The Glory Boys

Written by Douglas Reeman
Review by Elizabeth Hawksley

The Mediterranean, 1943. The tide of war is beginning to turn. Lieutenant-Commander Robert Kearton has just taken charge of a newly-formed flotilla of motor torpedo boats. His task is to protect the convoys coming in from the Atlantic with vital oil supplies for beleaguered Malta. If Malta falls, the Mediterranean will effectively be in Nazi hands. Kearton’s second task is to do what he can to hamper enemy supply lines to Rommel’s army in North Africa.
Reeman, himself a WW2 navy veteran, writes with conviction. The language, emotions (stiff-upper-lip), and virtues (endurance, courage, decency) of the period all add to the authenticity.

On the minus side, I found the characterization a touch predictable. On board ship, there is the jokey one, the cold bastard, the one nobody likes and so on. Kearton himself is (naturally) heroic, confident, and meticulous and cares about his men. ‘They broke the mould when they made him,’ says one of the crew. I also found the relationship between Kearton and Glynis unlikely. Kearton scarcely knows her and suddenly, out of nowhere, he’s in love. Glynis’s emotional range goes from A to B and is mainly characterized by gasping ‘Bob, I’ve been so worried,’ down various crackling phone lines.
My general feeling is that this is, above all, an action book, and here Reeman excels. My grasp of naval jargon is fairly basic and frequently I wasn’t too clear exactly what was going on, but the pace was so fast and the torpedo boats’ dodges, feints and sudden blazing action scenes so gripping that I was swept along by the power of the writing. Reeman is excellent at getting across male camaraderie in war, together with the living-life-on-the-knife-edge feel. If you like historical accuracy and a rip-roaring read full of deeds of derring-do – this is the book for you.