They won’t be arriving in the Navy’s signature mode of transportation, the F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet, but two retired Navy veterans will be landing at Eagle Harbor Books Jan. 11, to read from their new books.
John Van Wyck Gould served on a destroyer during WWII, while Stuart Franklin Platt is a retired Rear Admiral. Both men live on Bainbridge Island.
Gould will read from his historical thriller, “The Last Dog in France: A Tale of the French Resistance and Their Escape Line in WWII,” (2006, AuthorHouse).
This is Gould’s second novel, following “Escape to America,” which is also a historical thriller.
Platt will discuss “Letters from the Front Lines: Iraq and Afghanistan,” (2006, Granville Island Publishing) which he coauthored with Duffrey Sigurdson. They also collaborated on a previous book, “The Armament Tide: Rearming America.”
In the foreword to “The Last Dog in France” Gould said that the novel is more a “tale of suspense and love” than a war story, but that it is set against the historical backdrop of WWII and the French Resistance.
He notes: “At times it may seem that WWII and the decade leading up to it have been overworked subjects, but the events were so momentous and fascinating, I believe they will never be overworked or even fully explored.”
The story begins on Christmas Eve, 1987, with the escape of a convicted Nazi war criminal from a French prison. He vows revenge on the American officer and young French woman who put him there.
The story then circles back to the 1940 German invasion of France and the point when the three met.
Gould didn’t see action on the front lines in France, but he does draw on his own experience and memories in fashioning the narrative. The protagonist, Mitch Carter, talks about returning to Princeton University to finish his degree. Gould is a Princeton graduate, and went on to a career as an engineer. As a side note, his father designed the Suzzalo Library at the University of Washington and the university named a hall in his honor.
After managing a research and development department Gould retired to Bainbridge Island, where he tends his garden, keeps bees and writes.
While Gould takes the reader on a journey into the past, Platt focuses on the present.
“Letters from the Front Lines” is just what its title implies, a collection of letters from soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The book, Platt said, “is intended to preserve for future generations the experiences of men and women in uniform, providing a unique perspective about what goes on today, in the tents, on the road and in the weeds in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Platt served under President Ronald Reagan as the Navy’s first Competition Advocate General. A decorated Vietnam veteran, he also received the distinguished service medal for leadership in rebuilding the modern 600-ship Navy. His previous book, “The Armament Tide: Re-Arming America,” received praise from government officials and he’s been quoted in over 150 publications, including The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Fortune, Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.
Platt said the letters allows the reader to “step back and imagine what it must really be like over there. You forget for the moment why they are there or even without thinking about the inevitable truth that the U.S. will prevail, and you just imagine how you would survive under the conditions our soldiers exist in. The letters bypass the bias and filters of the news media and talk to us as if we were engaged in a private conversation.”
Letter writers include the mother of a soldier who has served two tours of duty in Iraq, writing to comfort other soldiers; Vice Admiral McCarthy, who talks of the “fortitude to persevere;” Sgt. Tyler, who speaks of “America’s pride for its soldiers;” Captain Baldrate, who discusses “the progress being made in establishing a new justice system” and Sgt. Missick, who praises the increasing role of the citizen-soldier and the Army Reservists.
While one might argue that Platt has filtered the letters by his selection process, it’s still gritty reading, as in this excerpt titled “Cycle of Violence.”
“It is hard to describe the toll these attacks and these techniques leave on the psyche. It takes deliberate effort to not harden your heart too much and try to convince yourself that the vast majority of Iraqis disapprove of these attacks as much as we do. Still, the frequency of such attacks in the towns where we live, and around the very people we help everyday, can’t help but make our soldierssuspicious of everyone. This uneasiness and uncertainty has led to an increase in accidental killings, and over the past month our troops have accidentally shot journalists, school children, and even Iraqi policemen. These killings are not only tragic but create an increasing cycle of violence and revenge killings.”
— Captain Brian Baldrate, 3d ACR U.S. Army, Al Anbar Province, Iraq
John Van Wyck Gould and Stuart Platt read at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11 at Eagle Harbor Books, Bainbridge Island.