Poyer, David 1949- (David Charles Poyer)

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Poyer, David 1949- (David Charles Poyer)


Born November 26, 1949, in DuBois, PA; son of Charles and Margaret Poyer; married Lenore Elizabeth Hart (a novelist); children: Naia Elizabeth (daughter). Education: U.S. Naval Academy, B.S. (with merit), 1971; George Washington University, M.A.


Home—Nassawadox, VA.


Writer, novelist, educator, lecturer, and Navy officer. U.S. Navy, 1971-2001, line officer on frigates and amphibious ships, 1971-77; transferred to U.S. Naval Reserve, 1977-2001, became commander. Instructor or lecturer at various educational institutions, including the U.S. Naval Academy, Flagler College, University of Pittsburgh, Old Dominion University, Armed Forces Staff College, University of North Florida, and Christopher Newport University. Guest on PBS's "Writer to Writer" series and on Voice of America. Founding member of Tidewater Writers Workshop.


Authors Guild, U.S. Naval Institute, American Society of Naval Engineers, U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association, SERVAS.



White Continent (adventure novel), Jove (New York, NY), 1980.

The Shiloh Project (adventure novel), Avon (New York, NY) 1981.

Star Seed (science fiction novel), Donning (Norfolk, VA), 1982.

The Return of Philo T. McGiffin (comic novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1983.

Stepfather Bank (science fiction novel), St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1987.

The Only Thing to Fear, Forge (New York, NY), 1995.


The Med, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1988.

The Gulf, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1990.

The Circle, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.

The Passage, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.

Tomahawk, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1998.

China Sea, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Black Storm, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2002.

The Command, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2004.

The Threat, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2006.


The Dead of Winter, Tor (New York, NY), 1988.

Winter in the Heart, Tor (New York, NY), 1993.

As the Wolf Loves Winter, Forge (New York, NY), 1996.

Thunder on the Mountain, Forge (New York, NY), 1999.

Winter Light (contains Winter in the Heart and As the Wolf Loves Winter), Forge (New York, NY), 2001.


Hatteras Blue, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1989.

Bahamas Blue, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Louisiana Blue, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.

Down to a Sunless Sea, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.


Fire on the Waters: A Novel of the Civil War at Sea, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2001.

A Country of Our Own, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2003.

That Anvil of Our Souls: A Novel of the Monitor and the Merrimack, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.


(Editor) Command at Sea, 4th edition, U.S. Naval Institute Press (Annapolis, MD), 1983.

Contributor of stories to periodicals, including Analog, Galileo, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Mike Shayne's Mystery Magazine, and Unearth.


Film rights to The Return of Philo T. McGiffin were bought in 1991 by Universal.


David Poyer has won special praise for his books that exploit his knowledge of the sea and the world of sailors and divers. Speaking of Poyer's "Tales of the Modern Navy" series in Booklist, Roland Green called the books "one of the outstanding bodies of nautical fiction in English during the last half-century" and praised Poyer for balancing "hardware description and an extremely well-drawn cast of characters with enormous skill."

The "Tales of the Modern Navy" series created by Poyer features U.S. Navy officer Dan Lenson, an Annapolis graduate whose career leads him through many assignments and adventures. Reviewing Tomahawk, Green commented: "Poyer's Lenson novels are so character driven that calling them thrillers is misleading, and here Poyer includes a solid cast of secondary characters who are thoroughly individualized yet serve to raise the ethical questions Poyer always brings to the fore. This demanding, excellent novel is probably the best so far in a major contemporary seafaring saga." In a review of The Passage, the fourth Lenson novel, after The Med, The Gulf, and The Circle, Green had further high praise for the series as a whole, stating that the first four Lenson novels "constitute one of the outstanding bodies of nautical fiction in English during the last half-century."

China Sea finds Lenson ordered to deliver an outmoded frigate to the Pakistani government as part of a trade. On the voyage, he faces conflicts between the American and Pakistani crews, a serial killer stalking the ship, and an unexpected detour to battle a Chinese pirate organization. "Poyer displays a fine sense of pace and plot when the focus is on seagoing affairs, and the battle scenes are scintillating and satisfying," according to the critic for Publishers Weekly. Patrick J. Wall in Library Journal found that "Poyer's characters are as good as ever, and the action scenes are lively."

Lenson returns in Black Storm, set during the Gulf War of 1991. American intelligence has learned that Saddam Hussein has a secret weapon he plans to use against Israel; Lenson and a crew of special operations experts is sent to Baghdad to locate and destroy the weapon before it can be unleashed. Robert Conroy in Library Journal noted that "Poyer captures the technical and emotional feel of such a dangerous mission, which ranges across the bleak desert and through the claustrophobic sewers of Baghdad." Green labeled Black Storm "one of the strongest books in an outstanding series."

