Copyright Marcus A. Nannini, 2010-2019
The opening scene takes place within the cramped, steam room-like conditions of a two man Japanese midget submarine lying on the muddy bottom of Pearl Harbor as if it were an animal waiting to pounce upon an unsuspecting prey. The date is Sunday, December 7, 1941. The time is just before eight in the morning and as the reverberations from aerial torpedo and bomb explosions rock the little submarine the two men jump to their controls and the midget sub comes to life.
The commander lines up the mighty battleships West Virginia and Oklahoma and launches two torpedoes, one at each ship. Disappointed the warhead striking the West Virginia proves to be a dud, they experience temporary elation when the second underwater missile rips apart the Oklahoma, causing her to capsize. The sight of white-clad sailors scampering over the side of the dying ship proves very sobering to the Commander and his engineer as elation is replaced with sadness and respect as the opening scene fades to black.
The second scene takes place at an ocean-front residential setting in present-day Kailua, Oahu. A pair of laid-back Hawaiian excavators are installing a pool for a popular woman known by all in the neighborhood as “Auntie Lee.” When they discover a corpse clutching a strange looking pistol the work comes to a halt, causing “Auntie Lee” a great deal of consternation for she plans to host a party for the high school graduation of her favorite grandson the following month.
A US Navy investigative team is called upon to determine the identity of the skeleton and soon discover they are looking at the engineer of the Japanese midget submarine, I-16-tou, the very submarine responsible for sinking the Oklahoma, presenting them with a significant mystery: What happened to the midget submarine’s commander? Word of the mysterious skeleton is leaked to a local newspaper which sends their most aggressive reporter, Lani Gale, to investigate.
The Commander, still alive and living in retirement on Oahu, reads the newspaper story and realizes there is a race between the Navy and Gale to find him. Convinced he will be located and his world shattered, he makes a decision to relate his life story to his Annapolis-bound grandson rather than have him read about his arrest in the paper. The telling of his true history, beginning in pre-war Japan, through internment in Honolulu and California, the Korean Conflict and into the present-day is interspersed with the progress of the Navy and Gale as they hunt him down.
The concluding scenes comprise a dizzying sequence of events which tie up all the loose ends and sets up the sequels.
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CHAMELEONS, An Untold World War II Story…
After the Japanese midget submarine I-16-tou torpedoed and sunk the battleship Oklahoma the midget sub’s commander maneuvered his damaged vessel in the quiet backwaters of West Loch. Unable to effect repairs the commander and his engineer scuttled the little submarine, swam ashore and used their list of safe houses to meld into the population, never to be heard from again. Until now.
Chameleons follows their lives prior to, during and after the attack on Pearl Harbor. A female reviewer wrote:
“This book, from a Japanese viewpoint, from Hawai’i to Korea and back to Hawai’i, was riveting. Some of the war scenes were enough to keep my fingers gripping my seat, literally. You will not see the ending coming, it is a total surprise. In a nutshell, if you like historical war fiction, this is definitely for you. The fact that it is definitely based on true events is proven by the pictures in the back of the book. There is enough here to make you wonder what exactly is fiction and what is not.”
Chapter One is a scene unlike any other before written as Nannini places the reader inside the steam room-like confines of the Japanese midget submarine I-16-tou as she sits on the muddy bottom of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. When the reverberations of the first aerial bomb and torpedo strikes of the Japanese surprise attack wake the crew from their sleep they quickly launch their twin, one thousand pound torpedoes. One torpedo proves to be a dud, but the second torpedo explodes with catastrophic results. The chapter closes with the image of white-clad sailors scrambling along the sides of the capsizing Oklahoma when the author whisks the reader forward into the present-day and presents an unsettling mystery.
Another reviewer states:
The cornerstone of an excellent historical fiction novel is research and it is extremely evident that Marcus A. Nannini has spent countless hours researching his subject. He has gone to painstaking depths to make as many elements of his story as real as possible and has done an amazing job. His descriptions of the training undergone by the submarine commanders, the attacks on Pearl Harbor, the landscapes of Hawaii, and the conflicts later on in the book are nothing short of exemplary.
I loved how this book mixed elements from both the past and the present. Either of the storylines could have made an excellent book on their own, but together they add another dimension entirely. The mix of different characters in the present day timeline is also fantastic. There is a refreshing mix of hard-working naval officers, sleazy reporters, traitorous informants, and even a pudgy Petty Officer who lends a smidge of humor (not to mention a few donuts) to the plot.
A second Japanese midget submarine was later discovered, abandoned, in only sixty feet of water and within a short swim to an Oahu beach. The hatch was in the open position and was impossible to open if submerged. There was no evidence of the crew to be found representing two additional members of the Imperial Japanese Navy who may have melded into the local population as if Chameleons.
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I researched this book over a period of many months. In the process I read and made notes from the six books that I could find, on topic, including the book written by Prisoner of War Number One, Kazuo Sakamaki, captured on the morning of December 8, 1941, while sleeping on an Oahu beach. I also accumulated a large volume of web-based research and updated the research continuously. It was a couple of years after I wrote the Screenplay that the U.S. Navy confirmed the I-16-tou had, indeed, sought refuge in West Loch. I reached that conclusion in 2009, based on all I learned about the commander of the I-16-tou.
Before I wrote the first word of Chameleons I already knew the story I was about to relate, including the ending. However, it was not until I saw the potential for spin-offs, beginning with Geographic Treachery, did I return to the manuscript to add a chance meeting with the two antagonists who take the series to new heights of cunning, cold-blooded murder and revenge for actions that took place in the 20th Century.
So those of you who guessed the two men Admiral Reardon meets at Colonel Nat’s will be seen again, guessed correctly. You can count on them being complex and cold-hearted, yet I don’t just present them without developing their backgrounds. Though I will say you will not discover the motivations behind “the Aussie” until you read the third novel, Vigorous Brutality. And yes, the action remains in Hawaii, centering on the Big Island, in particular.
Throughout Chameleons I inserted small clues about the ending. I also worked hard to bring the reader to understand Ken Kida and stand in his shoes. From the comments I gathered pre and post publication, the readers are experiencing the exact emotions Ken, his wife and grandson felt towards the end of the book. I could not give much away and still retain a separation of Lt. Commander Pastwa’s team and Admiral Reardon. At the same time I revealed more about Admiral Reardon than I had done in the entire book to that point. Just wait to you see what he does in Geographic Treachery!
To read one of the many excellent and detailed reviews of Chameleons, go here:
The I-16-tou, a Japanese midget submarine, successfully penetrated Pearl Harbor early on the morning of December 7, 1941. It launched 2 torpedoes, one of which turtled the mighty U.S.S. Oklahoma. Eventually the 2 man Crew abandoned their badly damaged little submarine in West Loch. They swam ashore, connected with pre-arranged contacts and melded into the population as if human Chameleons. This is their story. EBook: http://www.books2read.com/MarcusNannini
For a Full Review: http://forums.onlinebookclub.org/viewtopic.php?f=63&t=42284
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The U.S.S. Oklahoma, sunk by I-16-tou.