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How a Fletcher Class Destroyer Became a DDG Overnight

By John J. Gobbell

February, 1962
U.S.S. Tingey (DD 539)
Closing the east coast of Honshu, Japan

Tingey, a 2,100 ton Fletcher class destroyer rolled easily in the calm Pacific under a moonless night. Yesterday, she had emerged from a series of bone-jarring storms that had left us sleepless and walking like zombies. But tonight, the sky was clear and sparkled with stars which gleamed with the blue-white brilliance only seen at sea. We were in station six of a circular formation with the destroyers of DESRON FIFTEEN. At the formation’s center was the carrier USS Bennington (CVS 20) steaming in regal splendor at twenty knots. Without EMCON, our formation’s lights looked rather festive as we closed Japan’s coast.
Mix and Match

It was 2000 and we stood for officer’s call on the 01 level before the mast. This gave us the superstructure’s protection, and yet little zephyrs still curled around bulkheads, ruffling our khakis as we swayed with the ship’s motion. Twelve of us stood in two ranks: Department heads in front, junior officers in back. Four other officers were on watch; the captain was in his sea cabin immersed in paper work.

“What is going on?” the Exec demanded.

We looked back dumbly.

“Come on,” the Exec’s Zippo clanked as he lit a Pall Mall. “Anybody? The skipper is worried. And quite frankly, I am too.”

We exchanged glances and shrugs. We’d felt it, too. The crew had been too quiet. For the past few days, they’d silently gone about their jobs with lips pressed, eyes avoiding us as we neared Japan’s coast. Since leaving Pearl Harbor, we’d been at sea for ten storm-tossed days. One would have thought the ship would be rife with channel fever in anticipation of reaching Yokosuka. But even the redoubtable chiefs were unapproachable as they strut about our decks or sat in the goat locker, their arms folded in regal silence.

What is going on? we wondered.

The exec’s eyes narrowed. “Come on. Better to find out now then after we tie up.”

More shrugs.

The exec took a drag off his Pall Mall then looked up, “Let’s try again tomorrow. Now. There’s been a change tomorrow for entering port. Sagami Wan entrance 0800. Yokosuka 0930. Special sea detail, 0845. Any questions?”

Shrugs.

With another drag, the exec turned to the engineering officer. “No smoke going into Tokyo Bay.” He puffed his chest, the unspoken command that he didn’t want our beloved Tingey, a seventeen year old veteran of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, to embarrass us before our squadron flag, the U.S.S. Mahan (DLG 11). For sure, there was animosity between the DLG/DDG crowd and the DDs. Maybe they were jealous of the campaign ribbons on our bridge from World War II and Korea. The Mahan sure didn’t have any.

It began the previous summer when we’d been fleeted up from a reserve destroyer to become a once-again full-time greyhound of the sea. An international crisis was on in Berlin. Something about the East Germans building a wall through the center of the City. Another crisis was brewing in the Gulf of Siam, so we’d been ordered to re-join the big boys in WESPAC to screen our carriers from the bad guys. They stuffed us into Destroyer Squadron Fifteen that sported twelve destroyers: four were of the fleet’s newest guided missile frigates (DLG); another four were new guided missile destroyers (DDG). The final four was taken up by us and three other Fletcher class destroyers. Compared to the DLGs and DDGs, we were sort of “out there” and treated accordingly. Mix and match.

For sure, juxtaposing a Fletcher class alongside a Coontz class guided missile frigate was like parking a model T Ford alongside a Ferrari. The champions of the U.S. Navy were festooned with the latest mods of Tartar and Terrier guided missiles. Also, they had high-tech things like NTDS, ASROC and super-sensitive mark 44 tube-launched homing torpedoes all designed to handle Ivan’s growing submarine threat. This was capped off with new modular CICs, where on-watch sailors defended the fleet in air-conditioned comfort. Even their wardrooms were air conditioned. And we were en-route to the humidity soaked South China Sea. But on a calm day and with a good tail wind, the mighty Tingey did have a thirty knot capability and could maintain fleet speed with the carriers and other brand new destroyers sporting air-conditioned modular CICs.

The corners of the engineering officer’s mouth turned up. “We enter Tokyo Bay in a column, sir?”

The exec raised a clipboard and thumbed aside flimsies. He found a message. “Affirmative. We enter Tokyo Bay in a column.” He smiled back. “We’ll be in last place, again.”

Groans. This meant we’d be the last to tie up and be outboard ship again in a nest of Godzilla-sized guided missile frigates ranging up to 5,800 tons. And we knew they derived a sadistic pleasure out of sticking us outboard in the nest. Getting to the pier meant navigating brass-festooned quarterdecks of these brand-new goliaths, their dress khaki-clad OODs strutting about in officious silence. Worse, it meant that our working parties bringing food and other consumables from the pier had to lug their boxes and crates across three, four, and sometimes five incompatible and oftentimes hostile quarterdecks.

