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I've clarified the details and added a few things I've remembered since first asking the question. I hope that helps someone figure this out.

I'm trying to recall a short novel probably from the 1960s, possibly as early as the late fifties or maybe even the early seventies. I read it in a cheap paperback edition. As I remember, the cover was white and the front cover had an inset illustration, done in blue tones. It may have featured a stylistic rendering of a submarine and a dolphin. It might have looked a little bit like this rough draft:

enter image description here

At a guess, I read it in the late sixties.

I believe the protagonist was a naval lieutenant. At the very least, he was an officer of some sort, but not as high in rank as a captain.

The story was set in the waters along the coast of the United States, possibly the East Coast. Shore leave was taken in someplace like Miami or perhaps another southern coastal town.

A war was raging and almost everyone was in the military in some way or another. The putative lieutenant served aboard a submarine, working with dolphins in reconnaissance or perhaps sabotage. Telepathic communication may have been used to talk to the dolphins.

When on shore leave, he led a wild party life, sometimes using a common recreational drug that delivered its high by first giving a person a serious illness like the plague or typhus and then delivering a time-release cure. People enjoyed the delirium induced, and probably flirting with death. That part went over my head when I first read it. He also drank while taking this type of drug, something he shouldn't have done. He also may have taken multiple versions of the drug with different diseases encapsulated.

It was the unusual form of recreational drug use that brought the novel back to mind.

The war was being waged between the United States and some version of the Soviet Union, or perhaps an Asian superpower. Things did not seem to be going well.

I have no idea how it ended, but I don't remember it ending on a hopeless note.

It's not a canonical novel, but I don't like not being able to recall anything else about it. Any help would be gratefully appreciated!

Solved with credit and much thanks to Buzz. It's Slave Ship, by Frederik Pohl. See the answer below.

Now the original question that brought me here has an answer.

  • I'm pretty sure it's not Frank Herbert's Under Pressure, AKA Dragon Under the Sea – Joe L. Mar 6 '16 at 20:29
  • I'm not sure myself. I don't remember reading that particular story by Hubert. Parts of the online blurbs I googled sound close, but if there were no onshore chapters then it couldn't have been the right story. However, the 1974 reprint cover art does tickle my memory. A few weeks ago I suddenly remembered the recreational "drug" and that started me trying to recall the rest. Thanks. At the least I'd like to read Hubert's story. – rosesunhill Mar 6 '16 at 20:49
  • There are no dolphins or psi communications in "Under Pressure" nor are there recreational drugs mentioned that would give the user a disease. I do recommend you read "Under Pressure" though as it is a very good story. – JRE Mar 7 '16 at 11:35
  • Almost sounds like it could be something in the Uplift Universe, but the timing doesn't seem quite right, and I don't recall anything about a drug that gives you a disease. – Paul Mar 9 '16 at 0:38
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    drugs and telepathy make me think of Phillip K. Dick but I don't know of anything that precisely fits the premise – NKCampbell Mar 23 '16 at 21:26
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It's possible this might be Slave Ship, the first novel by Frederik Pohl, published in 1956. The protagonist is a junior naval officer, and it's set during a world war. Toward the end, I believe that he commands a submarine crewed by animals that are being controlled telepathically. Then the story ends rather abruptly.

The one thing that doesn't match is the drug. However, in Slave Ship people do engage in some kind of risky telepathic activity, which is only possible with the right equipment. I can't recall all the details, but I think the main character is "addicted" to it, because it is the only way he can commune with his wife, who has been captured by the enemy.

Cover image Cover Image 2

Free copies of the issues of Galaxy that it was published in are available via the Internet Archive:

  • I read the wiki page and it seems promising except for the absence of the drug. Could I have brought that in from another story that I read? I guess it's possible. I know I didn't make it up myself. I'm going to have to find a copy and read it. Do you remember what the "glotch" is, the telepathic weapon described in the article? However it turns out, thank you for bringing this to my attention. – rosesunhill Mar 24 '16 at 1:35
  • I looked up the description on Amazon and this is the book I was looking for. Here's a small extract: "Probably what I found the most ingenious was the 'pills' popped for a high. Pohl describes them as an engineered illness with a core of anti-biotic (including Anthrax and Pneumonia) leading to a feverish wasted 'high' before the cure sets in." - Thanks! – rosesunhill Mar 24 '16 at 10:57
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    @rosesunhill: The WIkipedia article includes links to the Internet Archive, which I've added to the answer. – FuzzyBoots Mar 24 '16 at 11:24
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    @FuzzyBoots - Thanks! I'm still giddy. I didn't think this would ever get answered. – rosesunhill Mar 24 '16 at 11:27
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    I didn't remember about the drugs at all, but it's a long time since I read the book. I do remember what is going on with the "glotch," but revealing it would be a huge spoiler. – Buzz Mar 24 '16 at 12:48

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