Peter Deutermann had one brilliant career which essentially prepared him for his second successful career. He entered the United States Navy, receiving his commission upon graduating from Annapolis, and rose to the rank of Captain before retiring. He then embarked on his second career which is as a well received author with a great array of fiction dealing with police procedural as well as military novels to his credit. The Iceman is a rousing novel about submarine action in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters set during the early days of World War II.
Malachi Stormes takes a submarine through minefields right up to a base where Nazi submarines are moored and manages to sink three of them in a brilliant maneuver. Britain, under whose auspices he is sailing, decorates him, and the U.S. promotes him and assigns him as captain of a new class of submarine fighting Japan in the Pacific. Malachi finds that he has several problems that must be solved if he is to be successful with his new command. First and foremost the Admiral commanding the submarine fleet in the Pacific insists on use of a newly designed torpedo utilizing a magnetic action which has a very high failure rate. Malachi must actually circumvent official policy if he is to be successful in sinking Japanese ships. He also has to shape his crew up, especially so as they had a skipper who took no chances and consequently sank no ships. He also bucks the command chain alienating the admiral in charge.
The theme of the book is that success is only granted to men that do creative thinking and do not succumb to the rules of the game becoming hidebound by military regulation that prevents initiative. It does seem more than a little strange that a retired career military officer would take a bit of a jab against the institution that he spent 26 years of his life working with. But, this is not the first instance that Deutermann takes the tack that what the military needs for success is promoting some independent thought among it’s members. A difficult thing to accomplish due to the organization necessary to achieve goals in the chaos of battle.
Like his previous books, the writing is crisp and the technique and format guarantee sleepless nights to readers. The discussions of combat and use of the ordinance taking part in the battles is, of course, described by an expert. These are presented in terms that allow the reader to understand what the equipment is doing and what it takes to guide it in battle. A fascinating picture of naval warfare that took place 70 years ago and also of the men and women that fought it.
8/18 Paul Lane
THE ICEMAN by P. T. Deutermann. St. Martin’s Press (August 21, 2018). ISBN 978-1250181374. 320p.