Author John David Mann takes you aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in pursuit of a killer – Part I

(Editor’s note; New York Times bestselling author John David Mann sends us the first of a three-part photo essay about his tour aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln as part of his research on co-authoring “Steel Fear” with publisher SOFREP and founder Brandon Webb As John told us in his radio interview SOREP, the Lincoln, a huge machine that was the home and workplace of a crew of thousands of men and women, was itself a character in the book. Its labyrinth of passageways and compartments was also the hunting ground of a serial killer. Mr. Mann wanted the setting of the story to be real for those who served in the Navy and had lived life aboard a warship.)

In the Footsteps of a Killer, Part I

At 9 a.m. sharp, on a cold morning in early January 2019, I drove to the pier in Norfolk, Va. In my rental car, ready to spend a day as a guest of the US Navy in USS board Abraham Lincoln, one of 10 US Army nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

I was there to solve a murder. But first, I had to commit the crime.

When Brandon and I decided to write Fear of steel, our transporter-based serial killer thriller, we knew the USS Abraham Lincoln himself was to become a central character in the novel. To make the story work, to make it real, we had to place the reader (that is, you) on board the ship, to experience how it looks, feels and smells.

A carrier is a strange and alien environment, unlike any other on earth. If you’ve spent time on one, then you know it. And if you haven’t, it’s almost impossible to describe. For us, it was Challenge One.

First of all, it’s hard to say how huge it is. The Navy calls it “4.5 acres of Sovereign Mobile US Territory” – but those four and a half acres are just the flight deck. The part you see in Top Gun. Most of its 6,000 inhabitants will never see the cockpit. They live and toil in the claustrophobic city below. Over twenty miles of passages (“p-ways” in ship parlance), over 50 acres of interior compartments and about 6,000 souls, all crammed into a steel tube about the size of the Empire State Building lying on its side.

And these paths don’t go straight, like the avenues in Manhattan. They bend and rear left and right, stop suddenly, hit ladders (never “stairs”, always “ladders”), hatches and bulkheads. It’s like a demented steel hobbit-shire, a 3D human anthill with a generous military budget.

In Fear of steel we tell the story (it’s on page 6) of two brothers who deployed together on the same aircraft carrier: from the day they left port until the day they landed again for seven more months late, they never crossed paths. Not once. It’s a true story. (Most of the thumbnails in Fear of steel are based on true stories. Maybe not the murders.)

It’s crazy. And incredibly impressive. American military might at its highest level.

In this three-part series, I’ll walk you through the Lincoln through the eyes of our two main characters, Finn the SEAL with a troubled past and Monica the ambitious helicopter pilot, and shows you what they see and experience.

Note on the photos: Most of these photos were taken directly on the Lincoln during this visit of January 8, either by me or by MC3 Amber Smalley, photographer of the ship, who accompanied us; a few, like the photo above, I pulled from third party sources to fill in the image.


When I arrived at the pier that January morning, I met MC2 Kaylyn Jackson-Smith and MC Alan Lewis (the “MC” stands for “Mass Communication,” an assessment related to public affairs), who m ‘escorted to an office in Naval. Air Forces Atlantic (CNAL), where I spent some time chatting with Commander Dave Hecht, the leader of the CNAL public affairs office. Cmdr Hecht was an exceptional host: he gave me a brief overview of the history of American aircraft carriers; asked what we were doing; and filled in some details of the story for me.

Exclusive book cover reveal: STEEL FEAR a Thriller

Read more : Exclusive book cover reveal: STEEL FEAR a Thriller

For example, I had heard that the Navy was phasing out its Greyhound turboprop transport planes, which was a real shame because I wanted one of our characters to fly a Greyhound. I was delighted to learn from Cmdr Hecht that the Navy, however, still had Greyhounds in service on their aircraft carriers, including the Lincoln.

After a long visit, Cmdr Hecht gave me a superb photo of the Lincoln make a turn in the middle of the ocean – just like it does twice in Fear of steel (chapters 19 and 41) – and my escorts brought me to the ship.

I absorbed some fascinating details aboard the Lincoln That day. For example, Sailors collect Monster cans from the ship’s store to exchange them for other things like packs of prison cigarettes. That the rearmost point of the ship, called the fantail, is also one of the most fragrant places on board, as this is where they will throw all their organic waste overboard. Let the nuclear-powered driveshafts that power the four brass van-sized brass propellers run the length of the ship through a channel near the hull called “Shaft Alley.”

