AWAY ALL BOATS by Kenneth Dodson
Kirkus Star


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If you took Walter Karig, war historian, and blended him with Herman Wouk, you might turn up with Kenneth Dodson. His book reads like naval history in its most human and dramatic terms, with a slender thread of plot in which the Belinda, attack transport, is the heroine, and her complement of officers and crew the dramatis personae. Like Wouk, Dodson does not find it necessary to sprinkle his conversation with language of the forecastle in order to be realistic. Instead, he manages to make the grim reality live in the tensions and the boredom, the aspirations and the fears, the sense of dedication on the part of some of the men -- and the skill in avoiding responsibility on the part of others. A few of the men live long in memory:- Hubert, with his bad feet and his beloved garbage grinder; Flynn, who was never too exhausted to try to save one more wounded man; Quigley, expert in covering his own inadequacies. There are stories one can't forget- the snafu- over the mail, which always went to the wrong anchorage; the mad hunt for red ink- to dye the captain's sails; the handling of the stowaway who wanted a chance at the Japs. The chief figures are the captain, Hawks, whose mind tottered on the brink of madness, but who was a strange sort of genius- and at times singularly sensitive to his men's needs. And MacDougall, who took the rap, covered for Quigley, performed miracles of navigation, and eventually became custodian of the captain's prestige and sanity. A superb closeup of the amphibious warfare which successively grew more nearly the perfect machine for island hopping naval campaigning in the Pacific. I got more the sense of seeing it happen- this is how it must have been- than in any other novel I have read- if novel you can call it. But the sixty four dollar question is -- can the public take another fine but over-detailed, over-long war novel?

Pub Date: March 1st, 1954
Publisher: Little, Brown