Buff, Joe 1955(?)-

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BUFF, Joe 1955(?)-

PERSONAL: Born c. 1955, in New York, NY; married Sheila Buff (a wellness and nutrition author). Education: New York University, B.A. (mathematics), 1973; Massachusetts Institute of Technology, M.S. (mathematics), 1977. Hobbies and other interests: Reading, hiking, nature, getting together with friends, fine dining.

ADDRESSES: Home—New York. Agent—John Talbot Agency, Inc., 540 West Boston Post Rd., PMB 266, Mamaroneck, NY 10543-3437. E-mail—[email protected] joebuff.com.

CAREER: Author. Worked as an actuary for twenty years until 1997 for various companies, including Guardian Life, Morgan Stanley, Towers Perrin, and Merrill Lynch.

MEMBER: Naval Submarine League, Navy League of the United States, Naval War College Foundation, U.S. Naval Institute, Intrepid Museum.

AWARDS, HONORS: National Science Foundation fellow, 1973.


Deep Sound Channel, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2000.

Thunder in the Deep, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2001.

Crush Depth, Morrow Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Tidal Rip, Morrow Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Contributor of articles to the military journal Submarine Review.

SIDELIGHTS: After spending twenty years working as an actuary, Joe Buff decided to follow up on his long-time interest of reading about history and naval warfare and to switch careers to writing. Featuring ongoing characters, such as Captain Jeffrey Fuller and his love interest, Ilse Reebeck, the books detail realistic duels at sea with futuristic state-of-the-art submarines.

Buff was born in New York City in the mid-1950s. His father had been in the Navy and his uncle was a merchant marine serving on convoys during World War II. At a young age, Buff developed a fascination with naval history and military affairs, reading hundreds of fiction and nonfiction books in the process.

As Buff writes on his personal Web page, he "had some ideas for stories and they just grew and grew inside . . . until something simply had to be done!!!" Buff first wrote a couple of technical papers published by a professional military journal and then signed on with the John Talbot Agency. Working with his agent and editors, Buff carefully plotted out the major aspects of a series of novels he had in mind. As Buff points out on his Web page, they would be "full-length novels that each cover one mission or combat patrol of a submarine and its commander during an ongoing all-out war in the foreseeable future." He also created an enemy called the "Axis," similar to World War II, except that this war includes a resurgent Germany and South Africa battling the United States and Great Britain. Most important, the military and submarine buff went out and conducted research. He networked with active-duty and retired submarine officers and enlisted men, spent time at sea on a nuclear-powered submarine, visited several other submarines, and toured the Navy SEAL training compound in Coronado, California.

The result of Buff's careful planning has been a series of books featuring Captain Jeffrey Fuller, commander of the USS Challenger. Buff's first novel, Deep Sound Channel, was published in 2000. It takes place in the year 2011, when U.S. and British merchant ships are being sunk by a new South African military government. The problem escalates into World War III, with the Axis and Allies battling it out. Fuller and the Challenger are called in to transport Navy SEALS and a Boer freedom fighter named Ilse Reebeck across dangerous waters to their mission. The novel also introduces a ruthless and evil South African commander named ter Horst who is out to kill Fuller and sink the Challenger. Writing in Publishers Weekly, a contributor noted, "Buff scripts suspenseful submarine action and invents clever futuristic naval tricks as the Challenger and its crew play dueling subs with ter Horst's vessel." Robert Convoy commented in Library Journal that he found the book "overly technical" and the "characters one-dimensional." However, Booklist reviewer Budd Arthur noted that "Buff's fast-paced prose gets the job done effectively," calling the book "good summer reading for the military-fiction addict."

Buff's second book was published the following year. Thunder in the Deep brings Fuller and the Challenger to the forefront once again as they are asked to rescue the American submarine Texas. A face-off occurs between the most advanced nuclear attack submarines in the world—the Challenger and Germany's Deutschland. Once again, developing love-interest Ilse Reebeck is along for the ride. Robert Conroy, writing in Library Journal, concluded that the "book just doesn't work," but other critics were more favorable. A Publishers Weekly contributor remarked that the novel was "long-winded at points and weakened by a silly love affair," yet the reviewer also noted that Buff's "meticulous attention to the details of life aboard the Challenger and the obstacles it faces help heighten the drama." A writer for Kirkus Reviews commented, "Shockwaves pop your eardrums, since Buff can't spare a word to bore you."

The third book in the Fuller series is Crush Depth, again set in an ongoing war with the United States and Germany, this time about a wounded Challenger battling the Voortrekker, captained by none other than the demented ter Horst. "An unsettling mix of underwater suspense, love story, and near-future sci-fi, Buff's latest represents a well-intentioned if plodding effort to update the genre of submarine thriller," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. Roland Green wrote in Booklist that lovers of stories about sea battles would enjoy the book, but pointed out that it had much more going for it. All in all, Green felt that the elements of the novel combine to "raise the yarn rather far above the standard literary tub of military hardware."



Booklist, May 1, 2000, Budd Arthur, review of DeepSound Channel, p. 1650; October 1, 2002, Roland Green, review of Crush Depth, p. 308.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2001, review of Thunder in the Deep, p. 677.

Library Journal, May 1, 2000, Robert Convoy, review of Deep Sound Channel, p. 152; August, 2001, Robert Conroy, review of Thunder in the Deep, p. 158.

Publishers Weekly, June 26, 2000, review of DeepSound Channel, p. 52; July 30, 2001, review of Thunder in the Deep, p. 59; September 2, 2002, review of Crush Depth, p. 54.


Joe Buff Web site,http://www.joebuff.com/ (March 28, 2003).*