We’d left San Diego about four weeks before making Pearl Harbor in ten days. Fights had broken out the first night ashore in Pearl. Brightwork and canvaswork was stolen off our fo’s’cle. During the next week’s exercises around Oahu, the captain and exec both looked the other way when, relegated as outboard ship, our boatswain’s mates rigged rat-guards after we tied up. This, of course, was the ultimate insult a ship could deliver to another. And it captured the immediate attention of the squadron commodore who ordered our rat-guards stricken. Strangely, it was after that that our brightwork and canvaswork was mysteriously returned. But still, things were tense.

“Yes, sir. Last place in the column. No smoke, Sir,” replied the engineering officer. His tone implied, “what does it matter? If we do make smoke, we’ll be so far back in the column that people on the Mahan’s bridge will never see us anyway.” But he didn’t have to worry. The Tingey, for all her seventeen years and thousands of miles of steaming, still had a tight, well-maintained plant.

With a slight shake of his head, the exec said, “Just make sure, okay?” He flipped more flimsies. “Right. All initialed.” The exec made sure we read and initialed all the messages. With an uncanny expertise, he flicked his cigarette butt over the side — a shot of about seventeen feet. “Dismissed. Movie tonight is Guns of Navaronne.”

Now this is more like it. With an alacrity not often seen, we scampered from the 01 level down to our non-air conditioned wardroom on the main-deck. We were anxious for another showing of Alistair McLean’s best-selling adaptation. It had a great cast: Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, and Irene Pappas who plays Maria Pappadimos. We’d traded it among the ships of DESRON FIFTEEN on our way from San Diego and had seen this action-packed thriller five times.

We stood as our Captain entered. He seated us with a smile and small talk. Coffee cups rattled in their saucers. The overhead lights were snapped off; the space darkened as Zippo lighters clicked. Immediately, the Bell & Howell sixteen millimeter projector ground into life. Once again, our disbelief was suspended as credits rolled and blue cigar and cigarette smoke swirled before the screen.

We knew most of the lines and after two hours of action-packed nail-biting drama, we are ready for the pay off. At last, thunderous explosion after ear-splitting explosion rack Navarrone as Peck and Niven get the guns blown up. The mountain spews fiery, black detritus for miles around that collapses into the Aegean, the twin German cannons tumbling right behind.

Now for the best part. Gregory Peck and Irene Pappas commandeer a gleaming mahogany Riva speedboat and race offshore to rescue a drowning Anthony Quinn, a victim of a Nazi stab wound. The irony is that Quinn has vowed to kill Gregory Peck after their mission is completed. Now, this is plainly evident as Navaorrone’s massive crater spews fire and smoke.

Pappas skillfully maneuvers the Riva alongside a bleeding, sputtering Quinn. He’s going down for the third time.

Here comes the best part: Irene Pappas jazzes the Riva’s throttle making it sound like a well-oiled, V-16 supercharged engine. With a throaty roar, it goes, “Vroom vroom.” The Riva reminds us of our high school days when we chased girls and did our utmost to buy Smitty glass-pak 26 inch mufflers for whatever cars we could afford.

Peck thrusts out a boat hook to a blubbering Quinn and commands in his signature deep timbre, “Come on, Man. Grab it!”

“… I…I can’t,” Quinn sputters.

“… Vroooom, vroom,” goes Pappas.

“Vroom, vroom, ” we shout back in unison.

“Grab, it!” Demands Peck.

“Grab it,” we shout.

“Vroom, vroom,” goes Pappas.

“Vroom, vroom,” we yell.

An exhausted Quinn barely snags the boathook with a forefinger. Peck drags Quinn aboard. Quinn tumbles into Irene Pappas’ eager arms. British destroyers joyfully hoot their whistles while a choir sings “Maria’s Song” in the background.

We give a last, “Vroom, vroom.”

Finis.

The projector stops, then is threaded for a re-wind. Eyes blink as bright stygian lights flash on in a smoky wardroom, snapping us back to reality. Time for the sack; some of us are up at 2330 for the midwatch.

We stand respectfully, letting the captain exit. He heads down the passage way and ducks into our un-air conditioned non-modular CIC where he’ll study the radars and take in the picture. From there, he’ll climb to the bridge for a last look around before he retires to his sea-cabin.

The exec blocks the exit, lights up another Pall Mall and delivers a withering glance, “Figure out what they’re up to, Okay? And no foul-ups tomorrow. We have to look good for our grand entrance.” He turns and heads for his stateroom below.


The next morning found us under clear blue skies and a calm rolling sea. The wind wasn’t up yet leaving the surface glassy with the consistency of thirty-weight oil. We’d already formed into the dreaded column and once again, Tingey took up the rear as tail-end Charlie. Even so, one could see Fujiyama’s snow capped peak from the bridge. It stood in white misty splendor beckoning right off our bow. Amazing, we’d really made it.

Everyone shook hands with the Exec at officer’s call on the quarterdeck. He doubled as our navigator and guffawed with, ‘Aw shucks,’ tongue in cheek, knowing that he didn’t have any choice but to follow eleven destroyers and a great big fat carrier. But we knew he’d been out there taking his morning stars and sun lines, verifying our position.

