Stephen Coonts is a brilliant storyteller, focusing predominantly on action and spy novels. He has written numerous book series, including the Deep Black series, the Jake Grafton series, the Tommy Carmellini series, and the Saucer series, so knowing how to read Stephen Coonts’ books in order will help this long list feel more manageable.
He has also been involved in the First Thrills series which is predominantly written by Lee Child but also features numerous other action, political, and espionage thriller authors. Additionally, he has penned his fair share of standalone novels, which can be read in any order, and has also written his own anthologies, which primarily focus on military information and stories.
Stephen Coonts is a very talented writer with heaps of fascinating stories to tell, mainly because he’s had an interesting life that has provided him with a range of writing inspiration. That being said, let’s take a look at his life in more detail.
About the Author
Stephen Paul Coonts was born in 1946 and grew up in Buckhannon in West Virginia, on the western side of the Appalachian mountains. Following high school he attended West Virginia University majoring in political science. He graduated in 1968 and almost straight away, joined the military.
In the Navy, he attended Officer Candidate School before enrolling in flight school at Naval Air Station Pensacola, in Florida. This is where he earned his wings as a Naval Aviator in 1969.
Coonts was involved in the Vietnam War and made two combat cruises using the USS Enterprise in the war’s concluding years. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross among numerous other commendations for his services in Vietnam.
After the war, Coonts became a flight instructor, teaching upcoming pilots the ropes in the A-6 Intruder aircraft. Following 2 years of teaching, he was assigned another officer role aboard USS Nimitz before finally retiring from active duty in 1977 at the age of 31.
Following his military career, Coonts moved to Colorado where he briefly worked as a taxi driver and police officer before enrolling in the University of Colorado School of Law in the fall of 1977.
There, he graduated with a law degree in 1979 and returned to his roots in West Virginia to begin legal practice. After 2 years, he moved back to Colorado where he worked as a staff attorney for an independent oil company, utilizing his expertise in oil and gas law. He worked here from 1981 to 1984, at which time he began writing his first novel, Flight of the Intruder.
The novel was published in 1986 by the US Naval Institute Press and spent 28 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. The US Naval Institute awarded Coonts with the 1986 Author of the Year Award for his debut novel. By 1991, the book was made into a popular film which catapulted Coonts’ storytelling talent into the public mainstream.
The success of this story meant he could dedicate his entire time to writing, so he continued to write thrillers, honing in on his protagonist Jake Grafton. Soon, he realized that a novel series was taking shape.
In 1992, Coonts was admitted to the West Virginia University Academy of Distinguished Alumni, and in 2014, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by the same university.
Since the beginning of his writing career, Coonts’ work has been translated into numerous different languages and continues to be enjoyed in the following countries: France, Finland, Sweden, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria, Latvia, Spain, Poland, Serbia, Denmark, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, China, Japan, and Israel.
Coonts has not stopped writing and has had 16 New York Times bestsellers out of his 36 book repertoire. Now, he lives in Colorado with his third wife at the age of 76. To this day, he is predominantly known for his Jake Grafton series but his other series are also widely read and very worth reading.
This article will take you through all of his works, regardless of popularity, providing the ultimate Stephen Coonts reading guide. Stay tuned to see how you can read his entire repertoire in the best way.
The Jake Grafton Series
This series mainly centers around Jake Grafton, his beloved protagonist but also features another popular character Tommy Carmellini, who has a separate series himself. Many of the books in both series feature the pair together, so readers can be confused as to what book belongs in what series. Here is a complete list of the Jake Grafton books in order.
Flight of the Intruder (1986)
Flight of the Intruder is an action-packed novel that hones in on the life and experiences of a pilot. Closely following Jake Grafton, this debut novel dives into the cockpit of the A-6 Intruder and provides a realistic account of flying this famous aircraft.
Having lived the life he writes about, Coonts is the perfect author to bring flying scenes to life and the vivid descriptions and realism are what make this fantastic novel stand out from other similar books. This book has been heralded as the best combat aviation novel to come out of the Vietnam War and became one of the top 20 bestselling first novels in literary history.
The Intruders (1994)
With no sense of belonging, Jake Grafton immerses himself in flying, traveling through some of the most dangerous skies in the world.
The Intruders follows Jake as he navigates the South Pacific and instructs the Marines on how to successfully and safely fly an aircraft carrier. This is a dangerous and enthralling project, but when enemies emerge from above, the mission becomes a fight for survival.
Final Flight (1988)
When a charming American reporter boarded the USS United States in Tangiers, the forces exposed themselves to much more danger than they thought. One of Jake’s team members witnessed the woman lead an assassination attempt in Naples, provoking turmoil among the team.
Final Flight positions Jake in the direct line of a terrorist threat and soon, what began as a simple mistake, becomes an international security disaster.
The Minotaur (1989)
The Minotaur allows Jake a change of pace. Instead of flying planes and carrying out top-secret missions, Grafton is assigned a desk job at the Pentagon, in charge of a stealth bomber program.
But when flights are sabotaged and colleagues wind up dead, Jake realizes he’s way out of his depth.
