Navy Vet Plunged Into Research For His War Novel 'The Iceman'


Peter Deutermann writes contemporary thrillers, often starring private eye Cam Richter. His 2008 novel, "The Moonpool," was set in Wilmington and involved a terror threat to the Brunswick Nuclear Plant.

Just as often, however, Deutermann finds himself refighting World War II, most recently in "The Iceman" (St. Martins, $26.99), a tale of submarine warfare in the South Pacific not long after Pearl Harbor.

Which posed a challenge: "I'm a surface guy," said Deutermann, 77, a retired Navy captain who commanded a destroyer squadron and aided the Joint Chiefs of Staff with arms-control negotiations.

So he had to do a little research. It helped that his brother served in the Navy's old diesel submarines. (It's a point of pride that some member of the Deutermann clan has been on active duty with the armed forces, continuously, for the past century.)

Beyond that, he turned to the books, especially "Silent Victory," Clay Blair Jr.'s 1975 account of the Navy's submarine campaigns.

"Blair is really good on the politics," Deutermann said. "Especially on how the Navy's Old Guard gathered the wagons around the Mark 14 magnetic torpedo." The Mark 14 proved a headache for sub skippers through much of the war. Its magnetic trigger often failed, and it was notoriously prone to circling around and heading straight for the sub that fired it. Many of these problems make their way into the plot of "The Iceman."

Another source was historian Russell Weigley's classic "The American Way of War." "We get our butts kicked, get our noses blooded at the beginning," Deutermann summarized. "Then we think about it. Our industry goes into gear, we go way overboard."

These days, Deutermann lives on a horse farm in Rockingham County, N.C. "I get up in the morning and write for two hours," he said. "Then I go out, work in the stables, drive the tractor around. Then I come back in, look at what I wrote in the morning and say, 'Oh, geez.'"

That steady pace enables the Naval Academy graduate to churn out a new book per year. Deutermann is already well into his 2019 title, "The Nugget."

A "nugget," he explained, is a rookie aviator in the military, too green to have earned his call sign yet. In "The Nugget," a fighter pilot is shot down in the Pacific. The sub itself is sunk, and the pilot winds up fighting with guerrillas in the Japanese-occupied Philippines. A fall release is scheduled.

This article is written by Ben Steelman from Star-News, Wilmington, N.C. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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