Editors Note: This book review is of a fiction piece, and while we usually do not run reviews of fiction, it was felt that since the author is a former submariner this could be of interest to our readers.
Having just completed four very successful war patrols and been awarded the Navy Cross, Lieutenant Commander Jack Tremain is unexpectedly assigned to command the Pearl Harbor based submarine, USS MACKEREL, a boat the sailors say is cursed with bad luck. Tremain’s almost insurmountable challenge is to raise MACKEREL from the depths of poor performance and morale to be a warship of peak aggressiveness and strong pride. As the novel’s central character, Tremain convincingly demonstrates how stern discipline combined with true compassion for his men are essential elements for the world’s loneliest job, command at sea.
Set one year after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, with the US holding action in the Pacific still critically dependent on submarines, Pride Runs Deep captures the unrelenting tension and psycho-logical impact of submarine patrol warfare. In his first novel, R. Cameron Cooke, himself a submariner, has adroitly weaved a story with gut-wrenching action and characters all too fallible to the strains of wartime demands.
Other characters add credibility to Cooke’s crisply written drama. After MACKEREL passes its first wartime test and returns to Pearl, she is assigned a foreboding mission in Japan’s home waters. There, the officers and men of the MACKEREL are stretched to the limits of physical and mental endurance. Newly arrived OCS graduate, Ensign Ryan Wright becomes an unsuspecting hero when subjected to wartime pressures while his antithesis and constant tormentor, Lieutenant Tucker Turner, struggles with events that test his personal integrity. Those who have served in the military will appreciate the way Cooke develops the bonds (both good and bad) between officer and enlisted, and how these bonds have a direct impact on accomplishment of the mission.
Cooke’s primary theme of pride instilled by a competent leader into a disciplined crew is an echo of a similar premise written over thirty years ago-Lother Gunther Buchheim’s stellar novel about German sea patrols in the Atlantic, Das Boot (The Boat). Like Buchheim, Cooke masterfully transports you into the cramped and hazardous world of submariners and the stress of battle.
Though Cooke served on nuclear submarines, his research on diesel-powered subs from both the technical and historical perspective is detailed and meticulous. Diesel boaters will appreciate the comment made by Captain Steven Ireland, Submarine Squadron Seven and Tremain’s Commander, who told his hand-picked skipper, “You smell like you have been at sea for seven weeks, Jack.”
Cooke’s very believable characters captivate the reader, causing insomnia for most. Though the novel is fictional, we can well imagine events like those described actually happened during submarine patrols, both Pacific and Atlantic. Pride Runs Deep is a fast paced, entertaining read, and will surely be enjoyed by submariners and anyone who appreciates a good war novel.