DHOW PATROL by Martin Gregg


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When Lieut. Charles Maginty, a young Australian in the WW II Royal Indian Navy, gets into big trouble in Bombay (brawling, boozing), he's given an alternative to court-martial: he can become part of the ""Dhow Patrol""--as an undercover agent aboard a native fishing-ship, reporting (by radio) on the Indian Ocean movements of Japanese subs. So dark-skinned Maginty, who speaks fluent Urdu, masquerades as a half-witted peasant, taking the lowliest job aboard the Queen of All the Seas, an ""ancient, beautiful and foully stinking"" dhow captained by patriarch Khan Mohammed Khan. Only Khan, a UK sympathizer, knows Maginty's real identity; the new ""Bewuquf"" (fool) slowly becomes part of the chaotic, familial ship-life--surviving a hurricane, wrestling a shark, saving one of Khan's grandchildren from a sail-rigging fall. And, while no enemy subs are sighted, the dhow does come across a lifeboat full of dead men and two live women--tetchy nurses Sara (a South African) and Yagiki (a Japanese-American), sole survivors of a torpedoed British ship. Then, however, as the fish-filled dhow heads home, nearing the Laccadive Islands, a Japanese sub surfaces and attacks--sinking the dhow, machine-gunning nearly everyone who makes it to shore. Soon only five survivors remain alive on the island: Maginty, the two non-Muslim women, one Muslim seaman (a sex-maniac), and a baby. So the final chapters here involve a brief survival-ordeal, some lighthearted sexual tensions, and--after two more deaths--the survivors' daring sneak-attack on the Japanese (who have occupied the island next door). A thin, ultimately comic-bookish adventure--but Maginty is a relatively lifelike hero (he even cries at one point), and Gregg fills out the scenario with pungent detail (life aboard the dhow), sneaky sentiment (the Maginty/Khan relationship), and ribald humor.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1984
Publisher: Walker