#BookReview Splinter on the Tide by Phillip Parotti @Casemate_UK

Splinter on the TideAbout the Book

Having survived the sinking of his first ship, Ensign Ash Miller USNR is promoted and assigned to command one of the sleek new additions to “the splinter fleet,” a 110-foot wooden submarine chaser armed with only understrength guns and depth charges. His task is to bring the ship swiftly into commission, weld his untried crew into an efficient fighting unit, and take his vessel to sea in order to protect the defenseless Allied merchant vessels which are being maliciously and increasingly sunk by German U-Boats, often within sight of the coast.

Ash rises to the deadly challenge he faces, brings his crew of three officers and 27 men to peak performance, and meets the threats he faces with understated courage and determination, rescuing stricken seamen, destroying Nazi mines, fighting U-Boats, and developing both the tactical sense and command authority that will be the foundation upon which America’s citizen sailors eventually win the war. During rare breaks in operations, Ash cherishes a developing relationship with the spirited Claire Morris who embodies the peaceful ideal for which he has been fighting.

Format: Paperback (234 pages) Publisher: Casemate Publishing
Publication date: 5th July 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction, Military

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My Review

When Naval reservist, Ash Miller, is assigned to the subchaser, Chaser 3, he is warned by Lieutenant Commander Sims not only that the vessel will roll a lot (as he and his crew subsequently find out) but that the war is right on America’s doorstep. Sims observes, ‘This is going to be a citizen’s war, an amateur’s war, and that makes it our war.‘ Given a largely untried crew to command, Sims advises Ash, ‘Drill them, Mr Miller; drill them until they think there’s no tomorrow, and then drill them some more’.

Ash takes this advice to heart and the commissioning process that follows is relentless and takes place around the clock: taking on food and other supplies, managing the delicate art of bringing ammunition aboard, and completing unending amounts of paperwork. The cramped quarters make for uncomfortable living conditions and the rolling of the ship in anything but the calmest seas means frequent recourse to ‘barf buckets’ for most of the crew.

The Cruel Sea Penguin edition
‘So they went to war.’

Ash takes his command responsibilities seriously, advising his two ensigns, Solly and Hamp, ‘From here on out, the only thing that can relieve me of my responsibility for this ship and relieve you of your responsibility to me is if I am killed in action‘. Following sea trials, and equipped with only sonar but no radar, the crew of Chaser 3 embark on their first mission, escorting a tanker and three freighters on a four hundred mile journey. It will be the first of many such missions, all of them fraught with danger.

Soon they have their first brief encounter with a U-boat and later the reader experiences the crew’s excitement on getting their first positive contact on sonar.  What follows is a cat-and-mouse game between the subchasers and enemy submarines intent on sinking ships in the convoys, ships taking vital supplies to and fro across the Atlantic. However Ash is conscious that success against a U-boat, while sparing the lives of men aboard merchant shipping, means consigning other men, albeit the enemy, to a watery grave. ‘Killing Germans was in no way a course of action in which he would ever take pleasure, but if it were the only way to get rid of Hitler and his crazed regime, Ash knew that he would do it, and live with it until the job was finished.’  

There is a real sense of the crew of Chaser 3 becoming a family and I especially enjoyed the banter between Ash, Solly and Hamp. Time ashore is brief but the crew make the most of it, including Ash who soon forms a relationship with a woman named Claire. It’s the nature of war that romance happens at the speed of light and is made up of snatched, intense moments between people who don’t know when – or if – they will see each other again.

Splinter on the Tide introduced me to the maritime vessel, the subchaser, as well as countless other things I didn’t know before such as the fact that Nazi U-boat attacks on shipping along the US’s Atlantic coast were kept from the American public for fear of its effect on morale or that, during the war, some American companies continued to supply gasoline to Germany which fuelled enemy aircraft and U-boats. 

As well as being a gripping naval adventure story, Splinter on the Tide oozes authenticity. If you are a fan of films such as The Enemy Below, In Which We Serve or The Cruel Sea, then I think you will enjoy Splinter on the Tide as much as I did.

My thanks to Casemate Publishing for my review copy. You can read more about Phillip’s inspiration for the book here and find my pick of the historical fiction titles recently published and forthcoming from Casemate. Finally, you can read an exclusive extract from Appointment in Tehran by James Stejskal which will be published by Casemate on 15th October 2021 and is available for pre-order now.

In three words: Compelling, authentic, inspiring

Try something similar: The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat

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Phillip ParottiAbout the Author

Phillip Parotti grew up in Silver City, New Mexico, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1963, and served four years at sea on destroyers, both in the Pacific and the Atlantic, before exchanging his regular commission for a commission in the U.S. Naval Reserve. In addition to a number of short stories, essays, and poems, Parotti has published three well received novels about The Trojan War. In retirement, Parotti and his wife, Shirley, live in their hometown where he continues to write and work as a print artist.

#Extract Appointment in Tehran by James Stejskal @Casemate_UK

I’m delighted today to bring you an extract from Appointment in Tehran by James Stejskal which will be published by Casemate Publishing in hardback on 15th October and is available to pre-order here. It will appeal to those who like plenty of action in their historical fiction and its subject matter is incredibly timely given recent world events.

