Today I’m pleased to welcome author, Rob Lofthouse to Reads & Reels! He’s going to tell us all about his new book, “The Sheer Nerve”.
The Sheer Nerve: An Action-Packed War Thriller (Release Date: May 7, 2018)
The bow of U-911 came level with the end of the jetty. Another docker, wrapped in rain gear, waved them in towards the left side. Hook took a deep breath, wiping his sweaty palms on his battledress trousers. Any second now, he knew that 2 Troop would let all hell break loose.
It is 1943, and Captain Hook is at sea aboard a hijacked German U-boat. Hook has heard all the Peter Pan-themed jokes about his name: as a British Commando, he knows that humour can be an indispensable tool for survival in war. And Hook, who is taking a motley crew of submariners and commandos on a hugely daring mission, may be needing it more now than ever.
Having used ingenuity and brute force to steal the U-boat, Hook and his men set off for the French port of La Rochelle. Their aim is to render the U-boats moored there useless, severely hampering the German war effort, and thereafter to navigate through the French countryside, evading the German forces that will undoubtedly pursue them, to meet up with Special Forces in a safer part of France.
To achieve this, commandos must become submariners, as submariners must become commandos. All of them must face the horrors and losses of war. And their officers, Hook included, must keep the complex and highly dangerous project on track to the bitter end.
More complex than any standard wartime yarn of good versus evil, The Sheer Nerve takes the reader on a meticulously observed and unflinching journey through the details and often grisly brutalities of war, in the company of many engaging — and sometimes terrifying — characters. Filled with adrenaline-pumping action from start to finish, it is a must-read for anybody interested in World War Two history, and fans of high quality military fiction.
My Inspiration to Write the Story.
As a kid and young adult, I read my fair share of commando comics and stories from World War 2, all of which were ideal fodder to recruit young Robert into the Army, in particular, the Infantry. The truth is, it was a couple of years ago, when the seed for the story was gently pushed into my ear. I happened to come across a documentary on You Tube, ‘The Greatest Raid of All’, hosted by Jeremy Clarkson. ‘Operation Chariot’ was the daring Commando raid upon the Normandie dry dock in St Nazaire harbour in 1942. The mission… to deny the German battleship Tirpitz a dry dock facility on the French coast. It was Clarkson’s enthusiastic delivery of such an amazing story that served me the baseline for The Sheer Nerve.
I write fiction, historical fiction in fact. I cannot wander into the realms of the absurd when it comes to writing my stories, so I must ensure they maintain an element of credibility.
In The Sheer Nerve I deliberately gave myself a problem. I have a company of British Commandos, based in Gibraltar, who have been tasked with raiding La Rochelle U-Boat facility. For the story to be credible, I delved into my professional experience. I served for twenty years in an Infantry unit, retiring in the rank of Sergeant. At my rank level, I was privy to, and at times contributed to the planning process that British troops use to prepare for battle. With that knowledge, I sewed it into a story that would include such planning. For Captain Paul Hook to lead his Commandos into the teeth of formidable German defences, which protect high-risk assets such as U-Boats, I needed to throw the reader into the finer detail of the mission plan. By the time the first shots are fired, I want the reader to feel like one of the very men about to fight their way off the captured U-Boat, causing mayhem throughout the facility until told otherwise.
My research regarding German Submarines and Enigma machines took time. I exploited open source material available online and taught myself how to use an Enigma machine. I wrote to U-Boat enthusiasts all over Europe asking them if such a force could squeeze into the confines of a German submarine. They all said yes, but there would be a trade-off. The performance of the submarine would be affected greatly, such as with diving and manoeuvring, and many of the crews’ war fighting duties, less department heads, would have to be taken up by Commandos. The U-Boat commanded by a British Sub Captain would quite literally be nothing more than a means to deliver the commandos onto their target. A trojan horse, if you will. To be detected and attacked by the Royal Navy or indeed the Royal Air Force would certainly mean a grim watery death for men used to fighting on land.
The story is very much fiction, but I sure hope it highlights the type of men we had in our ranks back then at a time when to do nothing would only serve those who wished to harm us. The missions were dangerous, mocked even at political level, but the men who carried out such missions were ordinary lads who were willing to do some good in the face of overwhelming odds.
Commandos are trained to cause trouble, it is what they are good at. They are not reckless, glory seeking macho types, for they are intelligent, meticulous people who ensure that they will maximise their effect against an enemy force. They know that some of them will fall, but their ranks only swelled even more when the British people came to hear about such missions against the Nazi war machine, and that such men existed.
If I was only half the soldier…
About the Author
Born in Twickenham, Rob Lofthouse left school at sixteen to join his local infantry regiment, and subsequently served for twenty years in locations around the world. He retired as a sergeant, and writes the military fiction he always wanted to read, but could rarely find.
His book is available on Amazon