Thus, with a smattering of pride, he raised the plan of the day and began to read. “Now lissen up. We’ll man the rail at 0900 and I want everyone-“

A palm went to his forehead. “What the–?” He looked from side to side and then called to the Operations officer. “Get the yeoman up here on the double.”

“Sir, anything wrong?” asked the operations officer. The yeomen were in his department.

“You better believe it.” He shoved the plan of the day under the Ops officer’s nose.”

“…, Sir, I don’t… holy smokes!”

“What’s going on?” The Exec jabbed a finger at the top of the page.

We yanked copies from our pockets and discovered what we hadn’t noticed during a hurried breakfast. The masthead clearly read: U.S.S. Tingey (DDG 539).

“Whose joke is this? I’ll have that yeoman busted to seaman deuce,” roared the Exec.

The chief engineer, wearing signature oil spattered overalls and garrison cap, popped up from the aft fireroom hatch, about thirty feet aft from where we stood. Deliberately ignoring officer’s call, he turned aft and sauntered toward the fantail, flashlight in hand. The Exec was still muttering about the DDG flap when our chief engineer quickly walked forward and joined our ranks, an enormous grin glowing like the fires in his Babcock and Wilcox boilers.

The Exec demanded, “What’s so funny?”

“Sir, I just discovered why we’re a DDG.” He nodded aft.

“If you’d be so nice as to let me in on your little secret,” The Exec said with evident sarcasm.

“I think you should take a look, Sir.” The Chief Engineer again nodded aft.

“Stand fast.” With doubled fists, the Exec walked aft. Sixty seconds later, he was back, his grin as big as the Chief Engineer’s. “You had all better take a look.”

So we did.

The shipfitters had made a guided missile from plain sheet metal and fitted it over the entire length of mount 55, our after five-inch gun mount. It was replete with fins and nose cone. Like the fleet’s Terrier and Tartar missiles, the body was painted a deep blue, the fins white. A black toilet plunger was fixed to the tip.

“For sure this beats rat-guards,” the Exec growled. “We’ll enter port just as she is and watch ‘em get apoplexy.”


We entered port and our guided missile lasted just two days. The squadron commodore ordered it stricken, saying something about an affront to Japanese sensitivity. Like a first class boatswain’s mate busted to seaman second, we were stripped of our hard-earned DDG status and relegated back to being a common DD.

But there’s a happy ending. Two weeks after that, we were transferred into the welcoming arms of DESRON ONE. We thought this was pretty cool since DESRON ONE’s stack insignia was the first-place rosette logo of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and our skipper was Commander J. R. Pabst.

We were sent to the South China Sea where we endured the humidity in our un-air conditioned CIC and wardroom to say nothing of the mess decks and sonar shack. We really didn’t have time to think about it, as we were at twenty-five to thirty knots day and night plane-guarding for the U.S.S. Hancock (CVA 19) around Yankee station. And we looked for Communist submarines We actually found a live one and held him down for three days — all without the benefit of a modular air conditioned CIC, to say nothing of our stuffy, oftentimes claustrophobic sonar shack.

We came of age while chasing Hancock around Yankee Station. Even without air-conditioning, our World War II battle-hardened Tingey took good care of us and brought us home to our families. We pulled it off. Amazing.

That was nearly sixty years ago. The Tingey is gone now; long ago expended as a target off San Clemente Island. But I think fondly of her and my shipmates as Turner Classic Movies once again rolls The Guns of Navaronne It still takes two hours but finally, the end is near and I get to go, “vroom, vroom,” while my wife sits there with folded arms, shaking her head and rolling her eyes.

This article was originally published in Tin Can Sailor. Re-printed here with permission.

John J. Gobbell is the author of the bestselling Todd Ingram Series. You can browse the entire 6 book series here.

“Powerful and engaging. Truly an inspiring and emotional story of bravery and sacrifice … a must read.” —Nelson DeMille, #1 NYT Bestselling Author

SRP Donates 50+ books to Operation Paperback

Severn River Publishing was founded by military veterans and family members who share a love of story. This love of story extends to sharing stories with others.

Operation Paperback is a national, non-profit organization, whose volunteers collect new and gently-used books to send to American troops overseas, as well as veterans and military families here at home.

This year through Operation Paperback, we have sent over 50 books to US Troops and their families serving our country. We are acutely aware of the hardships and struggles our troops and their family members face. Being separated from family and isolated, stories can bring joy, hope, and connection that was otherwise missing.

You can read more about Operation Paperback here.

Author Spotlight: Jason Kasper

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for The Enemies of My Country?

Jason: Many heroes of military thrillers have no family—a fact inconveniently pointed out to me by a reader of my first book, shortly after I’d committed to writing about a military thriller hero with no family. At the time I was fresh out of the Army, and didn’t think much of it.

But since then I’ve become a father myself, and my adorable daughter has succeeded in making me very, very soft and weak. I just couldn’t write about a lone mercenary killer anymore; at the same time, I was far too ruined for a normal job to pursue any other line of work.

