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J.T. McDaniel Official Site

The official website of popular author/actor/playwright J.T. McDaniel.

With the publication of Bacalao in July 2004, J.T. McDaniel solidly established himself as one of the premier maritime authors in recent years. Critic Barbara Buhrer called Bacalao “…the best World War II submarine novel since Edward L. Beach’s Run Silent, Run Deep,” and predicted the book would become “…a classic of submarine [literature].”

Best selling author Homer Hickam (Rocket Boys, The Keeper’s Son, Torpedo Junction) calls Bacalao “…an impressive and exciting novel,” and declares McDaniel “…a terrific writer who has created a classic of wartime adventure.”

Meanwhile, former submariners have hailed Bacalao as “…the most technically accurate submarine story ever.” Perhaps not surprising, as McDaniel is also the creator and webmaster of FleetSubmarine.com, and an internationally recognized authority on the American fleet type submarine.

McDaniel’s first novel, With Honour in Battle, was more speculative. Set aboard  an experimental U-boat in the final months of World War II, With Honour in Battle was a critically acclaimed exploration of the officers and men of U-2317. “They knew the war was lost,” McDaniel said, “but they still continued to fight. Their sense of duty kept them at it, but didn’t keep them from wondering if it was all a waste. Was what they were doing really useful? Or were they just sinking ships and, in the process, killing other sailors to no good purpose.”

“The truth is, any war involves a certain moral dilemma. Most soldiers and sailor aren’t really fighting for a grand cause. They’re fighting to preserve their own lives, and to keep the enemy away from their families. The military is perhaps the only career where you train for years in the hope that you’ll never have to put your training to practical use. No sane man really wants to kill anyone, but you do it because your government, your leaders, tell you it’s important. Most military training is intended to teach the soldier how to overcome his natural revulsion at taking another human life long enough to carry out his mission.”

In fact, McDaniel received most of his formal training as a writer courtesy of the United States Army. He enlisted in 1967, taking basic training at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and then going to Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana, at that time the home of the Defense Information School (DINFOS). The ten-week course at DINFOS was writing intensive, with nearly as many classroom hours in Applied Journalism as the average student receives in a four year college journalism course.

“Newspaper journalism, which was the emphasis in that school, is a wonderful background for a novelist,” McDaniel says. “You learn to structure your stories. You learn what’s important, what will capture the reader’s attention. The only real negative is that it also trains you to keep everything short. Sometimes too short. I keep starting novels and ending with lengthy short stories.

“Still, any formal training helps. Hemingway was a newspaper reporter, remember. So was Ian Fleming. If you learn nothing else, working on a newspaper teaches you how to spell. I did my stint as a reporter and editor in the pre-computer era. The only spell checkers we had then were the ones in our heads.”

McDaniel started writing when he was barely in his teens, pounding out his first “novel” on his  mother’s old Royal manual. “It wasn’t very good,” he remember. “The thing was a spy story, with some truly awful love scenes, a number of impractical gadgets, and Hitler’s bastard son as the villain. I’d been reading Ian Fleming, and that was the result. Fortunately, no one was silly enough to publish the thing.”

Despite serving in the Army in Viet Nam and Japan from 1968 to 1970, McDaniel found himself concentrating on naval fiction. His first two published novels were set aboard submarines. He was also general editor for the American Submarine War Patrol Reports series, published by Riverdale Books. “General editor meant chief typist, mostly,” he says. “The reports were on microfiche and I spent a lot of time copying them into the computer to be set in type. The editing was mostly fixing spelling errors and adding a  lot of footnotes.”

He adds, “I think I might have made a good submariner. The main reason I joined the Army instead of the Navy was a combination of the fact that the Army guaranteed you’d be able to attend the school of your choice, and the little detail that I was a lousy swimmer. Back then I was 6’ 4” and weighed about 160 pounds. I didn’t float.”

“Still, I’d been fascinated by subs ever since our grade school class visited the old U.S.S. Gar (SS-206) back in the 1950s. She was being used as a reserve pierside trainer in Cleveland back then, and the tour was conducted by guys who’d put in their time in subs back in World War II. Gar is gone now, sold for scrap, and replaced as a trainer by U.S.S. Cod (SS-224). Cod is also retired now, preserved as a museum and memorial. Bacalao was launched with a book signing at Cod in July 2004.”

What’s New?


4 July 2014: Last weekend we took Spamalot to the Central Region OCTA, where it was selected as one of two shows that would be going to the State OCTAfest over Labor Day weekend. Due to the necessity of cutting it down to fit into a 40-minute time slot, I’m only on stage briefly, but it’s a good bit and was always a consistent laugh getter. Meanwhile, I’m rehearsing the role of Sir Willoughby Drake in Ray Cooney’s It Runs in the Family.

27 April 2014: The opening weekend of Monty Python’s Spamalot is over, and audiences have been wildly enthusiastic. If you live in central Ohio, you need to get your reservations now, because we expect all tickets to be gone before much longer. Call the Little Theatre Off Broadway at 614-875-3919 for reservations. Spamalot runs weekends through May 18.

2 March 2014: Added a Facebook “like” button for this site. It’s new, so don’t be too shocked if the count isn’t very high yet. It took a couple years to get the number one Google ranking, and I expect it will take a while to get the “like” count up to a respectable number.

15 February 2014: Will be appearing in Monty Python’s Spamalot at the Little Theatre Off Broadway in Grove City, OH in April/May. I’ll be playing the Mayor in the Finland number, walk on as Sir Not Appearing in This Show, and then return later as Tim the Enchanter, which will undoubtedly be the most fun. If they’re smart, they’ll figure out a way to keep my feet as stationary as possible. No one wants to see me dance (presuming anyone would ever call it that).

