Bacalao may just be the best World War II submarine novel published in the last 30 years. It is certainly the most technically accurate. From diving procedures, to torpedo firing, to the way orders are given and executed, everything is done right.
The technical stuff will certainly please the submariners. But what about the other readers, who may not know a TDC from a growler phone and just want interesting characters and realistic situations? You get those, too. The main character, Lawrence Miller, is introduced as a retired admiral arriving at a reunion, but by the third page he's back in 1940 as a young lieutenant watching his new boat being built in Connecticut.
A lot of characters are introduced in the first chapter. There is Morgan, a year older than Miller, and a born engineer. And Kenneth Ohara, an electrician's mate who will become a key character. Carl Hammersmith, U.S.S. Bacalao's prospective commanding officer, appears briefly, but is killed in a car wreck before the boat is launched. His replacement, "Andy" Morley, will command the boat through the end of her first war patrol. Also introduced in this chapter is Fred Ames, the executive officer and Morley's old Academy roommate. Before the story is over Ames, Morgan, and Miller will all find themselves in command of Bacalao.
With Bacalao completed and in commission, she is sent to Pearl Harbor, where she is tied up at the Sub Base during the Japanese attack. The boat is immediately sent on her first war patrol, after being rearmed with new, top secret magnetic fuses for her torpedoes. An attack on a Japanese troop convoy, ruined by defective torpedoes, is followed by heavy depth charging. During the course of that battle Morley wins a Navy Cross, and Ames a Navy Distinguished Service Medal. Ohara, risking his life in a flooded motor room, literally saves the boat and everyone aboard, also getting a DSM.
A lot more action follows. In the midst of all this, Miller meets his future wife, an Australian Navy officer called Sarah. When Morgan unexpectedly gets command of Bacalao, Miller becomes his XO, later leaving for his own command, an ancient S-boat in Alaskan waters. When he returns, a year later, to take over Bacalao, he is able to marry his Sarah during an overhaul in San Francisco before returning to the war.
Bacalao has just about everything you could want in a sub story. The characters are believable, with even the minor players fully fleshed out. The technical details are right on, and there's plenty of action to keep the story moving. I read a lot of sub books, mostly non-fiction, but I read my share of novels, too. This is one that sets the standard others will have to meet.