So for this book, I decided to flip the normal convention on its head. This time, my hero would have a family—and he was going to find them in grave danger.

SRP: What can you tell us about the plot?

Jason: David Rivers is an elite-level assassin. He’s an expert in the art of violence. Honing his skill first as a Ranger, then as a mercenary, and now as a CIA contractor conducting covert action around the world.

But in his secluded mountain home in Virginia, David Rivers lives a double life. There, Rivers is known as a caring husband to his new wife, and the doting father to his young daughter.

Soft targets to his enemies.

Half a world away, on a mission to assassinate a foreign operative, Rivers uncovers his worst fear.

An imminent attack on US soil will occur in four days.

The target is in his hometown.

And his wife and daughter are mentioned by name.

SRP: What were the easiest and most difficult parts of writing The Enemies of My Country?

Jason: The easiest part was the premise—a man finds his family in danger, and has four days to uncover and stop an imminent terrorist attack. Simple, right?

The catch was figuring out how to turn that promising foundation into a full storyline, and packing all the events and characters into one cohesive and fast-paced book. THAT was the hard part, and I quickly wondered if I’d bit off more than I could chew.

Several months, many hours of weeping at a keyboard, and untold bottles of bourbon later, the result is this book.

SRP: The hero of this book is former Army Ranger David Rivers. What would he say if he met you in person?

Jason: First and foremost, he’d probably shame me for being a cat owner—rightfully so. Then he’d slap me for all the trouble I’ve put him through in this book—once again, fully justified.

After that, we’d probably sit down and enjoy our shared favorite pastime: drinking bourbon.

And I’d try not to make him angry.

SRP: What’s next for David?

Jason: The Enemies of My Country kicks off a ten-book series outline that will take David to the world’s most dangerous corners, as he uncovers a sinister conspiracy with global implications. The second book will be released later this year.

SRP: You’re known for engaging with your readers, from answering emails to chatting on your Facebook reader group. What’s it like interacting with them on a daily basis?

Jason: There’s an Eastern saying that “the teacher and the taught together create the teaching.” I think this applies equally well as “the author and the readers together create the books.”

If no one read my work, I’d still write every day—but my stories wouldn’t be nearly as good.

Feedback from readers helps me improve with each book, and their support keeps me going no matter how difficult a manuscript gets. As any author can tell you, the writing process is filled with dizzying highs and crushing lows. It helps a lot to know the readers have my back, and no matter how many books I write in this lifetime, I owe them a lot more than they owe me.

Also, I vividly remember starting out and having no readers at all. The world is a cold and lonely place for a struggling writer, so it’s hard for me not to be deliriously grateful today.

SRP: What good books have you read lately?

Jason: Confession time—I’ve never been big into zombie movies.

When a friend of mine recommended World War Z, I reluctantly agreed to check out the first few chapters.

Three days later I’d not only finished the book, but was ready to wrap a baseball bat in barbed wire and go battle the undead hordes. If you haven’t read that book, check it out!

SRP: You’re stranded on a desert island with all of your basic needs taken care of (food, shelter, clothes). What three items would you bring?

Jason: All the bourbon I could take with me, obviously. Then a baseball bat. And finally, some barbed wire to wrap around the bat, just in case the zombies come.

The Enemies of My Country launches January 15. Pre-order here.

Author Spotlight: Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Damaging Secrets, and what can you tell us about the plot?

Carolyn: Rachel’s been sitting on my shoulder for a few years now. I knew who she was, what she’d been through, and where that would ultimately lead her. I just didn’t know what she’d do when she got there. For that, I worked with an excellent editor who helped me with the plot. I submitted several ideas and we molded them together into something I think turned out well.

SRP: You’re a bestselling cozy mystery author, what made you want to dive into writing grittier thrillers?

Carolyn: Writing is like everything else in life. If you don’t take risks, you’ll never discover what you can do. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone. I love my cozy characters, but writing someone with a lot of strength and even more emotional baggage was a stretch for me, and I wanted to explore Rachel’s psyche.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

Carolyn: Self doubt and insecurity ad nauseum. I carry those emotions around with me with every book I write, but this new genre was a big step, and I’ve had to stuff a sock in my inner critic’s mouth and glue it shut. Once I got through the first few chapters, I felt that familiar groove set in, and it came a lot easier, but those first few chapters were brutal. My husband will tell you I didn’t think it got easier at the time, and he would be right. Hindsight is truly 20/20.

SRP: What’s your favorite characteristic of your protagonist, Rachel Ryder? Do you see any of yourself in her?

Carolyn: Rachel doesn’t have a filter. I love that about her. We share that trait to a certain degree. The only difference is she knows how to use it to her advantage. I’m usually trying to get my foot out of my mouth after spouting off something I never should have said in the first place. I envy her ability to stand up for what she believes, to fight for it, and not shed a tear because her principles are so rock solid. Everyone has baggage, but Rachel, as hard as she tries, struggles to move on from hers. She’s tied up in guilt and grief, and she uses those as crutches to stay emotionally disconnected. Thankfully, we don’t share that, but I will say, she’s working hard to detach herself from those negative characteristics.

