MURPHY'S WAR by Max Catto


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Murphy's War bears the toolmarks of a reassembly of the best parts from Catto's 1964 novel, D-Day in Paradise, which had a South Pacific setting and featured an able-bodied misfit leading Catholic missionaries in the successful rout of an invading naval flotilla. In this case, the setting is the coast of equatorial Africa, Murphy is an Australian knockabout sailor from the Royal Navy, and the quarry is a U-boat that he pursues up a vile river from his base. The base was a Quaker mission that had retrieved him as the only survivor of his torpedoed ship. All the others had been machine-gunned in the water by a fanatic Nazi lieutenant. The scene is comparable to Gwyn Griffin's An Operational Necessity with the added twist that even the Germans know the end of the war is only days away. The anchorless Murphy emerges from the sea with the first driving ambition of his life-to get that submarine. Scenarist Catto tells it like you can see it. (For the snakily sexy Murphy, read Steve McQueen.) Despite Quakerish murmurs to the contrary, Murphy pursues his manic vengeance and the technological solo-work he concocts is vividly reminiscent of those suspenseful repairs Bogart effected on The African Queen. There's no doubting the reader magnetism in the idea of one weaponless man against a metal-clad, disciplined crew. Solid in hardcover, destined for paperback and suggesting itself for technicolor.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1969
Publisher: Simon & Schuster