Near the beginning of your book, you say that the fact that you never knew your father who had been blown dead off a destroyer at Okinawa was no big deal.

It was just the first fact of my life and I never dwelt on it, never shed a single tear over it. But around the time I turned 28, as old as he ever got, I told my story to a French couple who had lived through the war and they started weeping. They couldn’t believe that my mother and stepfather changed both my names—from Peter Simmons to Craig Vetter.  Somehow that kicked my father’s ghost loose and I decided to read the hundreds of letters he and my mother had exchanged over his four brutal years at sea in the Pacific war.

You can tell from the shipboard notebook my father started when he was twenty-three years old that he wanted to be a writer. You can read him practicing, can feel the young soul that wants to render the world into words, wants to get better at it, wants to have readers.

By the time I’d become a professional writer, I had no idea that my father had had the same ambition, because I never knew him. He was blown to pieces off the fantail of a destroyer into the shallows near the Japanese island of Okinawa.