Word of Honor: A Peter Wake Novel

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

The latest in the award-winning Peter Wake series of nautical historical novels, Word of Honor, opens in 1901 with what is called a “conversation.” But U.S. Navy Captain Wake is deeply suspicious of this “informal chat” with two Admirals and a fellow Captain, suspecting it is more an ominous inquiry into his service record. The questions concern the military actions of 1898 in Cuba and Puerto Rico and Wake’s highly active roles in both operational areas.

As in a previous book of the series, the author again portrays the Spanish as honorable enemies, and describes the initial chaos on the U.S. side during the Spanish-American War, and the less than honorable treatment of freedom-fighting Cuban allies by U.S. General Shafter. Captain Wake’s real threat seems to come from a U.S. naval bureaucratic and political cabal and a particularly reprehensible and incompetent fellow Navy officer. Wake is both a successful naval surface warfare officer, which he loves, and an accomplished intelligence operative, which he only does because he is so ordered and proficient at gathering critical information. As he outlines his actions and decision-making processes over the time in question, Wake seems sure his exceedingly long career is coming to an inglorious end.

Combining maritime combat, intelligence operations and military legal intrigue, this is another highly satisfying novel by Macomber. Minute nautical logistical details may be beyond some readers but are essential to the story. Memorable and eccentric characters such as Chief Boatswain’s Mate Sean Aloysius Rork, “King Alonso of Swan Island,” and Lieutenant Colonel and later U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt enliven the book admirably. Though part of a series, the author explains enough to make the novel fine as a stand-alone read. Recommended for military and nautical aficionados.