But most of all, I learned how BIG the thing is.

This shot gives you an idea of ​​the length of the monster. Three and a half football pitches. It is longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall. took my breath away.

The second plan gives you an idea of ​​the scale. See those two guys up there? See how far the water is there? You don’t want to fall overboard. Or jump (as Finn does at one point in the book). Or get fired.

Water does not compress like a mattress. When you hit, you hit hard. As some unhappy souls learn from the pages of Fear of steel.


The book opens with Monica Halsey, a Knighthawk pilot, in her cabin, looking in a steel mirror over a steel sink. Kind of like these mirrors here. (I took this particular photo on the USS Business in the previous June, but they are similar on the Lincoln.)

She glances around her cabin. Monica has the top bunk, her best friend Kris has the rack below, only theirs is a four-rack compartment, which they share with another roommate. The fourth basket is empty. Weeks before the story began, Death had already visited the Lincoln, and he’s not ready to go yet.

Top racks are popular with some because of the extra space they offer. Note the curtains that can be drawn for some privacy.

After washing and dressing, Monica makes her way through the maze and descends two ladders to her squadron’s prep room.

Ladders aboard warships tend to be stiff and very ruthless to missteps, ladder falls are a major cause of injury and even death aboard warships.
A squadron preparation room is the operational and social center of a naval air squadron at sea. A crew member who is not in their rack, eating or flying will most likely be found in the air. preparation room.

You see his waiting room here while the Lincoln was in port. When deployed, with a full air wing on board, these seats will all have slip-on covers with the names of the individual pilots sewn on. When a death occurs, that person’s seat cover is gently removed and stowed away, and everyone climbs a seat according to their rank. “Like a set of musical chairs,” as it says in chapter 41. “Just no music.”

After the briefing, Monica and the three other members of her crew (including her unbearably arrogant commander Nikos Papadakis) make their way to the cockpit, passing through doors like this.

This is called a “quick-acting hatch” because a single wheel drives all of the “dogs” which create a tight seal.

It is not a door that you casually open. Waterproof, heavy as sin. It is through a door exactly like this that Lt Schofield will enter Chapter 18, towards his eternal doom.

When Monica and her team reach the open air, the scene they face looks like what you see here, only after midnight.

Normally, not all flight deck crews dress up as Santa Claus, but the Navy celebrates Christmas at sea in their own way.

Life downstairs was like living in a colony of steel ants. Everything here was a mass of explosive chaos – “shooters” in yellow shirts signaled the throws of the jets with their elaborate ballet; white shirted “paddles” feeding incoming pilots chunks of complex data with a wave of their glowing light sticks; Martians in green shirts swarm everywhere, checking and rechecking every facet of the machinery before take off. The roar of the jet’s explosion as the next pilot pushed the throttle forward sending a blistered exhaust flame through the concrete and steel blast deflectors raised on their servos just in time to catch the hell. The air chief in the all-seeing tower, his amplified voice rumbling above the din, directing everything like a benevolent eye of Sauron.

And that smell! This heady mix of diesel fumes, jet fuel and salt air. Every time Monica stepped off the catwalk and stepped out onto the bridge, it hit her again, like the echoes of a high school first kiss. She couldn’t get enough. I wish I could have bottled it.

In April, a few months after my visit, the Lincoln was deployed to the Persian Gulf for nine months. The photo you see above was taken on Lincolnthe 2019 Christmas Eve flight deck, right at the end of this deployment.

When Monica and her team reach the flight deck Fear of steel, they board their Knighthawk for the hour-long ride to Bahrain, where they will meet a strange and mysterious SEAL named Finn. In the next episode, I’ll walk you through Finn’s first 12 hours on board.

About John David Mann

John is the award-winning co-author of over 30 books, including 4 New York Times bestsellers and 5 national bestsellers. His bestselling classic The Go-Giver (with Bob Burg) won the Evergreen Living Now Book Award for “contributing to positive global change”. Seven of his books are co-authored with SOFREP founder Brandon Webb, including their debut thriller, Steel Fear, which Jack Reacher author Lee Child hailed as “an instant classic, perhaps an instant legend. “. You can order Steel Fear and find links to interviews with Brandon and John, at

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