Under Siege (1990)
Colombian drug lord Chano Aldana is known as a psychotic and ruthless leader. And now, he’s been extradited to the U.S. under trial. But he brings his mercenaries with him and soon, the President is under attack.
Under Siege follows as Jake is given a responsibility unlike any he’s ever had. He must track and destroy the assassins working for Aldana before they succeed in taking the life of the U.S. leader. With the weight of the country riding on his shoulders, Jake’s time is running out.
The Red Horseman (1993)
Newly appointed as the deputy director of a brand new U.S. intelligence agency, Jake Grafton is responsible for controlling intense nuclear threats. The Soviet Union is close to collapse and Middle Eastern terrorist groups are eager to get their hands on Moscow’s nuclear weapons.
The Red Horseman mixes international threat with Jake’s fight for his own life. Will he prevent a nuclear war in time?
Cuba is set just as infamous dictator Fidel Castro reaches his deathbed. Havana is in a state of chaos as presidential candidates all fight for the position. Among them is Alejo Vargas, a secret police chief and a direct threat to the U.S.
The CIA has just received information that Vargas has obtained biological weapons pointed at American soil.
Hong Kong (2000)
Jake is sent to Hong Kong on a financial mission – to discover the ins and outs of a money-raising scandal. Jake views this as a chance to see his old friend, Tiger Cole, who works as a consul-general there. Jake takes Callie, his wife, with him with hopes of a heartfelt reunion.
As Hong Kong develops, Jake realizes that the situation in Hong Kong is far worse than he anticipated and Tiger Cole is in the thick of it. As the circumstances worsen and the threats get more personal, Jake must seek the help of Tommy Carmellini to identify the enemy.
America is one of Coonts’ most explosive novels. It follows as the USS America, an advanced nuclear-powered submarine, is hijacked upon its departure. As the submarine edges closer and closer to the center of the Atlantic, missiles destroy the country’s capital, putting the President in grave danger.
Following the destruction of 9/11, Jake Grafton receives a terrifying message: the Sword of Islam, a radical Islamic terrorist group, has been provided with nuclear warheads by Russia.
Liberty follows as Jake and Tommy try to prevent America’s nuclear destruction.
The Tommy Carmellini Series
- Liars & Thieves (2004)
- The Traitor (2006)
- The Assassin (2008)
- The Disciple (2009)
- Pirate Alley (2013)
- The Art of War (2016)
- Liberty’s Last Stand (2016)
- The Armageddon File (2017)
- The Russia Account (2018)
The Saucer Series
- Saucer (2002)
- The Conquest (2004)
- Savage Planet (2014)
The Deep Black Series
This series is co-authored with Jim DeFelice and William H. Keith Jr. It is set in the National Security Agency’s top-secret HQ and follows a small group of special agents called the Deep Black. The group’s objective is to eradicate the world’s main cyber threats.
- Deep Black (2003)
- Biowar (2004)
- Dark Zone (2004)
- Payback (2005)
- Jihad (2007)
- Conspiracy (2008)
- Arctic Gold (2009)
- Sea of Terror (2010)
- Death Wave (2011)
Standalone Fiction Novels (In Publication Order)
- Fortunes of War (1998)
- The Garden of Eden (2005)
- The Sea Witch (2012)
- Clash of the Carriers: The True Story of the Marianas Turkey Shoot of World War II (2018)
- Dragon’s Jaw: An Epic Story of Courage and Tenacity in Vietnam (2019)
Standalone Non-Fiction Novels (In Publication Order)
- The Cannibal Queen (1992)
- War in the Air (1996)
Anthologies (In Publication Order)
- Combat (2000)
- Combat Vol. 1 (2001)
- Combat Vol. 2 (2002)
- Combat Vol. 3 (2002)
- Victory (2003)
- On Glorious Wings (2003)
- Victory: On the Attack (2004)
- First Thrills (2010) (In collaboration with various other authors)
Despite his wide array of books, which range in subject matter, genre, and tone, Stephen Coonts is predominantly known for his Jake Grafton series. These 10 novels have platformed his name into the mainstream and allowed him the opportunity to use his military expertise in a new, fascinating way. Today, Coonts has a loyal fan base spanning across the globe and continues writing when he can.
Frequently Asked Questions
What genre of novels is Stephen Coonts known for?
His most popular works include action and war books, which are sometimes set in science-fiction realms. Espionage, politics, and military themes frequently crop up within his novels.
Where can I buy the Stephen Coonts books from?
Popular online bookstores like Amazon will sell Stephen Coonts’ novels but if you’re based in the U.S. you’re likely to find them in physical bookstores too.
Who has a similar writing style to Stephen Coonts?
Lee Child, Heather Graham, Steve Berry, and Karin Slaughter all have similar styles and write within similar genres. These are just a few of the names Coonts worked with on the First Thrills anthology series.
Does Stephen Coonts write about his own military experience?
Perhaps not his direct experiences in the Navy but his time in the military has awarded him with the expertise needed to write these gripping novels.
What is the best Stephen Coonts book?
Any of the books in the Jake Grafton series are well-read and adored by fans. However, there is something special about his debut, Flight of the Intruder that captivated the attention of so many readers.