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The Hemingway Patrols: Ernest Hemingway and His Hunt for U-Boats Hardcover – August 18, 2009

3.9 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, August 2009: The plan was as reckless as it was implausible: lure a German U-Boat to the surface, lob grenades into opened hatches, and speed away into a hero's sunset. Most men would be mocked for such a scheme, but in the hands of Ernest Hemingway, it was just crazy enough to work. In The Hemingway Patrols, Terry Mort explores the motivation behind this fascinating chapter in Hemingway's life. Proudly manning the helm of his beloved yacht, El Pilar, the legendary writer stalked the waters off Cuba during the early 1940s in search of enemy submarines. To the casual observer, it would seem that the line between the real and fictionalized worlds of Ernest Hemingway had become blurry (one can easily imagine Robert Jordan or Harry Morgan in the same role). Yet according to Mort, long-shot odds are precisely what fueled these missions. "Maybe the patrols were quixotic," he explains, "but that was part of their appeal--that and the sense of doing something useful and of being in command." The inherent dangers in hunting U-boats with a forty-foot yacht were inconsequential--what truly mattered was the adventure at hand. -- Dave Callanan

From Publishers Weekly

One of celebrated novelist Ernest Hemingway's more quixotic exploits opens a window into his soul in this sprightly biographical study. During WWII, Hemingway and a volunteer crew ran patrols on his boat, Pilar, looking for German submarines along the Cuban coast. They never found any, and his wife, Martha Gellhorn, whose eye-rolling presence pervades the book, deemed the operation just a grandiose excuse to go fishing and drink with cronies. Mort (The Reasonable Art of Fly Fishing) notes that U-boats were a real threat, though he allows that Hemingway's plan to attack with grenades and tommy guns could only have made the Germans die of laughter. Mort also gives an interesting rundown of the submarine war. But the patrols' real significance, in his estimation, lies in their resonance with Hemingway's imagination and literary oeuvre. The resulting analysis can be a bit blunt (the U-boats were the sharks in The Old Man and the Sea... the bulls in the ring at Pamplona). But this colorful, subtle portrait offers insights into Hemingway, making him as vivid as his fictional heroes, a tribe of romantic existentialists: domineering, brave, foolhardy, secretly vulnerable, larger than life. (Aug.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; annotated edition edition (August 18, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416597867
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416597865
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #876,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By A. Crawford on September 6, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition
The Hemingway Patrols: Ernest Hemingway and His Hunt for U-Boats

This is a fascinating book--no need to have a particular interest in either Hemingway or the U-Boat patrols that were conducted off of our shores during WWII to enjoy it. Terry Mort has a way of transporting the reader into the center of the story. I was immediately immersed in Hemingway's huge multi-faceted world from the beginning. I felt as if I were on board the Pilar anticipating a surprise confrontation with the enemy at any moment, or relaxing with "Papa" and friends in his favorite watering holes in Key West and Havana sharing lots of drinks and enjoying his colorful and often grandiose stories, or at home(s) with him and his family. By the end of the book, which came much too quickly, I felt as if I had been given the rarest of intimate and really true glimpses into this brilliant and complex man and his thoughts, feelings, relationships and adventures. I will probably pick this book up again soon as I am already missing my time with him and the huge life that he led.
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Format: Hardcover
If I hadn't just finished reading Mark Ott's so-called "eco-biography," A Sea of Change: Ernest Hemingway and the Gulf Stream--a Contextual Biography, then possibly I would have given Terry Mort's very similar book a higher review.

It actually has more biographical juice in it than the literary criticism of Ott, but both writers point to a Hemingway strangely similar to the John Steinbeck who was so fascinated with Doc Ricketts and the Sea of Cortez. That two of the great US novelists cared so much about the oceans and about undersea life is an odd coincidence, or maybe not a coincidence, for both men studied Thoreau and the proto-ecological movements of the previous century. Ott makes better use of the log Hemingway kept for the Pilar, showing how their formal qualities--the fragmentary denotation of nouns and adjectives as the watchers spotted a dolphin, for example, or encountered heavy rain--led to later changes in Hemingway's style--not all of them for the better. But here Mort is much mor knowledgeable about German U Boats and the dangers they posed to the Atlantic seaboard and to US naval efforts in general.

Almost as a subplot we have Martha Gellhorn and her bemused attitude towards Hemingway's defense action. She wrote, "Loving is a habit like another and requires something nearby for daily practice." Hemingway would have loved it if Martha had accompanied him on his U Boat expeditions, and maybe their marriage would have lasted longer if she wasn't so skeptical, but as Mort points out, Hemingway expected his disciples to toe the line 100 percent on all points or face his wrath, and Martha Gellhorn just wasn't built that way. Was she a careerist as some have charged? Certainly her alliance with Hemingway raised her profile no end, and she knew it.
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By Richard on September 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As much WWII history - some with new information such as the 2002 discovery of the sunken U166 German submarine - as the weaving of literary criticism, the contexts of Hemingway's life and his hunt for U-boats. Was impressed that Scribner is the publisher - and could see why after reading it. As an amateur student of WW II's "Pacific War" and the air wars of Europe, I started to grasp a new understanding of WWII's merchant marine strategy and Atlantic submarine battle. The author's naval and Caribbean narratives were fresh, most readable and understandable. As a reader of Hemingway's novels with modest short story experience, I was fascinated how the author moved through Hemingway's early years, Paris and Spain to the Gulf Stream, Fifth Columns and the author's own takes on Hemingway. Most enjoyable - and informative.
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Format: Hardcover
Every time my grandfather went to Havana's main post office, he took his fourteen-year-old grandson along--Me!

Being in the liquor business, Grandpa invariably stopped at the Restaurant/Bar "El Floridita" on our way over or back. One day, his bartender-friend pointed at a group of men sitting at the bar's farthest corner drinking, talking, and playing "cubilete," a dice game played mostly in Cuban bars.

Gesturing with his hands, a bearded man mesmerized his cronies with a fishing tale. Bigger than life, Ernest Hemingway was narrating his latest expedition aboard the Pilar.

An ardent admirer of his literary genius, Grandpa approached the group and introduced ourselves. Without hesitation he accepted an invitation to share in the conversation.
Totally petrified I didn't say a word. Aware of my silence, the bearded man turns around:
"Son, would you like to hear about my encounter with a German submarine during the war?"
That said, the entire group chuckled at the laughable offer.

One of last century's great story tellers, Hemingway reveled in entertaining his cronies sometimes with far-out tales. He cherished the attention, and rejoiced in the macho deportment he portrayed.

"The Hemingway Patrols: Ernest Hemingway and His Hunt for U-boats" is only the title of a book dedicated to the prolific imagination of one of America's greatest writers.

Andrew J. Rodriguez
Award-winning author of "Adios, Havana," a Memoir
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