Black World: Special Ops by Robert R. Rotruck

Robert R. Rotruck’s first novel, Black World: Special Ops (269 pp. $11.94, paper: $7.99, Kindle), stars Bill York, a former Navy SEAL and retired CIA agent. The book begins with a present-day scuffle with a few ruffians after a dinner date with his wife. Then we flash back to the back story of this mild-mannered family man.

York’s father, a Maryland State Trooper, knew someone who knew someone who secured him an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy despite non-stellar high school grades and “fitness reports.” Rotruck paints a quite realistic and detailed picture of student life at the Naval Academy, including some of the shenanigans of the budding naval leaders.

During his studies, York develops an interest in the SEALs, and eventually is selected as a candidate. Rotruck tells a credible story as we follow York through the training, and the fabled challenges involved in the training of some of America’s most prestigious and fearsome special operations fighters.

We accompany York on a deployment to Vietnam with Team One where he is injured in a diving accident, which prevents him from continuing as an active member of the team. He then decides to resign his commission, and winds up getting recruited by the CIA.

Again, we get a nicely detailed review of training, this time several CIA venues. York’s reputation as a leader and savvy operator grow, and he is given more complicated and dangerous missions.

Throughout, York’s wife knows he’s working for the government, but not a lot more. He leaves, comes back home, and is gone again. After one hair-raising mission he decides to retire.

This is an interesting book, although some of the dialogue is a bit stilted. This is a first novel and I hope to see Bill York again—either as a free-standing operative, or back with the CIA.

—Tom Werzyn

Thank You, America by Robert R. Rotruck

Robert R. Rotruck’s Thank You, America: Autobiography of a Naval Career (Wheatmark, 178 pp. Paperback and Kindle) is a one-or-two-sitting read. It’s a delightful autobiography written by a retired Navy Chief Warrant Officer, with an emphasis on his unbridled love for his country, his career choices, and his wife and family. 

The book is an assignment-by-assignment journey that details, often with touches of wry humor, the places Rotruck has seen and the jobs he’s performed in a series of almost stand-alone chapters.

Rotruck starts in his home town, Gaithersburg, Maryland, and his decision to forgo college and join the Navy after graduating from high school in 1959. He takes us through Boot Camp, after which he came home to marry his high-school sweetheart. He then trained in repairing and maintaining Avionics and RADAR equipment. He goes on to explain that the rank of Chief in the U.S. Navy is one of merit and responsibility, and spells out the Chief’s Charge in the book’s appendix.

As the book progresses, Bob Rotruck goes through the each of his deployments during his twenty-year Navy career, describing his duties during air operations and his dealings with civilian contractors and their less-than-sterling knowledge about the products they were trying to sell to the U.S. Navy. Many of his assignments were aboard large carriers. He served as air squadron support on the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk (CV-63) on Yankee Station in the South China Sea during the Vietnam War, and later aboard the John F. Kennedy (CV-67).

This is a very positive book without any of the blood, guts, glory, and pathos in many military memoirs. It’s well worth the read.

—Tom Werzyn