THE RIGEL AFFAIR is a novel based on real events and the life of Navy Seal Charlie Kincaid. Part Cherokee, born into Southern poverty, Charlie trained as a diver and became the leader of the war’s first underwater demolition team. His men experienced their first test, moments after the strike on Pearl Harbor, rescuing twenty-eight U. S. sailors trapped in the sinking USS California. Their missions sent them to New Zealand, Australia, and a dozen Pacific Islands, into the most dangerous combat areas on that side of the world. They dove and carried out clandestine missions under horrific weather and health conditions while constantly facing attacks by Japanese troops, bombers, and submarines.
But Charlie’s life was not all hardship. Even as the bloody war ground on in Europe and the Pacific, he fell in love. Her name was Mattie, and she lived in New Zealand. Their love story offers a tender counterpoint to gritty battle scenes throughout the novel. The book is framed around actual love letters sent by the couple, newspaper accounts from 1941-44, material from various archives, and documented events involving Charlie’s ship, the USS Rigel. We’ve also interviewed surviving shipmates.
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Forgotten Letters is a beautifully told story of family, love, faith, and war that focuses on Robert Campbell, an American and his love interest, Makiko Asakawa, who is of Japanese descent. The two meet as children when Robert’s family stay with Makiko’s family in Yokohama during the 1920s to 1930s. It’s during this time that a relationship is formed between the two. Robert’s family eventually moves back to the United States while he is still in school, but Robert and Makiko vow to see each other again and maintain their bond by writing letters to each other. It is not until the 1940s, with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of World War II that the two are reunited. The novel delicately pieces together the story of these two individuals living through death and devastation as they fight to get back to each other.
Kirk Raeber does an excellent job of handling the intricate details of the novel. There are a lot of historical components to this piece, and the author weaves his fictional story into American and Japanese history among other components of the novel flawlessly. Firstly, Robert’s father is a preacher; therefore, a lot of his lessons for a young Robert are based on scripture and particular Bible verses. Robert often returns to these Bible verses during trying moments in his life. It’s clear that the author had some knowledge of the Bible and took great care in picking out the right verse during difficult moments in Robert’s life. Secondly, the author seems to be aware of American and Japanese culture during the time period that the novel spans. Also, even though this is a fictional story, there are historical elements weaved into it, such as the attack on Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Raeber does not skip over these aspects of history, but rather he weaves them into Robert and Makiko’s story, illustrating not only how these unfortunate events impacted these two fictional characters, but it can also be reasoned that his telling of their story resonates the mood and despair of those that actually lived through the experience. It’s clear that Raeber took care while writing these events to make sure that he handled them with accuracy.
A small note of criticism lies within the secondary characters of the novel, Robert and Makiko’s son and daughter. The whole story begins when the adult children are going through their deceased parents’ belongings and stumble upon the letters that the two lovers exchanged long ago. This then leads into Robert and Makiko’s storyline, and the reader isn’t returned to the characters of the adult children until the end of the novel. While Robert and Makiko’s story is obviously the focus of the novel, it would have been nice to be returned to the adult children periodically throughout the novel. The placing of these two characters at the very beginning and very end of the novel creates a disconnect with them, and it leaves one questioning their purpose overall. It’s very possible that Robert and Makiko’s story can be told without the mention and inclusion of their children as characters.
Overall, Raeber’s Forgotten Letters is a beautifully told story of love’s triumph over distance, death, and war. This novel is highly recommended to those that might have an interest in World War II, 1940s Japanese culture, or anyone who just enjoys a good love story.
Pages: 406 | ASIN: B01HQFFXYY
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In the latest Nick Grant adventure story the Japanese plot to steal the famous Hughes H-1 racer. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?
Interesting, during the World War II, Howard Hughes got the opportunity to examine a captured Japanese A-6M Zero. He recognized several innovations he had incorporated into the H-1. Many years later, he told a story about a 1936 break in at his Culver City airport. The culprits ransacked the H-1 hangar and several blue prints were missing. The Japanese were never implicated. I took those snippets of story and wrote Nick Grant into the action.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write?
I enjoy writing the supporting characters as much as I do writing Nick. In each novel, I have introduced news characters – some good – some evil. In Black Dragons Attack my hands down favorite is Brian O’Malley. Without exception, the advance copy readers loved him. Those same early readers asked that I include Brian in future Nick Grant Adventures. Brian is a good hearted cowpoke who has a pivotal role in the story line. Cowboys and spies? An interesting combination that I hope my reader’s enjoy as much as I did crafting the story.
The Black Dragons are working for the Japanese Intelligence Service who are conspiring with the Third Reich in California. How did you develop this twist? Anything pulled from real life?
As a young military intelligence officer, the Army assigned me to the US Pacific Command, Oahu, Hawaii. Several of the old hands told me about their experiences before and during WW II. One retiring Army Counter Intelligence Agent spoke about a concerted espionage effort between the Japanese and Germans. A married couple, who were in fact German Spies, provided critical information to the Japanese prior to the December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Another spoke about and effort to steal US Communications codes. A third spoke about a effort in California to infiltrate US aircraft manufactures to steal advanced US technology. Much like the Chinese are doing to us today.
I understand that real people inspired this story. Who were those people and how did they impact you?
Once I saw bestselling author, Homer Hickam, of October Skies fame, wearing a T-Shirt emblazoned with the following: BE CARFEFULL – YOU MIGHT WIND UP IN MY NEXT NOVEL. I build my characters around people that I have known in my life. Some are blends of different individuals others are as I remember them but with cover names. As a career foreign intelligence officer I have known many people that would stretch the reader’s belief. One stands out in my mind, the senior intelligence officer of the Army’s Paratrooper Division, the 82d Airborne. Then Lieutenant Colonel Nick Grant – now Brigadier General (Retired) Grant was a huge influence on me. During down time on maneuvers he told me about his youth and burning desire to become a pilot. Like my character, Nick Grant actual comes from humble beginnings. He worked hard to achieve many things in his successful career. I modeled my Nick after General Grant’s steely eyed nerve, technical expertise, and strong desire to take the hard right instead of the easy wrong.
Book IV. The Black Dragons are back! After their last run in, Nick Grant believes his nemesis, Toshio Miyazaki, is dead. Determined to leave the spy games behind, Nick starts a new life as a Naval Aviation Cadet. During training, famous aviator and movie producer, Howard Hughes, lures Midshipman Grant into a mock dogfight. Afterwards Hughes offers Nick a pilot job. Nick’s college dreams stand in the way, and he turns Hughes down. However, their paths cross again in an unexpected way.
In 1936 the Black Dragons, working for the Japanese Intelligence Service, remain active in California and have a new partner, the Third Reich! Agents from both countries team up in their most audacious plan yet—steal the Hughes H-1 racer. Their plan—use the cutting edge technology to develop the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft.
The Japanese plan goes awry when US Naval Counterintelligence becomes aware of their activities. Commander Boltz assigns Nick and Senior Chief Ellis to guard the airfield until the FBI can take over. Together, they foil the Black Dragons’ attempt to steal the H-1 plans but the Japanese regroup with an even more sinister plan. They grab a hostage and demand that Nick deliver the H-1 technical plans and the Navy’s Top Secret Pacific War Plans.
When the Black Dragons attack, it’s up to Nick and friends to turn the tables, retrieve the stolen goods and a fabled katana. Join Nick Grant, Nancy Tanaka, and Leilani Porta in their latest adventure, Black Dragons Attack!
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