Coombe, Jack D(uncan) 1922-
COOMBE, Jack D(uncan) 1922-
PERSONAL: Born March 1, 1922, in Baltic, MI; son of Harry (a mine captain) and Susan Ruth (Brown) Coombe Moyle; married Margaret C. Manfred, August 9, 1947. Ethnicity: "English." Education: Northwestern College, B.A., 1955; Roosevelt University, graduate work in philosophy. Politics: Independent. Religion: "Conservative theology." Hobbies and other interests: Big band and jazz drumming, cartooning, hosting talk shows on television.
ADDRESSES: Home—1704 Maple Ave., Northbrook, IL 60062. Agent—Joyce Spires, c/o Gerry Wallerstein Agency, 2315 Powell Ave., Erie, PA 16506. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Writer, actor, and model. Creative writing teacher at grade schools and high schools. Actor in commercials, films, television shows, night clubs, and variety shows. Creative Writing Services, Northbrook, IL, owner. Hosted a talk show on NCTV in Northbrook, IL. Military service: U.S. Navy, 1940-46, served in Pearl Harbor, Midway, Solomon Islands campaign, Philippine Island campaigns, and Saipan and Okinawa invasions.
MEMBER: Northbrook Youth Commission, United States Naval Institute, National Historic Society.
Consider My Servant: A Novel Based on the Life of Jonathan Edwards, Exposition Press (New York City), 1957.
The Temptation (novel), [Houston, TX], 1986.
Derailing the Tokyo Express: The Naval Battles for the Solomon Islands that Sealed Japan's Fate, Stackpole Books (Harrisburg, PA), 1991.
Gunfire around the Gulf: The Last Major Naval Campaigns of the Civil War, Bantam (New York, NY), 1999.
Gunsmoke over the Atlantic: First Naval Actions of the Civil War, Bantam (New York, NY), 2002.
Coombe has written for the television shows Gunsmoke, Music Hall, Scrooge's Rock and Roll Christmas, Half Century of Service, and for various stage productions. He has written numerous articles for magazines, including Our Navy, DownBeat, North Shore Magazine, Animal Lovers, Travelore, Hospitals, Modern Man, Guns, and Writer's Digest.
SIDELIGHTS: "I have been spinning stories ever since my childhood when I spent hours telling stories to neighborhood children in a friend's backyard," Coombe told CA. "Later I worked my way through high school writing commercials for a local radio station." During his career in the navy from 1940 to 1946, Coombe wrote scripts for CBS and the Armed Forces Radio Network. After the war he resumed his career in radio, television, theater, and film.
Since the late 1980s Coombe has concentrated on writing books, primarily naval history. He is a well-recognized military historian and has been reviewed in the Defense Department's prestigious Friday Night Review.
Coombe told CA: "My motivation for writing is simple: I wish to share my knowledge with others. After all, what good is knowledge if it cannot be shared? I also desire to leave this world a little richer in knowledge, after I am gone."
In Thunder along the Mississippi: The River Battles that Split the Confederacy, Coombe writes about the Civil War battles on the Mississippi and contends that the war was won not in the great battles of the East, but in the West, as a result of these little-known river battles. Coombe told Gregory Crofton in the VicksburgPost, "Many people are flabbergasted when I tell them that battles were fought on the Mississippi River." Coombe also discusses the demise of the old wooden ships and the rise of the ironclad ships that became the basis of the modern navy. A Publishers Weekly review called the book "solid," saying it was a good companion to other books on the war.
In 1999 Coombe followed up with Gunfire around the Gulf: The Last Major Naval Campaigns of the Civil War, once again illuminating "a subject that generally suffers from lack of popular awareness, even among many Civil War enthusiasts," according to Leatherneck reviewer Joe Sharbel. This time, Coombe's subject is the Union blockade of the South, including the naval campaigns for the vital commercial ports of New Orleans, Pensacola, and Mobile. At the same time, he recreates the danger and the drama of these fiercely fought battles. "Although the Navy contributed enormously to Union victory, books on the land war outnumber naval books by hundreds to one. Mr. Coombe's blood-and-thunder narrative helps redress the balance," concluded former navy secretary John Lehman in the Wall Street Journal.
