Honoring the Enemy: A Captain Peter Wake Novel

Written by Robert N. Macomber
Review by Thomas j. Howley

U.S. Navy Captain Peter Wake of the Office of Naval Intelligence is tasked with assisting local patriots in Spanish-occupied Cuba in 1898. This requires the naval officer to serve in a ground combat environment because of his unique earlier experiences, prior domain expertise in Cuba and other hotspots, and knowledge of the people and language. The Captain would much rather be commanding a combat ship but reluctantly agrees to “soldier” on. Along with his best friend and Chief Boatswain’s Mate Sean Rork, USN, the two sailors make their way around the steamy hot terrain of eastern Cuba even though both are in their late fifties.

They link up with local patriot commanders and try to persuade the American ground commanders of the fastest and simplest way to attack the fortified city of Santiago de Cuba where the Spanish fleet lies within its protected bay. No plan survives first contact, and the two friends somehow end up joining U.S. Army troops and especially the Rough Riders and their acting Commander Lieutenant Colonel Teddy Roosevelt, Peter Wake’s former boss as Navy Secretary. Amazingly, after a few bloody ground battles, the two get to witness the major naval engagement between the two combatant fleets as honored guests on a Spanish warship.

Fourteenth in a series, this magnificent historical novel is just fine as a stand-alone. The military, operational intelligence, and technical acumen of the well-known author are exceedingly formidable. The accompanying sketch maps are illustrative and necessary, something too often missing in many books. The Spanish are portrayed as honorable adversaries fighting a losing battle. Small, surprising and arcane historical details abound. Macomber’s work is filled with military pathos and sentiment all soldiers and sailors will instantly understand. A masterpiece, and one of the best I’ve reviewed!