ted Woodcock, George Mason University, Arlington, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"An engrossing saga of the suspenseful, intriguing, and dangerous underwater investigation of a Mystery U-boat."

"Robert Kurson's Shadow Divers, about the divers exploring a sunken shipwreck off the New Jersey coast, is a gripping account of real-life adventurers and a real-life mystery. In addition to being compellingly readable on every page, the book offers a unique window on the deep, almost reckless nature of the human quest to know."
-SCOTT TUROW, author of Reversible Errors

"A tremendously suspenseful story of discovery that comes as close as any book could to providing the reader with approximate sensations of deep sea diving and of life on a submarine at war, and that leaves us with a hell of an impression of the grit, guts, and compassion of a U-boat crew and the two American divers who risked everything to solve the mystery of their last mission."
-JOHN MCCAIN, author of Faith of My Fathers and Why Courage Matters

"Robert Kurson's status as an undiscovered pleasure among Chicago readers is about to change, I suspect, in a hurry. Shadow Divers is so culturally astute and terrifyingly suspenseful that it should reach the sort of audience John Berendt, Susan Orlean, Jon Krakauer and Laura Hillenbrand have recently earned. Kurson's new focus is the larger historical world--a world of U-Boats, forensics and lung-crushing pressure--and his prose is, as always, plain gorgeous."
-JAMES MCMANUS, author of Positively Fifth Street

"A winning tale exceedingly well told, Shadow Divers takes us on a dangerous and seemingly quixotic descent into the murk-and then, in a fog of nitrogen narcosis, brings us back to the surface with a richer, fuller fathoming of a history we only thought we knew."
-HAMPTON SIDES, author of Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II's Greatest Rescue Mission

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