The spectre of another world war haunts journalist Walter Craig and disturbs the peace of his seaside holiday. But below the Cornish cliffs, hidden by churning seas, the enemy is very real indeed, and much closer than anyone could suspect. Craig and his singularly resourceful fisherman friend alone discover the terrible truth - a potentially devastating threat to Britain's merchant ships - and alone must risk their lives against the might of the German navy.
This is a classic wartime adventure from the master of suspenseful storytelling.
Ralph Hammond Innes was born in Horsham, Sussex, on 15 July 1913 and educated at Cranbrook School, Kent. He left school aged 18, and worked successively in publishing, teaching, and journalism. In 1936, in need of money in order to marry, he wrote a supernatural thriller, The Doppleganger, which was published in 1937 as part of a two-year, four book deal. In 1939 Innes moved to a different publisher, and began to write compulsively, continuing to publish throughout his service in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War.
Innes travelled widely to research his novels and always wrote from personal experience - his 1940s novels The Blue Ice and The White South were informed by time spent working on a whaling ship in the Antarctic, while The Lonely Skier came out of a post-war skiing course in the Dolomites. He was a keen and accomplished sailor, which passion inspired his 1956 best seller The Wreck of the Mary Deare.
The equally successful 1959 film adaptation of this novel enabled Innes to buy a large yacht, the Mary Deare, in which he sailed around the world for the next 15 years, accompanied by his wife and fellow author Dorothy Lang. Innes wrote over 30 novels, as well as several works of non-fiction and travel journalism. His thrilling stories of spies, counterfeiters, black markets, and shipwreck earned him both literary acclaim and an international following, and in 1978 he was awarded a CBE. Hammond Innes died at his home in Suffolk on 10th June 1998.
"An uncommonly good story, capitally written." (The Evening Standard)
"Great Britain's leading adventure novelist." (The Financial Times)
"Wreckers Must Breathe had all the hallmarks which were to become quintessential Innes trademarks...adventure, excitement and... a gripping storyline." (Scotsman)
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Atmospheric Cornwall at its best
Published in 1940
Teenagers or historians of World War 2 propaganda.
It was an exciting conclusion.
The tin miners.
I read this book in my early teens in a battered Pan paperback. At that time, I would have given it top marks and, even now, it still has some qualities, notably a tenseness conveyed by Hammond Innes in his descriptions of the claustrophobic setting in the secret U-boat base on the Cornish coast but also intimations of the wider context that derives from the escalation of World War 2 and a national fear of the enemy within. Published in 1940, “Wreckers Must Breathe” has something of the propaganda impact of the much better “Riddle of the Sands” by Erskine Childers which warned of the coming of World War 1.
Even so, the novel is “boys’ own” stuff and the characters are thinly drawn, slipping too easily into good and bad Germans, salt-of-the-earth tin-miners, a boy-girl, Maureen Weston, and the amateur hero: a drama-journalist, Walter Craig, who has all kinds of unexpected skills. Craig’s companion, Big Logan, is simply irritating.
But its publication date is significant and it is a tribute to Hammond Innes that he succeeds in maintaining excitement even as his main purpose was very serious, written as it was when Britain was expecting a German attack at any time.