Maritime Adventures, A Book Review

THE ROYAL NAVY DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR (A 8143) HMS DUKE OF YORK battling against heavy seas and a north easterly gale of 50 to 60 knots, while maintaining her position in the battle squadron during an Arctic convoy to Russia (photographed from the aircraft carrier HMS VICTORIOUS). Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119483

Not all effects of social isolation in the time of COVID are bad. Motivated by ennui and inspired by the news of a new film starring Tom Hanks, courtesy of an article in Military Officer journal, I am halfway through the book on which the film is based, The Good Shepard by C. S. Forester.

As a teenager, I was an avid fan of Forester’s extensive Horatio Hornblower series but I missed this book. Perhaps it’s just as well because familiarity with naval customs, procedures and technology is needed to fully appreciate this story and its gripping depiction of the stresses and peculiar challenges of commanding a ship and a convoy while fighting U-boats in the Atlantic during World War II.

As in his Hornblower series, the protagonist here is both admirable and all too human. With the benefit of having been on the bridges of both surface ships and submarines, I am finding it very easy to visualize the action. I just hope the movie lives up to the promise of the book. Seems to me that Hanks should be perfect for the part. It was previously scheduled to be released in June but has now been postponed pending resolution of the theater business.

I was intrigued by the ability of Forester to so realistically depict this naval yarn because there is no indication in the Amazon book summary or in his Wikipedia page of any naval service in his background. He was an unusual man, one of deserved fame but also controversial. His son wrote an uneven self-published biography of his father depicting him as a “complete liar”. There seems to be no reliable biography extant but I found some satisfying answers in this article from Encyclopedia.com.


Many of my favorite fiction authors have passed on. Is it just me, or has fiction declined in overall quality? In any case I’m now thinking of revisiting Forester’s Hornblower books and some others of his I previously missed. If you, dear reader, have other fictive suggestions, lay ‘em on us.

About Jim Wheeler

U. S. Naval Academy, BS, Engineering, 1959; Naval line officer and submariner, 1959 -1981, Commander, USN; The George Washington U., MSA, Management Eng.; Aerospace Engineer, 1981-1999; Resident Gadfly, 1999 - present. Political affiliation: Democratic.
This entry was posted in History, Movies, Submarines, U.S. Navy, Uncategorized, USN, War and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Maritime Adventures, A Book Review

  1. PiedType says:

    It’s been decades since I’ve heard the name C.S. Forester or the title “The Good Shepherd” but they are so familiar that I’m sure I read the book as a teenager. I was really into adventure stories, both fiction and non-fiction.

    Like

    • Jim Wheeler says:

      Me too. I was especially attracted to sea stories such as Jules Verne’s fiction, Swill Family Robinson, Two Years Before the Mast, and Joseph Conrad’s works. Man versus nature in all its beauty and violence.

      Like

  2. aFrankAngle says:

    Can’t recall the last fiction book I read. Jurassic Park? … therefore can’t help. Hoping all is well with you. Continue to stay safe.

    Like

  3. Jim Wheeler says:

    The best fiction, I submit, is that which is based firmly on real experiences. Verisimilitude is pretty obvious in writing, although not always. Jules Verne was known to play rather loosely with facts. But The Good Sheppard is, in its action at least, a good example. No one without experience could have written such scenes. Thanks for stopping by, Frank. When I think of you, I think of dancing. The COVID situation must have put a damper on such. It’s well that you got to travel before this thing hit!

    Like

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