The Last Saturday of October

The Declassified Saga of Black Saturday

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
325 Pages
Reviewed on 03/23/2018
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Inventor, researcher, submariner and mathematics professor. US Naval Academy and Yale University alumnus.

The story of Vasili Arkhipov and Black Saturday, a saga of existential risk and hope, is too important to remain buried. It had to be told.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers' Favorite

The Last Saturday of October: The Declassified Saga of Black Saturday by Douglas Gilbert is a breathtaking novel that will take readers into surprising places, filled with historical references and declassified information about one of the most decisive moments in modern history. Could anyone have believed that it was a Russian sailor who saved the United States from a nuclear firestorm? What actually happened in that military standoff on Black Saturday in 1962? This book provides stunning answers to these questions and leads readers into a detailed account of the courageous journey of a Russian sailor, Vasily Arkhipov, who forestalled the nuclear raid on the US. The author leads readers into the depths of the Soviet submarine B-59 to explore events that took place inside the hull.

This story is so disturbing, so gripping, and so wild that it’s hard to believe it’s based on declassified facts. The author does a wonderful job keeping the reader engrossed from the very first page, through each well-written scene to the next gripping one. Douglas Gilbert seems to have done great research on the subject, and his writing, coupled with the unique phraseology, comes across with unusual confidence and grace. I couldn’t stop reading from the very first page. This well-researched, beautifully written thriller is grounded in historical evidence, a story that is as enjoyable as it is disturbing. If you read one naval thriller this year, let it be The Last Saturday of October: The Declassified Saga of Black Saturday. It is a satisfying story.

Sarah Stuart

“The anxious chill of an unknown sea gripped the air and the heart of Captain Savitsky. The nuke lay in its cradle, sealed orders rested in the safe, and the clock ticked.” It could be a quote from Tom Clancy’s The Hunt For Red October, but it is nothing to do with the famous book and film. It comes from The Last Saturday of October: The Declassified Saga of Black Saturday, a brilliant thriller based on the truth about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Douglas Gilbert has taken facts and turned them into fiction in a way that makes them readable, exciting, and frankly bloodcurdling. How close did we come to the end of civilisation as we know it? Why did Soviet naval officer Vasily Arkhipov preempt a nuclear strike on America? Would any of us be alive if he hadn’t?

I found myself actually sweating while I was reading The Last Saturday of October. Douglas Gilbert has himself served as a US submarine officer and understands the pressure on submarine crews where decisions made in seconds can mean the difference between life and death. He has used that knowledge to take his readers aboard a submarine, B-59, submerged beneath the Sargasso Sea. He invites you to experience claustrophobic cramped quarters for working, sleeping and eating, and all the while reminds you that the world is watching, terrified, not knowing what is happening between JFK, Nikita Khrushchev, and so many others. The Last Saturday of October is a powerful, thrilling, and wild ride.

Arya Fomonyuy

On the opening page of The Last Saturday of October: The Declassified Saga of Black Saturday, the author notes that: “The true story of a thwarted event may evade historical consideration. Ordinary men from peasant stock pitted against international villains about to obliterate the most powerful nations on Earth are the stuff of legends from the underworld of spies, submarines, and nuclear weapons.” This historical novel is about the B-59 incident and a Russian submarine hero who saved the US from a nuclear bomb. Poignant and filled with surprising details, this fast-paced, gripping submarine thriller takes readers inside the B-59, and allows them to follow the path of a savior submerged beneath the Sargasso Sea.

Set against the backdrop of a politically turbulent time in international relations, the reader relives one of the most dramatic and revolutionary days in history as they follow a historical character, Vasily Arkhipov. Douglas Gilbert’s novel makes readers feel history, allows them to reconsider what has been fed to them by history books. The setting comes out in vivid detail and readers can feel the grit and the surprising turns in the story. It is so gripping, so engrossing, that it is hard to put this book down. The writing is excellent, laced with vivid images. It is both evocative and highly descriptive and the author has the gift of leading readers into the heart of the emotions of his characters. The Last Saturday of October: The Declassified Saga of Black Saturday is one of the best thrillers I have read in military fiction, a powerful encounter with history.

Rabia Tanveer

The Last Saturday of October: The Declassified Saga of Black Saturday by Douglas Gilbert recounts the story of Vasili Arkhipov, the Russian naval officer who saved the world from a nuclear war. The novel follows Vasili Arkhipov as he takes a chance and saves the world with his one vote. The story takes the reader back to that fateful day in 1962 where the naval officers were deep at sea inside the B-59 submarine. The story works up from Murmansk to Cuba where this event happened. Dark and intense, the story details Vasili Arkhipov’s involvement, his stand against the nuclear launch, and how he stood for what is right.

The novel depicts some hard truths and shares what truly happened that fateful day. The close confines of the submarine were depicted with great care to create an environment and atmosphere that will take the reader into the B-59. I could smell the musty air inside the hull and feel the tension that the men were feeling in the submarine. The story is told with an intensity that left me breathless with anticipation and dread. The characters were given their own personalities and a chance to show these on each page as well. While Vasili was at the helm of the story, Douglas Gilbert never deviated from the main focus of the plot and kept the momentum going. I enjoyed this story and was often holding my breath at times because it was so powerful. I thoroughly enjoyed this action-packed and thrilling tale!

Liz Konkel

The Last Saturday of October by Douglas Gilbert is based on the true story of Russian naval officer Vasily Arkhipov who stopped a nuclear firestorm and saved the United States, and the world. Also known as Black Saturday 1962, the incident has received little attention in history, with the news not revealed until forty years after it occurred. This dramatization explores life inside the submarine and the events that lead to that day through a reconstruction of the submarine's journey. The characters are based on real people in the positions they held during these events. The author incorporates real-life experiences to show the dangers and discomforts in submarine life. Also included are photos, a glossary, and an appendix that breaks down the layout of the Project 641 submarines.

A fictionalized story unfolds with a historical backdrop and the style of a thriller. The Last Saturday of October offers an inside look at life in the cramped quarters of submarines and the trust the officers must find in each other to survive. Douglas Gilbert unveils this little-known incident in history with such detail that you're pulled into the past. The writing is thorough with a keen eye for details, complemented by photos that give a visual aspect to the interior and compartments of submarines. The details of the scenery offer vivid descriptions, from the struggle of living on board to the violent water during the storm. Gilbert captures the personality of the sea, especially during the hurricane, describing the water as gentle and serene on the surface while being violent underneath, painting an image that brings the story to life.

It's a story of bravery and teamwork, with the situations that plagued the officers as they made their journey and the trust they must find in each other. It's a harrowing adventure that reflects on these moments of the past, but also aims to teach, allowing for you to come away with a better understanding of what naval officers went through and currently go through today. This is the perfect read for those wanting to learn about history and who have a fascination with submarines.