Coombe completes his Civil War naval trilogy with Gunsmoke over the Atlantic: First Naval Actions of the Civil War. The book covers East Coast naval engagements from 1861 to 1864, including the famed duel between the Monitor and the Merrimack off the coast of Virginia. To the disappointment of some reviewers, Coombe focuses primarily on vivid story telling, rejecting such scholarly niceties as footnotes. "The book's dominant characteristic is dramatic battle narrative rather than analysis. In a phrase, this is History Lite," wrote Journal of Southern History reviewer Craig Symonds. Others were more pleased with this approach. "Coombe doesn't skimp on strategy, but neither does he weigh the story down with unnecessary detail, suggesting his target audience may be the casual Civil War enthusiast," concluded American History contributor Wyatt Kingseed. For Library Journal reviewer Kathleen Conley, "The narrative is lively and engaging, a blend of facts, opinions, and good novelistic description."
Coombe was quoted in Writer's Digest as saying, "I always aim to make my historical nonfiction interesting to average readers, not just scholars. I visit the sites I'm writing about, imagine I'm a spectator there and then write from an eyewitness perspective." Coombe strives for realism and authenticity, and he credits his own military experiences with giving him the ability to capture the flavor of the historic battles. He told Crofton, "I served in all the amphibious landings in the Pacific. I saw a lot of action. With all my experience as a navy man, I'm able to vividly reconstruct these scenes." In his 1991 work Derailing the Tokyo Express: The Naval Battles for the Solomon Islands that Sealed Japan's Fate, Coombe draws directly from his own extensive wartime service to give what Library Journal reviewer Raymond L. Puffer called a "'sailor's eye' perspective" of the bloody naval battles of the Pacific during World War II.
Coombe has been inspired by history writer Frederick Manfred, who wrote Lord Grizzly and took his research seriously: in order to write realistically about a man who crawled five miles across a barren stretch of the Dakotas in the 1860s, Manfred did the same. Like Manfred, Coombe works hard to make history come alive; Coombe sifts through primary and secondary sources for information and visits the historical sites he writes about, accompanied by his wife, Peg, his research assistant. "For example," he told CA, "I sailed over the very same route taken by Admiral Farragut as his fleet blasted its way past Fort Morgan, into Mobile Bay."
"Writing about naval history is natural to me," Coombe told CA, "not only because of my six-year hitch in the U.S. Navy, but because I have always been fascinated by things naval, as a hobby over the years. Within the last two decades I have expanded that hobby into a full-time, successful career."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American History, December, 2002, Wyatt Kingseed, review of Gunsmoke over the Atlantic: First Naval Actions of the Civil War, pp. 63-66.
Journal of Southern History, August, 2003, Craig Symonds, review of Gunsmoke over the Atlantic, p. 702.
Leatherneck, December, 1999, Joe Sharbel, review of Gunfire around the Gulf: The Last Major Naval Campaigns of the Civil War, p. 99.
Library Journal, September 15, 1991, Raymond L. Puffer, review of Derailing the Tokyo Express: The Naval Battles for the Solomon Islands that Sealed Japan's Fate, p. 99; May 1, 2002, Kathleen Conley, review of Gunsmoke over the Atlantic, p. 117.
Publishers Weekly, May 6, 1996, review of Thunder along the Mississippi: The River Battles that Split the Confederacy, p. 66.
Vicksburg Post, July 19, 1998, Gregory Crofton (interview). Wall Street Journal, January 26, 2000, John Lehman, "A Closer Look at the Art of War," p. A20.
Writer's Digest, November, 1998, p. 27.