Stephen R. Pastore,
Never on These Shores
(Cohort, 2007)

What if, back during World War II, Germany never invaded Russia. Instead of a two-front war, Germany and Italy continued to focus on the West. After obliterating England, these two countries joined the Empire of Japan in attacking the continental United States.

Stephen R. Pastore has imagined just such a scenario in his novel Never on These Shores.

By May 1942, the able-bodied men of the U.S. are spread across Europe and Southeast Asia. Cut off from their fighting forces, only the old, the infirm, children and military rejects are left to protect the country. Japanese forces follow their success at Pearl Harbor with attacks along the Pacific U.S. coastline. With brutal displays of violence, they subdue city after city, zeroing in on San Francisco. At the same time, the Italians have invaded Florida and the Germans have entered Texas via Mexico. The Ku Klux Klan essentially becomes the Texas SS and Southern "Negroes" are about to face the same treatment as Jews in Europe.

Bouncing around the country from California to New Mexico, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Washington, D.C., and New York City, this novel looks at the war through the eyes of patriots, traitors and the innocent. Pastore has set up a scenario where certain members of the government and military are willing to make a pact with Satan (a.k.a. Hitler) to carve out a portion of the country to remain in U.S. hands while giving up the rest to the Axis. However, the common people of this country are not quite willing to give up so easily. In Florida you have a grandfather who fought in the Great War work alongside his teenage grandson to take on the Italian Navy. Racist whites in Texas discover a common cause with their black neighbors as they join forces against the Germans and their KKK recruits. Homosexuals in San Francisco get past their stereotypical catty nature to show the Japanese they won't bow down to invaders. They may be feminine, but these boys kick butt.

Pastore is a playwright and writer, as well as a former lawyer and nightclub owner. He has had several books published including Thomas Hardy: A Collector's Guide and Sinclair Lewis: A Descriptive Bibliography. His play Coming Back from Lyonnesse was produced in the United Kingdom in 2003. Born and raised in New York, he currently resides in Pennsylvania.

This book is an easy read and could be digested by young teenagers -- except for the graphic violence and scenes of a sexual nature. This novel should probably not be read by anyone younger and less mature than late high school. The writing style is engaging and many of the characters are interesting enough to keep your attention. While the action sequences are often intense, Pastore demonstrates his sense of humor through the gay community of San Francisco. True, these characters all fit a stereotype and sometimes the double entendres seem a little out of place, given the serious nature of war, but I still found these sections allowed a release of some of the tension continuously built up in the story.

If I had one problem with this book it would be the lack of dates. The book does not have chapters, per se. Instead, each section mentions a locale. We know the story starts in May 1942, but as the story progresses, we are only given vague references to timelines. Knowing the story bounced back and forth in time, I got a little confused. I think many readers would find value if each section started off with a date as well as a location.

With so many threads running at once, this book will seem short at less than 300 pages. Many of the threads are not concluded. The book just ends. What happens to those in power who are working to broker a secret deal with the Axis? What is going on in New Mexico? The Germans are sending a contingent of undercover operatives to find out. Will those on the run in Texas make it out of state? Fortunately, the author has revealed that Never on These Shores is the first of three volumes. Let us just hope the next two novels are as good as this one!

review by
Wil Owen

29 September 2007

what's new