Books: Plumbers of the Deep

THE BOAT by LOTHAR-GÜNTHER BUCHHEIM 463 pages. Knopf. $10.

Consider the nature of the underwater hero. Neptune, Jules Verne's Captain Nemo, even Marvel Comics' Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner, have all shared the brooding yet tempestuous personality often associated with fallen angels. The modern heir of these model wetheads is the submarine captain, particularly the German U-boat commander of World War II. With his beard, shabby sweater, and a little help from Hollywood, he cuts a theatrical figure that falls somewhere between cruel, cynical buccaneer and psychiatrist on summer vacation.

Literary Gimbals. Lothar-Günther Buchheim served on U-boats as a documentary journalist working for...

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