“THE HAWK’S CROSS,” by Mark Varnum, Cold Brook Publishing, Waterville, 2008, hardcover, 335 pages, $19.99.
Oakland author Varnum has found an interesting new approach in his debut novel set during World War II.
Varnum has skillfully woven fictional characters in among actual events that happened along the coast of Maine toward the end of WW II.
At the center of “The Hawk’s Cross” is Navy Lt. Ken Mitchell, who is disheartened about being put in charge of a coastal watch in his hometown of Machias, far away from the conflict in Europe.
Ken soon falls back in with his friends who stayed home, including Maggie, the girlfriend whom he left behind that has taken up with another of his old pals, much to his chagrin.
But action soon finds Ken, in the form of a wounded U-boat, which comes to the Maine coast to drop off spies after it was damaged in a skirmish with an American cruiser en route. U-233 is being aided by a collaborator in Machias, one that soon hits home for Ken.
Varnum, a Presque Isle native, uses historical events such as the landing of spies at Hancock Point, the shooting down of the airship K-14 and the battle in Casco Bay involving the U.S.S. Thomas and the U.S.S. Baker. He also employs Machias-area places and landmarks, and names supporting characters after real people.
Varnum takes the narrative back and forth between the Mainers onshore and the Germans in the damaged sub, humanizing those involved by offering all points of views.
Varnum is now finishing up a second novel set in Machias, focusing on the O’Brien family and their part in the Revolutionary War. Based on this promising first novel, that should be historical fiction worth looking forward to.
“The Hawk’s Cross” is available at Borders bookstores, other select book shops, Amazon.com and the author’s Web site, www.markvarnum.com.