By Jim Heffernan
When I lived in barracks in Kansas (1964-1966), the base library would deliver a box of paperback books once a month. They were mostly “pulp”, but there were worthy books included in the mix.
One slim volume, C.S. Forester’s “The Ship” hooked me into life-long addiction to military history and fiction based on military history. C. S. Forester moved me on to Nicholas Monserat and now, to Mark Scott Smith, a local Manzanita writer.
I picked his middle book, “The Osprey and the Seawolf” to review because it involved submarines and the Battle of the Atlantic, World War II’s longest battle.
Mark’s style and approach is very fresh and entertaining. I like that the book contains enough technical details to be realistic, but never bogs you down in numbers and statistics. It’s the first book I’ve encountered that talks about wartime activity in the Gulf of Mexico. His book alternates between Ramon, an Hispanic pilot from Texas and Ranier, a German submarine commander from Lubeck, Germany.
The book is set in early 1942. The United States has only been in the war a few months. Coastal waters along the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico have become a prime target area for German U-boats.
Ramon (Ray) is flying a B-25*on the west coast as the book begins and ends up in Yucatan posing as a Pan-Am employee. He is actually attached to the Mexican Air Force. He trains Mexican pilots in the tactics of anti-submarine warfare.
Mexico is neutral at the time and there is an added element of German espionage in the book.
Ranier is making his first patrol in U.S. waters and finds our lack of defence astonishing. Ships are silhouetted by the brightly-lit cities on the coast and are easy targets.
There’s a poignant section of the book where Ramon travels by train from Tacoma, Wash. to Jacksonville, Fla. by bus/train. He stops and visits home-town San Antonio and encounters discrimination and bigotry.
Also poignant is the story of Ranier’s two leaves in Lubeck. His first visit is an idyllic visit with wife and two children. In the second visit, Lubeck has been fire-bombed and only his son survives.
I won’t spoil the ending for you.
I enjoyed the book very much. I plan to read his other two books. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book purely for entertainment. I should do it more often. It kind of clears your head.
I don’t think you need to be a military history addict to enjoy this book.
The Osprey and the Sea Wolf trailer
377 Pages, Published 6-19-20; Available at Amazon, Powell’s. Very reasonable as Kindle book. Also available at Tillamook County Library
He is also author of “Enemy in the Mirror” and “Night Fire, Morning Snow” which deal with WW II in the Pacific and the Korean War.
Watch for the launch for this 4th book – coming soon!!
* The B-25 was a 2-engine bomber used throughout WW II. It was the plane used in Doolittle’s raid on Tokyo. There was one at the Air Museum that would fly over the house every now and then. It always thrilled me when it came over and it really did roar.