Lenson earns a promotion to commander in The Command, after which he takes charge of the U.S.S. Thomas Horn, a helicopter-capable destroyer. On top of his new duties as the top officer of the Spruance-class Horn, Lenson is also charged with being the host ship for the Navy's initial experiments with integrating women into service aboard a warship. Much resentment and opposition simmers throughout the ranks of officers and enlisted, but Lenson sees the integration as a welcome and logical step in the evolution of the military. He even welcomes the presence of his new female executive officer. New female crewmembers clash with the old crew and a group of Navy SEALS recently assigned to the Horn. As the ship's mission is underway, considerable turmoil erupts, including a suspicious fire in the female barracks, an unexpected pregnancy, and a severed goat's head meant to intimidate. As the ship travels from the United States into foreign waters and the Persian Gulf, Navy criminal investigator Aisha Ar-Rahim follows an investigation of her own to the Horn, where the enormous destroyer makes a tempting target for local foes with destructive aspirations and nuclear capabilities. "Poyer packs story with both dense technical info and welcome local color," observed a Kirkus Reviews critic.

The Threat takes Lenson to unfamiliar territory in Washington, DC, where he joins the National Security Council and becomes the carrier of the "football," a case containing the vital codes to be used by the president in a nuclear conflict. Working with a president known for his womanizing, and who is detested by the military establishment, Lenson struggles to get used to the Washington bureaucracy while doing his best in a menial assignment with an anti-drug task force. Though he demonstrates great competence, even excellence, in dealing with the machinations of a Colombian drug lord, his superiors still look on him with suspicion and disdain. Abruptly, Lenson finds himself reassigned and in possession of the nuclear codes and closely aligned with a president whose handling of military matters is dubious at best. Making matters worse, his domestic life is in disarray as he experiences conflict with his higher-ranking wife, Blair, and realizes that she may be a target of the philandering president's affections. In the background, an assassination plot unfolds through the machinations of unknown parties. A Kirkus Reviews critic called the novel "a gloomy story, but Poyer remains the most thoughtful of the military-thriller set and a master of authentic detail." In assessing the novel, Booklist reviewer David Pitt named Poyer "a superior writer."

With Fire on the Waters: A Novel of the Civil War at Sea, Poyer began a new series of nautical adventures, this time set during the American Civil War. Elisha Eaker is a wealthy young man who has joined the navy to escape his domineering father and an unwanted marriage to his headstrong cousin. Assigned to protect the Union forces at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, Eaker finds that as the South secedes from the Union, his position becomes more perilous. Along with a crew of varying loyalty to the besieged Union, he eventually battles not only Confederate forces but storms at sea before venturing to the Chesapeake Bay on a secret mission. A Publishers Weekly reviewer admitted that Fire on the Waters has "plenty of meat on the bones for Civil War and naval buffs." Margaret Flanagan, writing in Booklist called the novel "a solid introduction to a promising new series." Poyer's second novel in the series, A Country of Our Own, moves the spotlight to Confederate navy lieutenant Ken Custis Claiborne, a Virginian who goes south after Sumter, first defending his state on the banks of the Potomac, then commanding a sea-raider that attacks Yankee trade from Brazil to Boston.

That Anvil of Our Souls: A Novel of the Monitor and the Merrimack, the third of the "Civil War at Sea" series, provides a fictionalized account of the origins of ironclad warfare with the storied Civil War ships, the Monitor and the Merrimack. Poyer follows the basic true story of the two ships, covering the origins of the Merrimack and its capture and refitting as a southern ship named the Virginia, and the initial reactions to the smaller and seemingly ineffectual Monitor. On board the Virginia is Lieutenant Lomax Minter, brash perhaps to the point of being foolhardy, arrogant and handsome. Other crew members distrust Minter and fear that his attitude toward warfare will bring them and the ship to harm. Minter's counterpart on the Monitor, Chief Engineer Theo Hubbard, is stalwart and duty-bound, determined and reliable in combat. Real Civil War figures and fictional characters interact as the story unfolds from the perspective of these two contrasting military men. A Kirkus Reviews contributor praised the novel as the "series best, and for those who see the Civil War as this country's defining drama, simply not to be missed." With his work, "Poyer makes readers see and feel the blockade and the men who tried to maintain it," observed a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