SRP: What’s next for Rachel Ryder?

Carolyn: I can’t go into too many details because I don’t want to spoil the first book, but let’s just say her past comes back to haunt her, and like it or not, she’s got to deal with it!

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

Carolyn: I have just re-read all of the Spenser mysteries by Robert B. Parker, and the last Sue Grafton book. Parker is my favorite author, and Grafton is a close second. I’m waiting for the next Robert Crais book to publish and when it does, I’ll be glued to that until I finish.

SRP: What’s your number one piece of writing advice for someone just starting out?

Carolyn: Most people think too much and struggle with every word. Don’t. Just write. The goal is to get the words on the page, even if they’re garbage. And honestly, that’s the easy part. Once you finish that first draft, that’s when the hard work starts. Get them on the page and let it flow. It will get easier as time goes by.

Damaging Secrets launches January 12. Buy your copy here.

Damaging Secrets, the first book of her newest crime thriller series, is an engaging story of corruption and cover-up that you won’t soon forget.

New to town and a little rough around the edges, Detective Rachel Ryder finds herself on the receiving end of a suspicious person’s call in Hamby, Georgia. When the call turns out to be a dead body, the medical examiner is quick to rule the death a suicide. But was it something more sinister?

Everyone in the small department believes the case is closed—except for Rachel. The sudden passing of a local politician during the mayor’s run for Congress strikes her as a little too coincidental, and Rachel is eager to follow her instincts. Her partner, Rob, a 30-year veteran, isn’t the type to disobey his boss or ruffle any feathers, but he can’t convince strong-willed Rachel to let it go.

Obsessed with finding out the truth, Rachel begins to examine the evidence and drags her reluctant partner along for the ride. But the clues are confusing. Nothing is adding up.

Puzzled and running out of time, Rachel and Rob rush to work every angle and bring the elusive killer to justice before someone else ends up dead.

Author Spotlight: Shannon Baker

SRP: How did you come up with Kate Fox, the main character in your new release, Stripped Bare?

Shannon: I lived in the Nebraska Sandhills for 20 years. To be honest, I didn’t love it when I arrived there as a young bride. But I was determined to make it my home, and the landscapes and people grew on me until I was hooked. I always wanted to write about the Sandhills because it’s unique and so quirky. But I ended up leaving because my husband had an affair. (Long story but ends happy.)

It took me a while to get my sense of humor back and when I did, Kate Fox popped into my head. She got here all at once and demanded I tell her stories. Kate’s nothing like me, except she shares my sense of humor and she’s got a cheating spouse (where do I get my ideas?). She’s a total insider, related to everyone in Grand County by one degree of separation—or less. She’s capable, competent, and never wants to live anywhere else.

SRP: What can you tell us about The Kate Fox series?

Shannon: The series is set in the Nebraska Sandhills where cattle outnumber people by more than 60:1. The population is .9 people per square mile which leaves a whole lot of places to hide bodies. Grand County has one law enforcement officer, the sheriff, so it’s like the wild west. With so few people around, it’s hard to keep secrets, but it can happen. Kate is smack dab in the middle of nine brothers and sisters, all caring and all meddling, creating havoc in Kate’s life.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing Stripped Bare, the first book in the series?

Shannon: When I wrote Stripped Bare we were living in McCook, Nebraska. I’d just fired myself from a start-up in Boulder, CO because it wasn’t starting up. My husband worked for BNSF Railroad and was due to retire in two years so we figured we could move to a small town in Nebraska and live on his salary. Feeling kind of failure-ish and kind of lonely (he was on the road several days a week) I settled into the hovel we bought and started to entertain myself with Kate’s disaster of a life. Winter in McCook was long and gray and very cold. I had one rule: I had to get out of the house for at least two hours every day to keep from sinking into depression. I took long walks and every day I’d go to the library and write there. I did that for months and the librarians never spoke more than two words to me, even after I donated books from my first series. But I finished Stripped Bare while we lived there, so I have fond memories.

SRP: What’s next for Kate?

Shannon: I’m super excited for Kate to have a second life and for new readers to discover the Nebraska Sandhills. It’s been a blast diving back into Grand County and all the characters I’ve missed. First, Stripped Bare will take flight December 8, then Dark Signal is coming in hot just a week later on December 15. After that, Bitter Rain is rearing its head in the spring. Right now, I’m finishing up book four, and if you could give me a title, I’d be happy to name a character after you. This story features Kate’s loveable younger brother, Jeremy, horses, and elements south of the border.

SRP: What are you working on now?

