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Mister Roberts (novel)

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Illustrator  Samuel Hanks Bryant
Language  English
Media type  Hardcover
Originally published  1946
Page count  189
Publisher  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Country  United States
Publication date  1946
Pages  189
Author  Thomas Heggen
Genre  War novel
Adaptations  Mister Roberts (1955)
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Mister Roberts is a 1946 novel written by Thomas Heggen.



The title character, a Lieutenant Junior Grade naval officer, defends his crew against the petty tyranny of the ship's commanding officer during World War II. Nearly all action takes place on a backwater cargo ship, the USS Reluctant that sails, as written in the 1948 play, "from apathy to tedium with occasional side trips to monotony and ennui."


Heggen based his novel on his experiences aboard the cargo ships USS Virgo (AKA-20) and USS Rotanin (AK-108), in the South West Pacific theatre of World War II. He had written a number of short stories, which he collected and merged into the novel. It was subsequently adapted as a play circa 1948, a 1955 feature film, a 1965-66 television series, and a live 1984 television movie. Heggen only enjoyed the initial success and profits of his creation, as his life ended in May 1949, by accident or suicide, just after turning 30.

The character Mister Roberts was based on the Rotanin's Executive Officer, Donald House. Contrary to the story in the book, he was not killed in action, but continued as a career Naval officer until retirement, and lived until early 1998.

Initially, Ensign Ralph (changed to "Frank" in the book) Pulver threatened to sue Heggen for using his actual name. Pulver was, in reality, an officer who took his Naval career very seriously. Pulver was still an active-duty officer at the time the book was published, and was concerned that having his name in the book and play might be detrimental to his career.


Mister Roberts (novel) Wikipedia

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