Several of Poyer's nautical novels feature deep-water diver Tiller Galloway, a maverick drifter who, although he is frequently depicted as self-centered and unlikable, is nonetheless "the perfect denizen of the undersea world: tough, stubborn, solitary, out of place on land," in the opinion of a Publishers Weekly writer. Reviewing Louisiana Blue, the critic noted that "the biggest thrills in this well-written and subtly plotted novel come from the way Poyer brings alive the dangerous, claustrophobia-inducing world of deep-sea diving." Tiller appeared again in Down to a Sunless Sea, rated "one of [Poyer's] best novels yet" by a Publishers Weekly critic. Once again, the realistic descriptions of undersea escapades were singled out by the reviewer as "particularly memorable," especially the "extensive, harrowing" passages about "cave dives, which are riveting enough to terrify experienced divers and hydrophobes alike." Thomas Gaughan echoed this sentiment in Booklist: "The cave-diving scenes are riveting, claustrophobic, terrifying, and beautiful. And Tiller has grown into one of the most spectacularly flawed and failed characters ever to seek redemption in popular fiction. A ripping good read!"

Speaking of his nautical adventure novels in an interview posted on his Home Page, Poyer explained that his greatest problem in writing was how to use naval terminology so that the general reader would not be overwhelmed: "I start out defining my military terms in context; then, as the book goes on, I introduce more and more of them, especially in dialogue, because that's the really critical area. So by the end, the characters are speaking pretty unadulterated naval jargon, but you can understand it because you've been gradually introduced to it."

While Poyer's nautical books have proven to be popular, his land-based novels have also been praised as engrossing and thought-provoking works, particularly the "Hemlock County" series. These ecological thrillers feature an unlikely collection of heroes, including W.T. Halvorsen, an elderly, retired oil-driller, and his sidekick, high school student Phil Romanelli. In Winter in the Heart, Halvorsen becomes seriously ill after being splashed by contaminated snow. When he discovers that several other residents in his area have been similarly affected, he begins to investigate who is behind the illegal dumping of toxic waste. It turns out to be a bigger project than he expected, as everyone from the Mafia to the federal government struggles to cover up the crimes. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called Winter in the Heart an "absorbing tale" enlivened by "vividly imagined and deftly rendered characters, each one possessing real depth and a credible place in the story's richly evoked milieu." The sequel, As the Wolf Loves Winter, was praised by a Publishers Weekly critic for its "superb storytelling and characterization." Thunder on the Mountain is set in 1935, when young Bill Halvorsen finds himself entangled in unionizing efforts in the Pennsylvania oil fields. Violence erupts when ruthless communist organizers clash with corrupt businessmen, leading to sabotage, bribery, and death. Thunder on the Mountain is "violent, touching, and incredibly sad as the story careens to its explosive conclusion," Karen Anderson wrote in Library Journal. "Poyer's chilling look into the heart of the early union movement is dramatic and suspenseful, full of despair and hope," according to Melanie Duncan in Booklist. The critic for Publishers Weekly found the novel to be "a stunning period tale."

In The Only Thing to Fear, Poyer speculates on the wartimes activities of a young John F. Kennedy as he embarks on a secret mission to protect President Franklin D. Roosevelt from assassination. The book follows this story line while constructing a comprehensive fictional portrait of Kennedy, including issues surrounding his health, his military service, and his role as the scion of a famous and prominent family. Roland Green, again writing in Booklist, remarked that Poyer's depiction of Kennedy is "one of the most fully realized presentations of JFK to appear in fiction."

Poyer once told CA: "I was born in a small town in northwestern Pennsylvania, in the hills, and named after David Copperfield. My sister, my brother, and I grew up in vicious poverty but always with books around, thanks to our mother. I knew I would write someday, but I needed to see something of the world first. With this in mind, I applied to the Naval Academy—a free education and certainly an opportunity to travel. Much to my surprise, I was accepted. I spent the next six years at sea, married, divorced, and finally asked for transfer to the Reserves. It was time to try for the dream.

"For five years after that, I did the garret-and-starvation routine in Norfolk, Virginia, trying to write novels. Times were rough at first, since my novels returned to my mailbox as surely and as rapidly as homing pigeons. I like to tell the story about raiding demolished buildings for the Civil Defense rations in the basements. A little moldy, but nutritious …. Eventually I found a steady market in regional magazines and made several sales to the mystery and science fiction nations. I became a partner in a small guidebook publishing company. At that point, I began writing novels again. The seasoning helped, and White Continent and Shiloh Project sold.

