- Book Review -

Boatswain's Mate
by Pat Johnston

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Review by Laurel Johnson

From first page to last, Boatswain's Mate is one helluva read, driven by a super powered engine fueled with testosterone, adrenaline and patriotism. To say this book is a keeper doesn't begin to cover it. Pat Johnston writes in first person and does it in a superbly masculine style, with gusto. Everything is documented so realistically, I had trouble believing it was fiction.

Jake Rickmeyer flees a drunken, abusive step-father and joins the Navy in 1944 at age 16. The Navy is an ideal home for Jake. He loves the sea and everything it stands for, including the ideals of serving home and country. His career spans World War Two, Korea, the Cuban missile crisis, two tours in Viet Nam, and Black Ops for the CIA. The reader sees each action through Jake's eyes as he serves aboard destroyers, cruisers, amphibious ships, and anything else the Navy throws at him. Jake is the best of the best in everything he does, from rigging for a stormy ocean to piloting through murky Vietnamese rivers, to pleasing females every chance he gets in foreign ports. Along the way he makes some influential friends who give him a leg up in rank. Such boosts are always more than earned.

Life aboard ship is described lovingly, "...the cooks baking tomorrow's bread, the comforting smell of cigarette smoke and coffee...the smell of men, machinery, fuel oil, grease and paint in every pore of her." Jake's women, also, add to his persona. A failed marriage that gets a second chance in later life, unrequited love, whores and sex-starved foreign women all help define Jake as a man, a patriot, a warrior, an often decorated man of courage, a typical American male giving his best and grieving the death of friends in battle. Jake has no political agenda, no deep hidden philosophy except to be a man and gut it out no matter what. He takes in stride rescuing fallen flyers in frigid oceans, covering night landings on enemy held beaches, and gunning after kamikaze planes that fill the sky like wasps.

Be prepared to wave the American flag in spirit as you read this rouser of a book. Pat Johnston's writing is powerful, visceral, as he communicates duty and honor. And don't be surprised at the chilling end to Boatswain's Mate. Somehow I doubt that Jake Rickmeyer was. This book is for mature adults, not children or young adolescents. I recommend it.

Boatswain's Mate
ISBN 1-58851-489-7
PO Box 151
Frederick MD 21705-0151
Author: bootstrap23@mac.com

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