New Navy Novel Coming in June
When an aircraft carrier makes ready for deployment, a great many tasks must be completed before the lines are cast off and she puts out to sea. Some of the planes arrive while the ship is at sea; others are loaded by Tilly the crane.
At Vanilla Heart Publishing, we’re making ready for the deployment of a new, Vietnam-era navy novel called, appropriately, “The Sailor.” This means a description must be written, final edits must be locked into place, and files must be formatted for Kindle, Nook, Smashwords, OmniLit, and print.
After the goodbyes are said at the pier, the lines are cast off, and with the help of tugboats, the carrier is nudged out into the channel. Western Pacific deployments for the USS Ranger, the inspiration for my novel, began in the San Francisco Bay.
Usually, a fair number of sailors stood on the flight deck, partly out of ceremony, partly to wave to family members ashore, and partly to see the sights as we passed beneath the Bay Bridge and then the Golden Gate Bridge.
As the photograph shows, a sailor standing on deck for his first cruise was a bit concerned about a collision with the bridge. There was room to spare, but it sure didn’t look like it as we approached the bridge.
I served on board the ship for two deployments to the Western Pacific (WESTPAC, as we called it) and, while many of the old hands were already in their shops and offices, I wasn’t going to miss seeing San Francisco from the deck of the ship for anything. I could almost see my aunt’s apartment on a high hill near the Mission Delores. Well-known landmarks stood out in detail above Fisherman’s Wharf. Years later, I would show my wife this same view from a small harbor tours boat.
When conscription and the Vietnam War pull pacifist David Ward away from Montana, mountain climbing and magic, he leaves for Navy boot camp with a suitcase of regrets. His fiancé ignores him, a close friend callously tells him to kill bad guys and have sex in every port, and an old flame sends devastating news that wrenches his life from its foundations.
Friends and family warned that if he dodged the draft, he would let down his church and country and become an embarrassment to everyone. Canada offered war resistors anonymous safety one hundred miles north of his ranch; a Swedish friend offered him the loving safety of her home and bed 4,500 miles away in Göteborg.
Rather than choosing a tempting offer for the wrong reasons, David serves onboard an aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam. Unlike his pilot friend Jack Rose, he’s more vulnerable to letters from home than from the war. His fiancé ignores him, a close friend callously tells him to kill bad guys and have sex in every port, and an old flame sends devastating news that wrenches his life from its foundations.
His spare-time work on a mountain climbing novel anchors him, a vision quest with a Hawai’ian sorceress in the warm waters off Oʻahu brings him hope, and an unexpected relationship with a Filipino bar girl saves his sanity. His best friend will never return home from the war. When David returns, no family and friends meet the plane or help get David’s life back together. They enjoy hearing funny stories about the ship, teaching him to remain silent about everything that matters.
During a Western Pacific cruise, carriers routinely stopped at Hawai’i, the Philippines, Hong Kong and Japan. With the help of the ship’s special services department, we took tours of many cultural attractions, theater shows, and scenic areas. Otherwise, we were on our own in search of great deals in electronics at the navy exchanges, the best restaurants, and probably far too many sailor bars.
I hope you enjoy “The Sailor” when it’s released in June. You’ll come away, I hope, with a sense of life at sea, a taste of the smoke and beer from a liberty port bar, feelings of loss when friends disappear, the loneliness that plays with a man’s brain while he’s far away from family, and some unexpected twists and turns in the plot.