Nazi Saboteurs on the Bayou: Steven Burgauer
WWII brought about many battles and within this novel we will learn about the Higgins boats and the important part they played in helping to stop the Nazi spies hoping to blow up the factory where these boats were being made in New Orleans. As the book begins we learn about a body found in the bayou with no form of identification yet found in a whorehouse this body belonged to a dead German. Add in two more bodies floating in the Mississippi bayou and at the heart of these murders a notebook that was stitched inside the clothing of the first body filled with unknown codes and hand drawn maps. Andrew Jackson Higgins is a colorful character and as you get to know him and hear him bark orders to this men and making deals to get the government contract and get the boats completed hopefully he will build a landing craft for the allies along with these specially crafted boats that can do what others could not be used in shallow waters and even better able to land on shores, beaches and then go back into the water by changing the propellers. Each character is quite colorful and the author takes us inside the bordellos as we meet many of the mixed blood prostitutes, some into voodoo and others with connections to our government. Added in meet Nico Carolla a mob boss whose family is intricately involved with Higgins, the deal for the government contract and is providing helping intel on the German and Italian defense of Sicily. The hope is to use the Higgins boats for an allied invasion. But, the most interesting part of this book focuses on the Navajo code-talkers how they communicate using their language and how that will be used to hide messages and intelligence from the enemy.
Meeting Commander Ian Flemming and several other British intelligence officers who provide their own take on the war, how their goals for their men and what finally happens when the boats are tested and the men are practicing in order to be ready for the real fight. From Cuba to U.S. to Tunisia all over the warzones this novel spans many places. What is really quite remarkable is the authentic dialect of the mixed-blooded women, the blacks and the fact that they are depicted as ignorant yet they are not. Astute in many ways an able to recount the incident that happens when Hector, a black man who works for Nick is killed, the reference to the green book that helps black people circumvent the city and where it’s safe to go, this book takes us way back in time before equal rights and the many freedoms afforded to everyone now. Street slang, the limited and yet new technology of the times and the history behind the boats and the war allows readers to feel as if they are taking part in it along with the characters.
The year is 1942 and the place is the Pacific, the Europe and New Orleans but the crucial element are the Higgins boats as the commander trains and demands that each one of the 35 men take turns placing the boats in the water, traveling in deeper waters and then returning and doing it over and over again. So, how are they going to stop this author created Nazi plot from stopping the production of these boats as the story spans from New Orleans, to San Diego and to North Africa spanning the globe and beyond.
As we hear the prostitutes and we visit Mahogany Hall in New Orleans we get to visualize the islands of the South Pacific in the vividly depicted descriptions added in we learn about von Brockdoff who died and his grandson is stuck in a foxhole in the blistering heat on the island of Fuji. We meet a colorful PFC Russell Brock who never met or knew him and has no idea that he died. His goal as we hear his voice and get to know him is to survive the assault on heavily fortified Japanese positions using the famous Higgins boats also called Landing Craft, Vehicle Personnel. Little does he know that these boats were created and made near where his grandfather died. These boats are the catalyst for winning the war. But, Nico Carolla the mafia boss a prostitute close to Hector who witnessed his death, named Kentucky Rose and another named Petunia add to the local color of the novel.
Code makers or code talkers are crucial to the plot. Enter Stanley Whitehorse a Navajo Indian who helped create this unbreakable code. The LCVP boats are handcrafted and made of plywood and can carry as the author relates on a few dozen men on one boat and they are built from steel. This boat can carry more men or huge pieces equipment that are mechanized like tanks. Reenter Nico Carolla and his family who although Mafia are revered, respected and help the locals in the community and fishermen aid the Allies against the fascist forces on their home turf. Brockdoff’s death does not go unnoticed and someone had sewn this Nazi codebook inside the lining of his shirt and Hector was told to resew it but with the intruder coming, demanding the book and his signet ring just who has the book, how will the codes be deciphered and what secrets will be told when someone breaks the code. How will this affect the war and the world?
Hearing the voice of Nick’s nonno or grandfather relating the truth behind his birth, his relationship to his brother Earl/Roberto and the truth about what happened during a poker game learning that he was set up by another crime family and was saved by his grandfather, Nick has a hard and fast decision to make as he learns more about his past and will have to deal with it in the future. Learning why his family has decided to help with the building of the Higgins boats, learning more about the enemy and then meeting and joining Brock Jr. and his team as they deal with the high waves, the poor conditions and the many who would not ever see shore, survive the war and some that become deathly ill. What is exciting about this book is that the reader is reading about real people and real events that happened during WWII as we meet the many Generals, Colonel, enlisted me and one that is singled out named Brock and his part in trying to save his men and find his way to shore.
Andrew Higgins is the president of Eureka Tug Boat Company and with him was Marine Colonel Peter Morgan. Discussing how fast Higgins could build his newest boat. As the author describes it and why it is needed the two argue time, money and constraints dealing with the land, the property and how it is configured. But, somewhere else and equally as important Nico is being filled in by his girlfriend Martina about a man coming to Lulu White’s door looking for his father and then killing Hector, cutting off his finger and taking the ring that was once on it. But, one thing distinguished this man that anyone witnessing this would not forget and that would be a specially made and expensive car.
Within the conversation the author reveals to readers and Nico that there is going to be a bombing but where? Are the Nazi’s planning to blow a factory and if so is it one that belongs to Nico and which one? Added in she presents him with a picture of someone connected to this but will not reveal who or how she came to get it? Trusts, loyalties, betrayals, greed, power and a war that would take hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides.
Shaun Yardley and Liam Fieldstone were meeting to talk about copies that had been distributed to Ian Fleming’s group at the Admiralty. They had reason to believe that Heinrich Himmler or someone close to this man created a certain communication of which there are four each one containing an anagram and one when deciphered would rock the world of Andrew Higgins and destroy one of his plants or more. As Captain Wilhelm Kronenhauer goes about setting charges that would destroy the Higgins boat company two Federal Marshalls learn of this plan, seek the help of someone that might identify the signet ring and the end result would change the course of events for both sides. As he was doing this Operation Torch was being implemented and what this would mean would be the liberation of continental Europe. But the impact would be in North Africa, British and American amphibious landings and American forces in three task forces.
Three deaths the first one an older man found and mutilated in a graphic manner the man was white. The second a scrawny black man shot twice with a rifle or shotgun and the final third one was a violent death along the onshore. So what do they have in common and why did they claim the first was of natural causes.
An ending quite explosive and the final fate of many unknown as codebooks, Navajo code talkers, the United States dealing with a mafia family supporting our efforts, Higgins boats, three dead bodies, a series of anagram messages and a meeting of International intelligence officers on board a ship and a group of Nazis planning to sabotage the landing craft famed for the steel ramp and a plot so vividly and brilliantly created by author Steven Burgauer as you the reader take a trip back in time to 1942 and enter the war, feel the heat, understand the trials and find out what happens when Nazi Saboteurs on the Bayou implement their plan. But, will they succeed? Will they be stopped and what will the final as the final sentence says it all: Wars are sometimes prosecuted or executed: WWII: is such a war. To learn why and more read this outstanding five star extensively researched novel.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine