Friday, October 4, 2013

Deutermann Takes A Dive With Ghosts

It took a special kind of naval crewman to volunteer for submarine duty. And although they fared better than Axis forces, submarine service sustained the highest mortality rate of all branches of the U.S. military during World War II. Approximately one out of every five submariners was lost.

It is also in this murky and dangerous world that author P.T. Deutermann casts his latest military suspense novel, focusing in on an improbable operation to sink or damage an aircraft carrier that would rival Yamato-class battleships at the end of World War II. To accomplish this mission, the U.S. Navy decides to send a single submarine to breach the Bungo Strait and sink or damage the massive ship.

At the helm of the USS Dragonfish is Lieutenant Commander Gar Hammond, an aggressive captain with a reckless habit of chasing down enemy destroyers. Equipped with the newest advances in sonar, it is up to Hammond and his crew to evade detection, navigate mine fields, enter an impossibly narrow and shallow channel, engage the enemy ship, and then escape out to sea again.

The Ghosts Of Bungo Suido is an insider seat at the end of World War II. 

The novel is set at the end of 1944, shortly after American reconnaissance aircraft operating out of China discovered the carrier hiding inside a 1,000-foot-long dry dock disguised as an industrial building. From there, Ghosts Of Bungo Suido tells a story that covers the last days of the war in three acts. 

The first act follows Hammond as captain of his submarine. The second act shares his experiences as a prisoner of war, with a sweeping view of Japan. And the third, the denouement, completes the story with courtroom drama that resolves loose ends during the dysfunctional transition from war to peace. 

P.T. Deutermann does a fine job imagining Hammond as a rugged and wildly independent sea captain who undergoes a conflicted transformation from confidence and clarity to surrender and resignation. As goes the captain, so goes the book. The first act defines Hammond as a tough-as-nails captain, but also sets these razor-sharp capabilities at odds with a command decision most consider suicide.

Although he comes across as stiff, Deutermann does his best to humanize his protagonist. Early on, the author attempts to do this by having Hammond connect with and confide in a female JAG officer. Later, after he is captured, empathy for the Japanese becomes a mechanism to transform him. 

While never sympathetic, Hammond spends considerable time attempting to understand the Japanese perspective with a relentless logical analysis and shared experience. Hammond is there when the ill-prepared last hope of the Japanese Navy is sunk, the bombing of Kure, and the denotation of atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Hagasaki. 

It is during these experiences and others that he attempts to reconcile the enemy's sense of honor and floundering survival. Doing so is interesting but it also proves to be a hinderance in the emotional development of the book. It never truly captures the claustrophobic feel that accompanies most submarine stories nor does it revere the psychological strain felt by prisoners like Louis Zamperini

A few graphs about author P.T. Deutermann. 

Boston-native P.T. Deutermann is no stranger to military thrillers. He has written 15 novels, including The Last Man and Pacific Glory, which won the W. Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction. He also served 26 years in the military, which began on the destroyer USS Morton before he was assigned to Swift class gunboats operating in Vietnam.

He later returned to serving aboard destroyers, eventually assuming command of Destroyer Squadron 25. Beyond his personal experiences, his father served as vice admiral during World War II and both his uncle and older brother were submariners. Their stories helped Deutermann inform this novel.

Ghosts Of Bungo Suido By P.T. Deutermann Ascends To 6.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

The pace and authenticity of Ghosts of Bungo Suido makes for a galvanizing read. There are dozens of events that will stay with readers, including the sinking of the Shinano, which was the name of the real Yamato-class aircraft carrier launched by the Japanese Navy and sunk by the USS Archer-Fish. Deutermann puts us on and below decks, recreating the last few hours it remained afloat.

The Ghosts Of Bungo Suido is available from Amazon. You can also order the novel from Barnes & Noble or download it for iBooks. The audiobook, The Ghosts Of Bungo Suido, is narrated by Dick Hill, who lends a well-seasoned voice to Hammond.
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