The Chatham Rats by David Mariner (1969) was an interesting, plunging, hair-raising espionage tale.
It starts out kind of slow--only it's not really slow. It's more the fact that you know no more than the characters, or less actually, and so it's a bit confusing for the first couple of chapters. The story itself, told in third person, but with one main character and about three other sub-main-characters who most of the action is focused around, is intriguing, baffling, and highly terrifying if you were actually there.
Set in the Mediterranean in June of 1941, the entire story covers less than a week in the life of the crew of the ship H.M.S. Wildcat. (Perhaps I ought to add here that the author is British.) Following is the blurb from the inner cover:
They deliberately betrayed the British Mediterranean Fleet, fought a tragic action with unwitting British destroyers, defied the might of the Luftwaffe, the Italian High Command, the Prussian Gestapo, even a crack Wehrmacht paratroop regiment, and all to buy two years of time. They were called the Chatham rats. They wore Italian uniforms, carried cyanide capsules, fought secretly with a fast Italian destroyer they had captured during the Battle of Matapan, and they had one aim - to find and exterminate the men who designed the first guided missile in history - the radio-controlled marine glider bomb.
I had one main issue with the book: language. While definitely not as dicey as it could have been, there was just enough of it for me to really notice. I was able frequently enough to see it coming and kind of skip it, but I still would put a warning out there.
I would also like to allude to certain sexual references that really were not necessary, though, I don't suppose, are entirely unrealistic for a group of fighting men. Also, I would not say that the worldview was overly Christian though there was no denial of God as of such--but then again, even full-blown modern British television still has an element of cultural acknowledgement of God.
Overall then, I enjoyed the story, but would not say, "Y'all! You just have to read this here book!" Particularly since it is a fictional tale...
By Bill Yenne
The subtitle is a basic summation of the contents of the book: The Heroic Saga of the Two Top-Scoring American Aces of World War II.
This book engagingly tells the story of Major Tommy McGuire and Major Dick Bong and their "Ace Race". But more than that, the author gives the reader insight into the lives and personalities of these two young men.
The story is broke into three sections, "Boys", "Warriors", and "Rememberance". The first section brings McGuire and Bong to the brink of war. The second section takes them through the war. Each chapter in this section is headed by a 'score card'--noting how many confirmed enemy planes they had shot down. The third section is post war, a remembering of these two top-aces.
When I started the book, I was thrilled to discover that these two young men flew my second favorite fighter plane; a P-38! I learned a lot about the planes themselves. In fact, before reading this book, I did not really know that P-38's were fighters, much less their amazing speed and mobility.
Stationed in the Pacific, America's two top aces were friends as well as 'rivals'. They were in different squadons and fighter groups at different times, though both served all their time in the Fifth Air Force. At times they flew together, at other times they were grounded. McGuire went through at least five planes--each one named Pudgy after his wife. (That was her nickname--her real name was Marilynn.)
Both had different methods of attack, but both were outstanding fighter pilots...
The author likens fighter pilot to the knights of old, the planes to the war horses. It is an interesting comparison, but actually rather fitting, as both knights and pilots are encased in steel, under them a powerful means of transporation.
There is hardly anything objectionable in this book. The only language is direct quotations from the men's letter's home.
I really enjoyed the book. It was both informative and engaging. I learned more about the structure of the USAAF from this book than I ever had any inkling of before.
I would recommend this book to those interested in WWII, the Pacific Theater, and old war birds.
A Reformed Presbyterian girl who enjoys a good movie or a good book any ol'
Note: All images picked up online. No copyright infringment intended.