Few among us have ever experienced the kind of prolonged capacity for high adventure that might make the backdrop for a good book, and probably fewer of those who did could be creatively adept enough to write such a book.
Bill Schweigart, a U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduate who served five years in the USCG, achieving the rank of lieutenant, is one who can say he has done both. The southern New Jersey native (Woodbury Heights, Gloucester County), who spent much of his childhood and early-adult summers on the beaches of Ocean City, penned a novel called Slipping The Cable that is lightly based on his experiences in the USCG patrolling the seas, carrying out search-and-rescue missions, keeping the coastline safe and generally living a military life at sea.
Schweigart, who now works for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Infrastructure Protection, deftly relates in the novel what this maritime life can be like without being overzealous in his Coast Guard jargon, or speaking in terms the layman might not understand.
His character development is exceptional, riveting the reader to the novel’s principal player, Ensign Kelly Sensor, and its chief antagonist, Captain Kevin Aregood, who torments Sensor from cover to cover. Several exciting sub-plots all get tied neatly together in an action-packed ending in Key West, Florida, where of course vengeance is served.
Sensor’s good friend and roommate aboard the Sentinel — the 270-foot Coast Guard cutter on which much of the storyline takes place — is an equally likeable character of Cuban descent named Jorge Vargas, and others who play prominently into the main plot are fellow crewmen, a mysterious figure best known as the Chaplain, and the Chaplain’s daughter Piper who wins Sensor’s affection. Cable is a novel that, particularly for those who love stories of the sea, keeps the reader Semper Paratus (the USCG’s motto meaning “always ready”) for more.
“Though much of the book takes place at sea, the Jersey shore is featured prominently and is in the book’s DNA,” Schweigart tells Atlantic City Weekly. “Ocean City gave me my love of the ocean and was my gateway to the Coast Guard, much like the main character. Even though I’m in the D.C. area now [Schweigart lives in Arlington, Virginia, with his wife Kate and their daughter Sidney], I always self-identify as a Jersey boy.”
Schweigart — who soon anticipates the release of his second novel, a supernatural thriller called The Beast of Barcroft — says on the Web site coastguardchannel.com that inspiration for Slipping The Cable (a title derived from Coast Guard vernacular meaning to cut an anchor line in order make a swift getaway) grew out of a few sleepless, seasick nights in rough water during his service aboard the Coast Guard cutter Bear.
“Being at sea was incredible, except when conditions made me wish I was somewhere else,” Schweigart said. “That’s how Slipping The Cable was born — during those times I wished to be somewhere else.”
Melissa Newman of the Barbourville, Kentucky-based Martin Sisters Publishing, which released Slipping The Cable in mid-October 2012, was quoted in a Navy Times’ book review (navytimes.com) as saying “[Schweigart] is a master at dialogue and narrative, and at marrying those two things together. A lot of elements that go into making a great book; he had them all.”
Slipping The Cable
A novel by Bill Schweigart
Price: $16.95 print; $6.99 e-reader
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