Shannon: Just before I bumped down the dusty trail road back to the Sandhills, I was working on a suspense set in Tucson. When I moved here a few years ago and discovered Joe Bonanno, the boss of one of the Five Families of New York, retired here in the 70’s, I knew I had to write about the Mafia in Tucson. It’s twisty, so much so that it twisted out of my head and I need to figure out how my main character, Josephine, did what she did and when she knew she was going to do it.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

Shannon: It’s good to be a writer and have amazing writer friends. Last summer, I got to read Jess Lourey’s latest book, Bloodline, well before it was released. It’s a Kindle First Reads right now and I highly recommend you all get it. They call it Rosemary’s Baby meets Get Out. And it’s creepy in all the best ways!

And right now, I’m loving Alice Hoffman’s Rules of Magic. What a writer! If you’re a fan of historical mysteries, I’d recommend Karen Odden’s A Trace of Deceit.

SRP: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Shannon: I don’t even have to think about this. Hands down the best money I ever spent was hiring my editor Jessica. She’s like a personalized MFA.

Stripped Bare launches December 8.

Pre-order here.

Author Spotlight: James Chandler

SRP: This is your debut novel! How does it feel?

James: I am excited at seeing Misjudged published. The entire project started several years ago with a sort of off-handed comment to my wife after I’d read a particularly poor novel: “I could write a better book than that,” I said. “Well, why don’t you?” And it was on. The process of writing, revising, finding a publisher and working with the SRP team to bring the book to readers has been eye-opening—you have no idea the amount of work that goes into publishing a book until you go through it. It has been both challenging and exhilarating, and it will be fun to see everyone’s efforts come to fruition. I hope readers will enjoy themselves for a couple of hours.

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Misjudged?

James: When I decided to write the novel, I had a very rough outline in mind. Misjudged is admittedly a character-driven, rather than plot-driven, novel. Because I’m not trying to make any points or drive home an agenda in my books, and because trials are structured, linear affairs, the plot beyond the initial outline evolved from the characters: “How would a guy like Sam handle a situation like X?” “What would Judge Daniels do if confronted by Y?” and so on. The key players are composite portraits of men and women I have known, mostly inspired by military officers I encountered during my career (trust me when I tell you the Pentagon was a rich source of material). I had some procedural and forensic twists I wanted to introduce, so I outlined and revised until I felt like I had a solid idea for a novel I could sit down and write.

SRP: What can you tell us about the plot?

James: Misjudged introduces the reader to Sam Johnstone, a disabled veteran who went to law school after being discharged from the Army. After struggling at a law firm in Washington, D.C., a down-on-his-luck Sam accepts an offer from an old friend to relocate to rural Wyoming to practice in a last-ditch effort to save his career—and himself. Against his better judgment, Sam agrees to defend a veteran accused of killing a prominent local attorney. Misjudged follows Sam and the other key players as the case develops and is tried in front of a jury. Along the way, Sam struggles with his demons while he and the various participants find their assumptions about the actions and motives of others are not always accurate.

SRP: Why did you choose Wyoming as your setting?

James: I’ve been fortunate to have been around the world several times—and yet, here I am! I love Wyoming like only someone who has been everywhere else can. Custer, Wyoming is a fictional place, but I think it represents what Wyoming, its people, and its legal practitioners are all about. I gave serious thought to basing the novel elsewhere, but decided I was most comfortable with Wyoming people, places and law.

SRP: What’s next for Sam Johnstone?

James: The next novel in the series, One and Done, follows Sam as he defends a star athlete charged with the murder of a gay college student. While the facts alone are problematic, outside pressures and Sam’s internal struggles complicate an already difficult situation and threaten to interfere with Sam’s defense of his client. I’m already mulling some general ideas for the third book. There’s a minor character—a woman—who was introduced in One and Done. I think she might merit a closer look. I could see some interesting things happening in her life, and her interaction with Sam could get complicated.

SRP: Have you read any good books lately?

James: My reading is heavily weighted toward non-fiction, especially military history. Right now, I am reading several books dealing with the Great Sioux War and the Army of the West. As a retired Army officer formerly assigned to places like Fort Riley, Fort Leavenworth, and Fort Bliss, I have a fondness for the old Cavalry posts. It must have been an amazing experience to be garrisoned at one of those posts at the relevant time. My fiction reading is rare and leans toward dated detective novels, police procedurals and thrillers. I’m a huge fan of Robert B. Parker (who could say more in fewer words?), Evan Hunter a/k/a Ed McBain (talk about page-turners!), and Alistair MacLean (the breadth of subjects he dealt with in his thrillers is unmatched). I am not as a rule a big fan of legal thrillers, and purposely and with malice aforethought have read but a single legal thriller since I started writing Misjudged in 2016: Anatomy of a Murder, by Robert Traver, the pen name for John D. Voelker.

SRP: If you were shipwrecked on a deserted island with all your physical needs taken care of—such as food and water, what two items would you want to have with you?

James: I would need a fly rod to keep me busy and some way to communicate with my wife and daughters. Although I tend toward the misanthropic, I love the women in my life and would need to communicate with them—if only to send them pictures of my catch.

Misjudged is available to purchase here.

When a disabled veteran takes a new job as an attorney in a small Wyoming town, he is thrust into a mysterious murder case.

