Thomas E. Simmons is a businessman and writer who lives in Gulfport, Mississippi. He is the author of The Brown Condor: The True Adventures of John C. Robinson.
In The Brown Condor ( LJ 6/15/88), Simmons chronicled the exploits of a black American pilot who gained fame flying for Ethiopia during the 1935-36 Italian invasion. Here he offers another real-life adventure, that of a seaman imprisoned during World War II in the dreaded gulag archipelago. A member of the too-often unsung merchant marine, Oswald Marion (``Jac'') Smith served on a tanker bound for Murmansk to be delivered to Soviet forces. Out on the town afterwards, he was arrested for violating curfew and sent to a Soviet work camp, from which he eventually escaped. His story makes compelling reading, and Simmons does it justice. If the author has no particular gift for literary imagery, he has a nose for those unsung individuals whose tale deserves an audience. The book is a bit spare, but nonetheless cogent.-- J.K. Sweeney, South Dakota State Univ., Brookings
A remarkable tale of true adventure, this is the story of O. M. (Jac) Smith, who served aboard a WW II U.S. civilian merchant ship slated to be leased to the Russians. When Ceder Creek docked at Archangel in the Soviet Union after surviving an attack on a convoy which lost a third of its ships, Smith and two other Americans aboard were arrested as ``foreign troublemakers'' and sent to a labor camp. He escaped, was helped by Laplanders, who placed him under the protection of the Norwegian underground; Smith's land trek had covered 900 miles of frozen territory. The Norwegians ferried him to Scotland and he returned to the U.S. in 1944 to sail as a merchant seaman for another 30 years before retiring in Mississippi. A suspenseful account of courage and the will to survive, told by the author of The Brown Condor. (Nov.)
"Escape from Archangel is an extraordinary story, a story of human bravery and endurance, which not only captures the emotional spirit of World War II but its desperation, too." --Willie Morris
"This book is a rare and fascinating tale of a merchant sailor's life at war on dangerous waters, with an escape so fantastic that I simply would not have believed it had I not carefully checked its credibility myself." --Kemp Tolley, Rear Admiral U.S. Navy (Ret.)"It tells a truly amazing story. Now that we are friends again with Russia, this book can be read as a remarkable adventure story of the war---just one more reason why we must never again have a war." --Frank O. Braynard, American Merchant Marine Museum