Appointment in TehranAbout the Book

When radical Iranian students seize the U.S. Embassy compound in Tehran and take over fifty diplomats hostage the U.S. President has to negotiate with a government that wants only to humiliate the United States. When talks fail, the President must turn to the military to bring the Americans home by force.

As preparations are made for an audacious rescue, an American intelligence officer hides alone in a Tehran safehouse with a secret. He is protecting a powerful weapon known as the Perses Device, which is now at risk of being captured and employed against the United States. The Agency Director orders that it must be brought out at all costs.

But as a small American team clandestinely enters Tehran to lead the way for the rescue force, a traitor spills the secret and KGB Spetsnaz operatives begin their own search for the weapon.

At the last minute, one more American is added to the advance team – his sole mission is to get the Agency officer and the Perses device to safety. When the rescue mission fails, only two Americans are left to run the gauntlet of enemy agents and get the weapon out. Getting in was easy…

Format: Hardcover (304 pages)          Publisher: Casemate Publishing
Publication date: 15th October 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction , Military, Action

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Extract from Appointment in Tehran

In his apartment several blocks from the university campus, Abdul Mezad knelt on a carpet facing the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina and prayed. He was one of the few people in the city who knew what was about to happen. Although the Shah had been overthrown and the revolutionary republic proclaimed months earlier, there was still an infuriating presence in the city: the den of spies – the American Embassy – that housed the very same snakes who had installed the Shah onto his Peacock Throne. It had been a quarter-century, but many Iranians still felt the insult deeply – that the Americans could overthrow their elected government and install a puppet Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. It was a brazen act by insolent foreigners who knew nothing about the true nature of Iran and its people. The infidel cared only for Iran’s oil.

After his prayers, Abdul walked in the drizzling rain through the stirring city. The early morning commuters passing him would have assumed he was a student, dressed in faded jeans and a loose sweater topped off with an olive-drab fatigue jacket he had bought cheaply in a market long ago. But anyone who looked at him closely might have reconsidered, not that Abdul cared. The intensity of a zealot on a Jihad burned in his eyes, his vision reduced to tunnel vision, focused only on his destination and little else. He had a mission, and if he was to be a martyr this day, so be it.

It was cool, as November mornings in Tehran often were. To the north, the Alborz mountains were shrouded in a blanket of gray cloud. The day had started out quietly enough for a city that had been tense for months as internecine squabbles, demonstrations, and street fights broke out across the country between the moderates, the communists, and Islamists vying for influence. The hard-liners of the Council of the Islamic Revolution had only tenuous control.

That would soon change.

The shops were still shuttered. Despite the dampness in the air, the smell of barbari baking in the wood- and coal-burning ovens wafted through the neighborhood. Abdul ignored his hunger; there would be time enough for food later. Walking with determination, he covered the few kilometers to his place of appointment rapidly. He turned into Taleqani Street and, in front of him, he saw his goal. Abdul strode on, over the glistening, damp concrete and stopped outside the embassy gates where crowds had started to gather. He glared at the Americans inside the fence who looked back at him with a stare that conveyed their sense that this day would be unlike any they had experienced before. The Marine Security Guards gathered in small groups near the gates, the front entrance, and even on the roof as the embassy staff hurried to their desks inside the Chancery. They were worried; they were too few to contain the threatening crowd that gathered beyond the fence.

As the city slowly awakened, the crowd outside grew to hundreds, then thousands of young people outside the 27-acre embassy compound. As the rain tapered off, the throngs grew, made up mostly of students who had not attended school since the uprising had begun the previous January. Most believed they were there for just a peaceful protest, but the rain had dampened their spirits. Wistfully, some thought of going home, out of the damp, to enjoy a cup of tea and some savory cakes. They wanted the Americans out of their new Islamic republic, but had not come with violence in mind. They were not aware of the real plan, the plan a small group, the “Brethren,” had in mind. Today, they would finally swing the balance of power over to Ruhollah Khomeini.

Abdul was aware of the plan. He was one of the “Brethren,” a true insider. They were the core element, even closer knit than the “Islamic Brothers.” They were the vanguard of the revolution. While the placards and shouts outside the compound only demanded that the Americans leave Iran, the Brethren had other ideas. They wanted to consolidate the Imam’s power and eliminate rival militias. By seizing the embassy, they would not only break the links between the supporters of the provisional government, who wanted a “democratic Iran,” and the Americans, they would also destroy the power of the leftists who remained a threat to the Islamic revolution.

While hundreds of young men and women kept the Marines busy on the perimeter of the facility, others climbed over the barrier fence and engaged in a tug of war over the halyards of the flagpole. These distractions occupied the Marine guards. Unseen in the crowd, a small group of men pulled bolt cutters from bags and severed the chains that secured the perimeter gates. With that last physical and psychological barrier breached, the masses outside were easily pushed to storm the compound.

James StejskalAbout the Author

James Stejskal is an author, military historian, and conflict archaeologist. To gain inspiration and research his writings, he spent 35 years serving with the US Army Special Forces and the Central Intelligence Agency in interesting places like Africa, Europe, the Balkans, the Near and Far East.

He is the author of A Question of Time, a Cold War military & espionage thriller, as well as the non-fiction books Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956–1990 and Masters of Mayhem: Lawrence of Arabia and the British Military Mission to the Hejaz.

He lives in Virginia with his wife Wanda and an Anatolian Shepherd named Cheena. (Photo/bio credit: Goodreads author page)

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