Sam Johnstone was hoping for renewal when he took a job at a boutique law firm in rustic Wyoming. The mountains and streams of the west would be a refreshing, quiet place to start over after years of war and turmoil in his personal life.

But after a local woman is brutally murdered, Sam realizes that things aren’t so quiet in this rural American town. The accused is one Tommy Olsen, a known delinquent who had been sleeping with the victim. Sam is repulsed by the crime and wants nothing to do with the case, but meets with Tommy to make sure he has legal representation.

Yet things are not as they seem.

What begins as a cut-and-dry case becomes infinitely more complicated as new facts are uncovered, and Sam agrees to serve as Tommy’s defense attorney.

With the killer’s identity still unknown, Sam is enveloped in the small-town politics and courtroom drama of a murder investigation that keeps getting more shocking.

But if Sam can’t uncover the truth, an innocent man might be punished…while the real killer watches from the shadows.

Author Spotlight: J.D. Allen

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Sin City Investigations and Jim Bean?


J.D.: I knew I wanted to write a Private Investigator series. I crushed hard on Rockford as a youngster (and still do!). At about the same time I was plotting through it, a good friend of mine was falsely accused of a serious crime. It devastated his life in more ways than I would have ever imagined. He had to start over. New job. New friends. New city. I found his experience, as bad as it was, made an excellent backstory for a PI. He gave his blessing and Jim was born.

SRP: What can you tell us about the series?


J.D.: I want to see characters in a series change over time. It makes them seem more human. With 19 Souls, Jim Bean starts the series dealing with a life-changing incident in his past. He’s gone to Vegas to lick his wounds, changed his name, and is happy to exist with minimal clients, his cat, and a good bottle of scotch. I’d like to think that after a while, he’ll get out of his own way and move past his anger. I’ve started the third book in the series, and he’s still a combination of Dirty Harry and Jim Rockford.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing 19 Souls, the first book in the series?


J.D.: I loved writing that book! Female serial killer? What’s not to love about that. Smart villains are super interesting to create, and Sophie Evers fits that bill! I had to take Jim to some pretty dark places though, and I sort of felt sorry for him at times.

SRP: What’s next for the series?


J.D.: Skin Game is next up in the series. In it, Jim and the woman who broke his heart in college have only a few days to rescue several young girls from a human trafficking ring.

SRP: What are you working on now?


J.D.: Wrapping up the next adventure with Jim. I’ll just say that I did some research with a taxidermist.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?


J.D.: Wow. Right now, I’m reading this weird Sci-fi my hubs gave me. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. It’s an entire novel in journal entries and interviews. It’s fascinating!

SRP: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?


J.D.: Go big. Stories need to be large, not in word count, but in scope. Big characters, big setting, big themes. You can always back it down if needed, but making a thin story work is difficult.

Her bloody finger left a translucent smear on the phone screen as she glanced through the list of private investigators in Vegas. Her stained nail came to rest on Sin City Investigations.

Jim Bean would serve her well.

Private investigator Jim Bean is a straightforward, to-the-point man. He likes his cases to follow suit. But when his latest client, Sophie Evers, asks him to find her brother Daniel, Jim has no idea how complicated his life is about to become.

As he falls deep into a manipulative game of cat and mouse, Jim uncovers the horrible truth about Sophie. Now he must set things right before her plan leads to the loss of innocent souls . . . even more than it already has.

19 Souls releases October 27. Pre-order today for only $0.99.

Author Spotlight: Don’t Look In Author Tom Saric

With Don’t Look In, the debut in his newest series, Tom Saric pens a twisting novel of psychological suspense, introducing a psychiatrist trying to save lives while battling his own demons.

We talked with Tom about writing his new series— from the inception of main character Gus Young to what his writing weakness is. Read the interview below!

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for Don’t Look In, and what can you tell us about the plot?

TOM: Don’t Look In started with Gus Young. The idea of a grizzled looking man, with a thick beard, wearing work boots and hunting jacket while being an exceptional psychiatrist spoke to me. In the years after I finished my training in psychiatry, I realized that working as a psychiatrist wasn’t the idealized version I had fantasized about. In addition to seeing patients, my day was filled with paperwork, managerial pressures to see more people more quickly, and therapy was something psychologists did while psychiatrists seemed to be expected to prescribe medications only. So, the idea of this pure, genuine psychiatrist who wasn’t afraid to buck the trend and do his own thing in his own way appealed to me.

The seed for the plot came from realizing that in order to maintain the purity of his work, confidentiality of his patients would have to be absolute. And he would have to take this duty further than the average therapist would.

The plot really developed from there. It follows Gus as he is working in the small practice that he operates out of the back of a hardware store in a rural town. When a patient of his is murdered, he seeks to find out who did it, but in doing so it will put him in conflict with many of his deepest held values.

SRP: How did you choose this setting?

