The Day Before Midnight: A Novel by Stephen HunterThe Day Before Midnight: A Novel by Stephen Hunter

The Day Before Midnight: A Novel

byStephen Hunter

Mass Market Paperback | December 1, 1989

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“A breathtaking, fascinating look at what could happen—given the possibility of an atomic ‘given.’ A wrap-up you'll never forget.”—Robert Ludlum

The countdown begins when welder Jack Hummel is abducted from his suburban Maryland home ans whisked to the South Mountain MX missile site—a top-secret nuclear complex now taken over by paramilitary terrorists.

All that stands between the Uzi-armed commandos and the launch button is a half-ton titanium block. They want Jack Hummel to cut through it—so they can unleash a devastatingly brilliant plot that threatens global disaster.

Now a Delta Force veteran and a think-tank defense wizard must get inside South Mountain—by defeating their own super-security systems and a darkly ingenious enemy leader . . . 

. . . while Jack Hummel's torch burns closer and closer to the launch key . . . while the clock ticks closer to midnight—and Armageddon.

Praise for The Day Before Midnight

“Rockets toward a shattering climax like an incoming missile.”—Stephen Coonts, author of Flight of the Intruder and Final Flight

“Nonstop action and mounting tension.”The New York Times Book Review

“Slam-bang action and relentless suspense.”The Washington Post

“The novel crackles and jolts.”Chicago Tribune

“The one to beat this year in the nail-biter class . . . an edge-of-the-seat doomsday countdown thriller.”Daily News, New York
Stephen Hunter is the author of 20 novels and the retired chief film critic for the Washington Post, where he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism. His novels include The Third Bullet; Sniper's Honor; I, Sniper; I, Ripper; and Point of Impact, which was adapted for film and TV as Shooter. Hunter lives in Baltimore, M...
Title:The Day Before Midnight: A NovelFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 6.87 × 4.23 × 1.1 inPublished:December 1, 1989Publisher:Random House Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0553282352

ISBN - 13:9780553282351

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a ride Possibly Hunter's best book. Plays like a summer block-buster. Have never figured out why this was never filmed.
Date published: 2015-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from the Day is Right on This is the second book i've read by Stephen Hunter ( Point of Impact first) he's my new favorite along with Andy McNabb and Chris Ryan... The action starts about PAGE 9 and goes and goes - I'm reading til one in the morning..trying to finish it!!! it's not so guns/ammo/shooting techincal but the twists that he throws in here will have u sitting on the edge of your seat/bed...(whereever u read)and he has surprises galor...I didn't see them coming! I bought ALL of Stephen Hunters books - definate 10!
Date published: 2001-05-11

