Author Feature: Dr. Gene Masters

Gene Masters is a retired professional engineer living in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is the author of Silent Warriors, an historical novel centered around the submarine war in the Pacific, 1941 to 1945.

“Early in my professional career, many years ago, I had the privilege of serving aboard, and qualifying on, a WWII vintage diesel-electric submarine, the USS Angler. The submarine USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear-powered vessel, had already been in service for eight years at the time, and it was very clear that the diesel-electric boats that had played such a pivotal role in the Pacific conflict, would soon be only museum boats or just memories.

“I did a lot of writing in my professional career, all of it technical, including my PhD dissertation. But after I retired, I decided to try my hand at a new skill, writing fiction. But not just any old fiction. My interest in submarines never faded over the years, and I wanted to tell the story of the ‘Silent Service,’ the U.S. submarine fleet that was the first force – and for a while the only force – to challenge the Japanese onslaught in the Pacific. I wanted to write a novel that told their story, from the Navy’s first response to the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, until final victory in 1945.

“I hope Silent Warriors does tell that story. While the central characters and their boat, the USS Orca, are fictional, Orca’s exploits, and the things that happen to Orca and the other boats she operates with, are very real, and are taken from the Navy’s historical archives. I used my own experience in the submarine service to describe how a boat works, how it’s operated, and to put the reader inside the boat as it stalks, attacks, and kills its prey – and what it feels like to hunted and attacked in turn.

“The novel’s central character, and Orca’s commanding officer, is Jake Lawlor, a 1933 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, who starts the war as executive officer aboard one of the ancient S-class boats operating out of the Philippines. When a freak accident (which actually happened to an S-boat) sinks his boat, Jake is given command of Orca, a new fleet boat, being commissioned in Groton, Connecticut. Jake then takes the boat through eleven war patrols, and Orca performs every mission submarines were called upon to perform during the war. Along the way (as the book jacket reads) friendships are forged, and love affairs and marriages are created – and destroyed.

“Of course, in telling the story, some liberties were taken. Historically, no submarine skipper ever commanded a boat for more than three or four patrols; the record was five. And the boats typically stayed in port for only two weeks between patrols unless major repairs or a refit was required. Orca’s in-port stays were typically far longer, a requirement for any character development to take place!

“In the end, I want readers to understand and appreciate the job the WWII diesel boats did during the war. Despite faulty torpedoes, some poor leadership decisions, and a fanatic and determined enemy, the Silent Service accounted for half of the enemy ships sunk (including 214 warships), totaling over five million gross tons. This was accomplished by less than 2% of all Naval personnel.

“But the price was high: 52 of 288 submarines were lost, along with 3,484 lives, 24% of all the Navy’s wartime fatalities.

Silent Warriors is available from Amazon and most other outlets, as an ebook or in paperback. The audio version will be available in May, 2019, also from Amazon. My next book, Operation Exodus, is a work of pure fiction . But it’s still centered around military action, and should be out (again in Amazon) and available by June, 2019. Operation Exodus is the story a contingent of Navy Seals sent into Iran to rescue six American missionaries who have been accused for being CIA spies. They are led (of course) by Jake Lawlor’s grandson. And (of course) a submarine inserts Jake and his team into Iran.

“In getting Silent Warriors published, I attempted to go through the conventional channels: find an agent, get a publisher, have the publisher edit and advertise, and so forth. I found that as a new, untried, author (especially one advanced in years), no agent or publisher would give me the time of day. I eventually found and checked out Escarpment Press in an online search. I used them for editing and setup, and to self-publish. The effort was so painless and successful that I wouldn’t consider publishing Operation Exodus any other way.”

– Gene Masters


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