The Hooligans: A Novel (P. T. Deutermann WWII Novels)

Written by P. T. Deutermann
Review by G. J. Berger

After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Duke Medical School resident Lincoln Andersen gives up his genteel Southern life to enlist in the Navy. The novel opens in August 1942 during the fierce fight for the steamy, malaria-infested Guadalcanal Island. With no experienced surgeons nearby, Linc must triage and operate on many of the hundreds of men savaged by air, sea, and land battles and dumped at his little base. He works in tents, huts, and sand trenches. He boils instruments in spare half-drums, and a medic reads to him from how-to manuals as he operates.

The U.S. campaign takes Linc through the Solomon Islands and up to the Philippines and the biggest naval battle of World War II. On the way, Linc assists a squadron of PT boats, dubbed “The Hooligans.” These fast, wooden boats, bristling with guns and torpedoes, menace Japan’s big fighting and transport ships. Linc’s surgical talent and tenacity become legendary. Strangers hear of him as that Superman Doc. Some Navy brass want to send him back to the U.S. for daring to perform life-saving surgeries far beyond his formal training. To them, he too is a “hooligan.”

Deutermann’s expertise in World War II naval operations is evident, as is his knowledge of medical procedures in that war. The many characters ring true. The multiple attacks on land and sea, by day and night, never feel routine and often end in unexpected twists. The narrative, told entirely in Linc’s first-person voice, whose spare prose honors his intensity, is true to how people talked and wrote in the mid-1940s. I highly recommend this fictionalized account of a little-known aspect of the larger Pacific War, seen through the eyes of a self-taught genius surgeon.