Time and Tide

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Captain Arthur McKay is given command of the cruiser USS JEFFERSON CITY after his best friend, Win Kemble, proves to be a coward during the United States Navy’s worst-ever defeat at Savo Island in 1942. While earning the respect of his crew and trying to prove his friend’s innocence, McKay discovers that he no longer cares for Rita, his manipulative wife, and begins to think that he loves Lucy, Rita’s sister and Kemble’s wife.

Half the novel is devoted to McKay’s story, the rest to the lives of a dozen or so of his men, the most compelling being Frank Flanagan, an innocent from the Bronx fleeing the prospect of becoming a priest, and Montgomery West, a film actor who longs to transfer his celluloid heroics to the real world and earn the affection of the English starlet he adores.

TIME AND TIDE traces the exploits of these men over the final three years of the war in a series of bloody battles from Australia to the Aleutian Islands. Thomas Fleming, who portrayed military ineptitude in Korea and Vietnam in THE OFFICERS’ WIVES, vividly displays the grotesque horrors of war while examining the dangers posed to both ordinary seamen and career officers by the stupidity of admirals overly concerned with their careers. Indeed, Fleming describes almost everything that can go wrong during the heat of battle.

While Fleming tosses in many cliches of war fiction, he attempts to offer more than a mere entertainment. Owing more to the spirit of Herman Melville than to that of Herman Wouk, TIME AND TIDE’s true subjects are moral ambiguity and America’s loss of innocence.