Friday, December 16, 2011

Submarine Novel Research Continued!

Today I will cover the five Periscope! novels.

The Periscope! Series

I figured Halsey Clark was a pseudonym before I read any of the series, but I found out from Google that "Halsey" is a common name with Clarks, and has been for some time before WWII. OTOH, the Halsey Clark of the Periscope! series is definitely a pseudonym, for at least four if not five different authors! This series was like a roller coaster...

Pacific Standoff

Set in the Pacific in 1943, Pacific Standoff was an excellent book! It was reminiscent of Harry Homewood's work - great characters, exciting situations, and well-written. This book can stand on its own with the best sub novels ever written. The hero is Jack McCrary, but several other side characters referred to or appearing in this book become main characters later in the series, like Jack's Cousin Bob DuToin, who comes aboard as PCO - or a Prospective Commanding Officer, a final bit of training before command - Jack's rival, the engineering genius Ben Mount, and Jack's sister Helen.

Deepwater Showdown

Set in the Atlantic and Mediterranean in Late 1944 until April 1945, this book follows Ben Mount, a Jewish submarine officer, who is shunted off to work with the Royal Navy, though he repeatedly applies for action in the Pacific. Ben works developing special weapons for the RN, though he occasionally gets temporary command of a British sub for special missions. New important characters are introduced - Moxie Mulford, a British sub commander who is close friends with Ben, and Betsy Kirkland, the love of his life and daughter of the admiral commanding of the sub force, a noted anti-semite. This is a solid novel, though not as good as the first, but be warned, this novel has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the series! The characters re-appear, but in later novels, Mount is in the Pacific or Washington while he is simultaneously somehow in Britain in this one. It's as if the roller coaster stopped, you got out and went onto another coaster, then went back and continued on the first coaster. Bizarre!

Depths of Danger

Set in the pacific in late 1944, this was a low point in the series. Jack and Helen McCrary, Ben Mount, and Bob DuToin all return, but there is little submarine action, and what there is of it is ridiculous and unreal. It's more an espionage story whose characters are involved with submarines. The characters are different than they were in the previous two novels, working for different motives. It was was OK, but not what I was waiting for. Mount is throughout supposed to be an engineering genius, but the only thing he actually invents is a way to mount an existing camera to a periscope to get high quality pictures for recon purposes. Helen McCrary is probably the star here. Where the first coaster had lots of corkstrews and dramatic drops and tight curves, this is a bunch of bunny hops.

Grand Finale

With the fourth installment we're back in a cracking submarine novel. This one is set in the Pacific in 1945, and brings together the McCrarys, Ben Mount, Betsy Kirkland, and Bob DuToin. This is almost as good as the first, and might have been written by the same person, but unlike the first novel, this novel's sub action is all closely based on real events, particularly that of Gene Fluckey and Barb and the big wolf pack sent into the Sea of Japan at the end of the war. The wolf pack boats were equipped with a new device, FM Sonar AKA Hell's Bells, to penetrate the vast mine fields sealing the sea off from the Pacific.


Now we go into the Land of Strange! Supersub is set from VE Day to the seventies, and concentrates on Ben Mount. This novel is just strangely written - I found it annoying - with abrupt changes of scene and again, no relation to the first four novels besides the names and relationships of the main characters. The editing was awful, and made me wonder if any of the other books were edited at all, and the differences were due to the quality of the writers. the whole things is told in flashback, with Ben Mount a thinly disguised Admiral Rickover. The stuff about nuclear subs is well realized - this guy knows nukes, and it shows - but it gave me headaches to read. The characters have almost nothing in common with their previous incarnations, changes in their personal lives are abrupt and senseless, and there is no real development. Avoid this one!

The whole thing reads like someone had a sketched out plan with no real timeline, no character studies beyond names and a couple sentences about their relationships, and sent it out to five different authors to write simultaneously. Each one went their own way, and while some were very good, and others competent, there was no overall tracking and reconciliation between them.


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