Read from the Book

  It snowed that night, and sometime after three, Beth Hummel awoke, as she always did, to the sound of small bare feet padding urgently across the hard wood of the floor.   “Mommy?”   It was the voice of her older daughter. Bean—derived somehow from Elizabeth—was seven, a careful, grave second-grader who wrote her numbers and her name with exaggerated precision and had filled out her Christmas list from the Sears catalogue as if it were a college application.   Beth rolled gently, hoping not to awaken Jack next to her, and turned to face the child in the darkness. Her daughter was very close, and Beth could smell her, warm and fresh like a loaf hot from the oven.   “Yes, honey?”   “Mommy, it’s snowing.”   “I know. They said it would on the TV.”   “The world is all white. Jesus loves the world, he made it all white.”   “I’m sure he does, honey,” said Beth.   Jack snorted in his sleep, came from unconsciousness with a loggy lurch, half rose, then whispered gruffly, “Shhhhhh, girls.”   He fell back, inert in seconds.   “Mommy, can I get in?”   “Of course, honey,” said Beth, scooting over and lifting the covers so that there was room for Bean, who climbed in and snuggled against her mother. The child was still in a second. Beth could feel her daughter’s heart pumping and the rise and fall of her fragile chest. Her little nose was full; she breathed with a vaguely ragged sound, and Beth worried that it would bother Jack, but behind her he continued to sleep heavily.   Beth drifted off herself then. She was dreaming of tropical beaches. But only an hour or two later another soft tread, slightly swifter, slightly lighter, nudged her from her shallow sleep. Poo—from Phyllis—had discovered the snow.   “Mommy!” Poo whispered in a gleeful rush of excitement, touching her mother with taut fingers. “Mommy, it’s white outside.”   “Shhh, I know,” whispered Beth. Poo was five, a kindergartner, whose blond hair had not yet begun to darken, like Bean’s. She was impossibly beautiful, and as lively as Bean was grave. She was a bossy, feisty child who tormented her older sister, and occasionally her mother. You couldn’t tell her a thing, like Jack.   “Mommy, Jesus loves us.”   “Yes, he does,” said Beth again. The connection between Jesus’s love and the snow dated from an obscure remark made by a Sunday-school teacher a few weeks back to Poo, in November, on the occasion of the season’s first snowfall. Beth had never been too sure what to make of it.   “Mommy, I’m cold. I had a bad dream. Can I come in too?”   Jack sometimes joked that all his life he’d wanted to sleep with two women at the same time and now he sometimes woke up with three of ’em in the same bed.   “Yes, but be careful,” Beth whispered. “Don’t wake Bean or Daddy.”   But Poo hadn’t waited for the answer. That wasn’t her style. She climbed aboard and scuttled like a little commando up the gully between her mother and her father, and slid in between them.   Beth felt the brush of her younger daughter’s toes, cold from the long race across the bare floor. Then Poo seemed to merge with her mother, to simply become one with her, their breaths and rhythms joined. Beth pulled the covers up to her neck, felt the embrace of the warmth, its sluggish, numbing power.   But she could not get back to sleep. She lay in the silence, feeling the ease and sighs of her daughters. Now and then something ticked in the house, or a draft of uncommonly cold air came through the door. She lay, waiting for unconsciousness, which did not come. Finally, she looked over at the clock. It was almost six. The alarm would go off at six-thirty, and Jack had to be out of the house and in his pickup by seven for a drive to a new job in Boonsboro; the girls had to be fed and dressed for the bus by eight. So finally, Beth decided to get out of bed.   Crossing the floor, she pulled her slippers on and then her robe, a red polyester thing from Monkey Ward that had seen better days. She hoped Jack would get her a new one for Christmas in a few weeks, but since he usually did his shopping at the drugstore on Christmas Eve, she knew it to be unlikely. She looked back at the three heads sunk into and embraced by the pillows. Her husband, an athletic and muscular man three years older than her twenty-nine, slept heavily. He looked like an animal in a den, lost in dreamless mammal sleep as the seasons changed. And her two daughters, facing the other direction, out toward the shaded windows, were delicate and lyrical in the dim light beginning to stream in at the margins of the shades. They were tiny and perfect, their nostrils fragile as lace, their lips like candy slices, the whisper of their breaths soft and persistent. But she was aware that it was sometimes far easier to love them when they were in repose, as now, than when they were at each other like wildcats in the backseat of the station wagon. She smiled at them—her three charges in the world—and felt something profoundly satisfactory move through her. Her family. Hers. Then she crept into the bathroom, quickly squirted some Crest on her toothbrush, and cleaned her teeth. She headed downstairs to start breakfast.   Beth walked around the house, pulling up the shades. The morning light was just beginning to show over the trees. Yes, it had snowed; a light powder, unmarked as yet by human traces, lay across everything. Maybe Jesus did love them. The world looked freshly minted. It was radiant as far as she could see. The clouds had cleared overnight. From the kitchen window, over the sink, she could see the white roofs of Burkittsville, a collection of sloping rectangles against the white netting of the snow on the trees. Beyond them was the mountain.   It wasn’t much of a mountain, almost more of a large hill in the feckless Blue Ridge chain, which had itself seen better days. But to Beth, who was born and raised in Florida, it was a real mountain, a huge hump, crusted with pines, that rose two thousand or so feet above the town. She knew it had been mined for coal back in the thirties, and some of the old people in the town talked about the great Burkittsville cave-in of thirty-four, which had ended the mining operations, and almost ended Burkittsville until Borg-Warner opened its big plant in Williamsport twenty miles away, where most of the men worked. Up top she could see the red and white towers of the phone company’s microwave processing station, or whatever it was.   The mountain was something she liked, and in the spring she and the girls would drive to the park and go for long walks along the trails at its base. You got about one thousand feet up it, and there was even an overlook, where you could sit on a little bench and look across the valley, see Burkittsville spread out like a collection of dollhouses, and beyond that the undulating farmland of Maryland. To the left, a dark blur, was Middletown, and farther out was Frederick, the big city. It was a lovely view. The girls adored it. Even Jack liked it, though he wasn’t much on views.   Beth shook her eyes from the mountain, and returned to reality. She took out the Honey Nut Cheerios, shook the box, and got the bad news. There was enough for only two bowls—this meant that the third person down the stairs would have to make do with corn flakes. Beth tried to work out the political permutations. If Bean came down last, it wouldn’t matter. Bean liked Honey Nuts, but if she couldn’t have them, she’d smile and get on with things. Jack and Poo, however, loved Honey Nut Cheerios with the frenzy of zealots. If Poo or Jack came down to see the other finishing the cereal, there’d be trouble. The Jack-Poo relationship was the volatile one in the family because Poo was such a replica of her father—stubborn, selfish, vain, charming. The whole morning could come apart.   Upstairs, Beth heard the shower come on. He was up, that meant, which was a good start to the day, because she didn’t want to have to rouse him, a task you wouldn’t want to wish on a Russian soldier.   But her heart fell.   Bean walked in.   “Honey, what are you doing up? You don’t have to get up yet.”   “Mommy,” said Bean, one small finger rubbing one sleepy eye, her hair a mess, her little body swaddled in its purple pajamas, “I heard something. It scared me.”   “Oh, honey,” said Beth, bending to her daughter, “there’s nothing to be scared of.” At that moment a man in black with a large black pistol stepped into the kitchen. She looked up at him, stunned. She heard the steps of other men moving speedily through the house.   “Mommy, I’m scared,” said Bean.   Two more black-clad men with huge black guns rushed into the kitchen. They seemed so huge and she felt powerless. It seemed the world was full of men with guns.   “Please, Mrs. Hummel,” said the first man, a blunt, suntanned fellow with shiny white teeth and blank eyes. “Don’t make any noise. Don’t make any problems.”   Beth panicked, started to scream, but a hand came over her mouth roughly, locking it in her throat.  

From Our Editors

When a band of terrorists initiates a plot to gain control of the launch key to an MX missile, the computer whiz who designed the missile site's defenses tackles the challenge of thwarting them. But if he fails, the terrorists will launch an attack that could devastate the entire planet

Editorial Reviews

“A breathtaking, fascinating look at what could happen—given the possibility of an atomic ‘given.’ A wrap-up you'll never forget.”—Robert Ludlum“Rockets toward a shattering climax like an incoming missile.”—Stephen Coonts, author of Flight of the Intruder and Final Flight“Nonstop action and mounting tension.”—The New York Times Book Review“Slam-bang action and relentless suspense.”—The Washington Post“The novel crackles and jolts.”—Chicago Tribune“The one to beat this year in the nail-biter class . . . an edge-of-the-seat doomsday countdown thriller.”—Daily News, New York