RULES OF ENCOUNTER by William P. Kennedy


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An engrossing tale of love and betrayal based on the historically arguable proposition that the British knew that German submarines were likely to sink the S.S. Lusitania in 1915 and that--most especially in the person of Winston Churchill--they in fact wanted the attack to occur so that US would be drawn into the Great War. Kennedy (The Himmler Equation, 1989, etc.) tells the story of British naval officer William Day, sidetracked to a base on the coast of Ireland after he has had the temerity to become romantically involved with the aristocratic Jennifer Beecham. During this time, the British were using the ""rules of encounter,"" the gentlemen's agreement about how naval battles were to be fought, to frustrate the efforts of the powerful German submarine fleet. The rules required U-boats to surface and determine that a vessel was actually involved in the war effort and to allow its passengers and crew to abandon ship before sinking it. Britain, meanwhile, illegally armed supply vessels and attacked German subs while denying the policy to the rest of the world. Here, Day, whose life is complicated by the natural alliance of the Irish populace with the Germans, is unaware that his superiors are using his base to allow the enemy to intercept certain shipping information so that they will attack ""neutral"" ships (a program deemed so vital that His Majesty's government assigns a merciless intelligence officer to eliminate Day if he discovers the truth). His only solace lies in the arms of his civilian aide, Shiela McDevitt. It is, of course, dramatically inevitable that the lovely Jennifer sail on the Lusitania on its fatal final voyage, providing the appropriate cliffhanger as things progress to their inexorable and bittersweet end. Kennedy knows how to tell a story, and in Commander Day he has created a courageous patriot who becomes keenly aware that the evils of war manifest themselves on both sides of the battle. A thought-provoking and enjoyable thriller.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: St. Martin's