January 2014: Working on a new one-act play, probably called Sunday Afternoon (you’re never sure until you’re finished). There will be parts for an older man and woman, a woman in her late 30s, and three children. Just a peaceful Sunday afternoon at home, except Dad is starting to have trouble remembering some things, such as what he’s supposed to get at the supermarket, and whether his eldest son is still alive.

15 November 2013: My recently produced play, Coming Out: A Dark Comedy in Two Acts, has been nominated for Best Original Play in the BroadwayWorld.com Columbus Awards. Also nominated from this show was Jim LeVally, who played Rev. James Anderson, for Best Actor in a Play. Martha Kathryn Smith, who played Jim’s wife, was nominated for Best Young Actress for a different show. Voting continues through December 31. The entire play is currently available for viewing on line at the play’s website, ComingOutThePlay.com, and on YouTube.

29 September 2013: Tomorrow begins the final week of rehearsals for Coming Out: A Dark Comedy in Two Acts, at The Abbey Theater of Dublin, leading up to a combination dress rehearsal and preview on Thursday, October 3, and our opening night on Friday, October 4. After the opening we’ll run two more weekends, with performances as 8:00 pm on Fridays, and a 3:00 pm matinee and 8:00 pm evening performance on Saturdays.

6 July 2013: In order to raise enough money to do Coming Out properly, and to make a professional video of the play, we’ve started a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo.com. This is a popular crowd funding site, which comes rather highly recommended by George Takei, who has used it for his own projects. We’re trying to raise $25,000, as the video is going to be expensive, and given a reasonably successful run at the Abbey Theater in Dublin, Ohio, we want to take the show to an off-Broadway (or, even better, Broadway) theater in New York next year, so if there’s any money left over it will make a start on that project. There are lots of neat premiums being offered to contributors, ranging from a listing in the program, to above the title credit as a producer on the advertising, programs, and video, along with special souvenirs. Anyone contributing $100 or more will get a copy of the DVD. We’ve also created a Twitter account, @ComingOutThPlay. The misspelling is intentional—Twitter only gives you 16 characters for the handle, so one letter had to go. There is also now a YouTube channel, ComingOutThePlay.

8 June 2013: Uploaded a new website, ComingOutThePlay.com. I wrote the play, and will be playing the father in it, along with co-directing. The show will premier at The Abbey Theater of Dublin, in Dublin, Ohio, the first three weekends in October. The title notwithstanding, only two of the nine characters are gay; the play is much more about the reactions of one’s family than the character’s own sexual identity. Of particular interest is his elder brother, a Dallas mega-church pastor and televangelist, whose opinion of his brother’s announcement falls somewhere between what you’d expect from Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps, and perhaps leans more than a little in Fred’s direction. There’s a lot of yelling and some rude language. I play a happily married college professor (with a pregnant secretary). There are some very serious themes examined here, but I think there’s plenty of opportunity for humor, too.

10 March 2013: Matinee today. The theater was sold out last night and this afternoon. The run will continue at 8:00 pm on Friday and Saturday, through March 24. If you’re in the Columbus, Ohio area you should see this. We’re wonderful.

1 March 2013: Opening night for To Kill a Mockingbird at the Little Theatre Off Broadway in Grove City, Ohio. I’m playing Judge Taylor in this production. That’s one of those roles where you don’t say a lot, but what you do say is fairly critical to the plot. Curiously, this show has reminded me that I seem to be one of those rare men who can shave off a nearly all white beard and somehow end up looking older! That’s just not right! Nice turnout for the opening.

3 June 2012: Started rehearsals for Into the Woods at Arena Fair Theater in Delaware, Ohio. I’ll be playing the Narrator. Performances scheduled for the first weekend in August, if you happen to be in the area on those dates. I haven’t sung in public in quite a while, so this should be interesting.

10 April 2012: Added a link to my YouTube channel in the [navigation bar]. As of now there are five videos, three where I’m just being myself, and two of them reading stories in character. Watch them all, link to them, make me famous.

20 February 2012: Another new video has been posted to YouTube. In this I’m reading my classic novelty piece, Men’s Rules for Relationships. This humorous piece is also found in my latest book, This and That.

17 February 2012: I’ve posted a great video of me reading my short story A Patient Man to my YouTube channel. The story can be found in my latest book, This and That.

10 December 2011: This and That has been added to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. This allows any Kindle owners who are also Amazon Prime members to borrow the book without charge. You can borrow one book per month. I was always a little skeptical about paying the $79,99 a year Prime subscription charge, but after getting a one-month free subscription when I bought my Kindle Fire, I have no doubt I’ll take the full year when the trial runs out. So far I’ve saved more than the subscription cost just watching free movies and TV shows.

9 December 2011: Did some housekeeping on this site today. As they’ve now all been published in This and That, I’ve removed all the short stories. Never fear, I plan to write more. Meanwhile, you really should consider clicking on the tab on the navigation bar and following @auth_JTMcDaniel on Twitter. The “auth” is either “authentic,” “authorized,” or “author,” take your pick. Seems that  someone was already using my name when I signed up.

30 November 2011: Doing a little tweeting lately. Who says old guys can’t learn new stuff. Not that anyone is actually following yet.

13 November 2011: Finished proofing the print edition of This and That and sent the corrections to the publisher. Print availability is predicted for sometime next week. A few corrections were also applied to the Kindle edition, and those should be live by Tuesday. Also today, the old discussion forums sections was formally retired, with the links removed and the files taken down from the server. It just became too much trouble dealing with the spam.


Shannon Williams Photography