About 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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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.
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
About 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.