"It is hard to see one's work from the outside; nevertheless I'll try. I admire strong stories with characters who must decide between good and evil—and situations where the choice is not as easy as it may sound. I don't like fantasy, and my work leans toward realism. I value accurate backgrounds, believable characters, and realistic dialogue and dislike wordiness, schlock, and digression. My goal is very simple—to write a novel, someday, that will satisfy me."

Poyer added: "Since then, aside from brief periods as an engineer and consultant, I've worked as a novelist. Gradually success has come, in terms of sales and recognition. But even more heartening is the feeling that I'm still improving, still learning the craft (but with a long way to go yet). I love the profession of fiction. There's no other way I'd rather spend my life—relieved at intervals, of course, with some sailing."



Analog Science Fiction-Science Fact, February, 1983, Tom Easton, review of Star Seed, p. 164.

Booklist, March 15, 1992, Ray Olson, review of The Circle, p. 1316; December 15, 1994, Roland Green, review of The Passage, p. 736; April 15, 1995, Roland Green, review of The Only Thing to Fear, p. 1481; October 15, 1996, Thomas Gaughan, review of Down to a Sunless Sea, p. 407; April, 1998, Roland Green, review of Tomahawk, p. 1305; March 1, 1999, Melanie Duncan, review of Thunder on the Mountain, p. 1151; January 1, 2000, Roland Green, review of China Sea, p. 878; July, 2001, Margaret Flanagan, review of Fire on the Waters: A Novel of the Civil War at Sea, p. 1983; May 1, 2002, Roland Green, review of Black Storm, p. 1509; May 15, 2005, Jay Freeman, review of That Anvil of Our Souls: A Novel of the Monitor and the Merrimack, p. 1649; September 15, 2006, David Pitt, review of The Threat, p. 32.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2004, review of The Command, p. 419; April 15, 2005, review of That Anvil of Our Souls, p. 445; August 15, 2006, review of The Threat, p. 806.

Library Journal, November 15, 1982, review of Star Seed, p. 2192; May 1, 1983, A.J. Anderson, review of The Return of Philo T. McGiffin, p. 921; April 15, 1988, Edwin B. Burgess, review of The Med, p. 96; August 1, 1990, Elsa Pendleton, review of The Gulf, p. 145; May 1, 1992, Elsa Pendleton, review of The Circle, p. 119; April 1, 1995, Stacie Browne Chandler, review of The Only Thing to Fear, p. 125; March 15, 1999, Karen Anderson, review of Thunder on the Mountain, p. 110; February 1, 2000, Patrick J. Wall, review of China Sea, p. 118; May 15, 2001, Loretta Davis, review of Fire on the Waters, p. 165; April 15, 2002, Robert Conroy, review of Black Storm, p. 126.

New York Times Book Review, September 23, 1990, Newgate Callendar, review of The Gulf, p. 16; July 26, 1992, Newgate Callendar, review of The Circle, p. 13.

Officer, June, 2005, David R. Bockel, review of The Command, p. 47.

Publishers Weekly, April 15, 1983, review of The Return of Philo T. McGiffin, p. 42; March 4, 1988, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Med, p. 95; June 23, 1989, review of The Med, p. 56; August 3, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of The Gulf, p. 64; March 16, 1992, review of The Circle, p. 66; May 3, 1993, review of The Circle, p. 303; July 5, 1993, review of The Circle, p. 50; February 7, 1994, review of Louisiana Blue, p. 70; November 14, 1994, review of The Passage, p. 54; February 27, 1995, review of The Only Thing to Fear, p. 87; March 4, 1996, review of As the Wolf Loves Winter, p. 54; October 7, 1996, p. 63; February 16, 1998, review of Tomahawk, p. 202; February 1, 1999, review of Thunder on the Mountain, p. 77; January 31, 2000, review of China Sea, p. 83; June 18, 2001, review of Fire on the Waters, p. 56; May 6, 2002, review of Black Storm, p. 34; June 13, 2005, review of That Anvil of Our Souls, p. 32; September 18, 2006, review of The Threat, p. 34.

School Library Journal, September, 1983, review of The Return of Philo T. McGiffin, p. 143.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), April 3, 1988, review of The Med, p. 5.

Virginia Quarterly Review, autumn, 1995, review of The Only Thing to Fear, p. 131.

Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 1987, review of Stepfather Bank, p. 245; August 1, 1988, review of Dead of Winter, p. 135.


Armchair Critic,http://thearmchaircritic.blogspot.com/ (December 13, 2006), review of The Threat.

David Poyer Home Page,http://www.poyer.com (June 10, 2007).