TOM: The story takes place in a fictitious town in Maine. I decided against using a real place in part to make my life easier by giving the setting flexibility for future books. But the town itself has elements of a few different places I’ve visited, worked in or lived in in Eastern Canada and the Prairies. On top of this, I love the East Coast, I love Maine. I find the entire region rich, and atmospheric. The rain, the fog, the hurricanes, the history just give it so much richness that I couldn’t see the book being set anywhere else.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

TOM: I think the most difficult part was trying to describe psychological processes without the jargon in order to make it accessible to people. Psychoanalytic writings and theory is its own language. It took me years to become comfortable with the language and nuance of the differing theories. That’s my biggest criticism (and Gus’) of psychoanalysis: It is largely inaccessible and can come across as elitist. But, in fact, it should be anything but. It is likely the richest understanding we have of the human mind.

So, in keeping with Gus’ character, I was mindful that he would be able to avoid jargon and explain complex theories simply. So it required constant iteration to get it right.

SRP: What’s next for the series?

TOM: I’m already working on the second book in the series, titled Believe In Me. In this book a young woman is found wandering on the outskirts of Bridgetown with no memory of who she is. Gus is called in to help police recover her memories. As he works with her, she begins to show abilities that verge on the supernatural. I don’t want to reveal much more than that at this point, but it will test Gus’ abilities in a way that he hasn’t yet faced.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

TOM: I started reading a couple of books by C.J. Box recently because after I submitted Don’t Look In, my publisher compared it to his novels. I hadn’t read his books previously, though I’d known about them. I picked up Bitterroots and loved it. He has a masterful way of creating setting and atmosphere. So what I said about Don’t Look In not being able to be set anywhere but Maine, perhaps Montana would be a close second.

SRP: What is your writing Kryptonite?

TOM: Social Media. I have a real love hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, it allows me to connect with readers, and other authors. On the other hand, I have spent 4-5 hours mindlessly thumbing through Instagram photos when I meant to be writing. I’m always telling my kids to set limits with screen time. Maybe I should take my own advice.


Don’t Look In launches October 6.

Click here to buy Don’t Look In. The e-book is $.99 for a limited time!

Author Spotlight: After Dunkirk Author Lee Jackson

SRP: Where did you come up with the idea for After Dunkirk?

Lee: I have to give my publisher credit for pointing me toward writing World War II historical fiction. I had recently seen the movie “Dunkirk” and one element of the story that I had never heard before was the question of what happened to the roughly 200,000 left behind.

SRP: What can you tell us about the plot?

Lee: The story is as intriguing as the evacuation at Dunkirk itself. To evacuate 330,000 troops, Great Britain needed a rear-guard to provide protection as the evacuation progressed. Many of those troops composing the protective force, were green troops, just arrived in France. Others were non-combatants suddenly thrown into a combat role. I wanted to know what happened to them. My research revealed stories that were not only intimate to individual players, but also on a grander scale—i.e. small details led to a huge impact on the war. In the case of the Dunkirk, the effort to rescue those left behind led to Britain’s biggest maritime tragedy of all time eclipsing the Titanic. How that came about is detailed in After Dunkirk.

SRP: How did you choose this setting?

Lee: The story chose the setting, and it is larger than Dunkirk. The French Resistance (a term that describes loosely affiliated and independent groups) started up even before Germany crossed the Maginot by intelligent people who read the tea leaves of world events. Immediately, they were faced with hordes of British soldiers left behind who needed help to stay alive, healthy, and get home.

Getting home meant evading capture in sometimes overland treks across France to other places south of Dunkirk. Without food or shelter, those soldiers had no choice but to ask for help from French families, who aided them in abundance at great personal risk. And, as it happens, Winston Churchill had foreseen that this might occur and set up an organization to assist. The cooperation between those elements of British intelligence and the French Resistance is a large part of the story.

SRP: What was the most difficult part of writing this book?

Lee: Boiling down the individual acts of courage and self-sacrifice in the context of the “big picture” was a challenge. For example, Neville Chamberlain is reviled for his appeasement of Hitler at Munich. However, much to my surprise, I found that a credible argument can be made that precisely that action bought Great Britain time to develop an advanced defense system that saved the country in its darkest hours. Simultaneously, they developed an intelligence system that, although it did not predict German actions regarding the invasion through the Netherlands and Belgium, it might have supplied information that led to the notion that the invasion at Dunkirk was feasible, with limited time to execute.

SRP: What’s next for the series?

Lee: The story, as I have written it, centers on a family of British subjects whose home is on Sark Island in the English Channel Islands. The Germans did, as a matter of fact occupy those islands for PR reasons—for bragging rights over taking British territory. The family on whose story I based this series has three sons and a daughter, all engaged in the war effort.

Jeremy, the central figure and youngest son in the family, finds himself on the beach at Dunkirk when the evacuation there is complete. His middle-brother, Lance, is only a few miles away. A very different personality, he relished the army and the thought of combat. Claire, their older sister, is a decoder for British Intelligence in London and struggles with national secrets that she cannot divulge which affect her brothers. Paul, the eldest son, is also in British Intelligence. He is diligent, intelligent, inquisitive, and does not hesitate to prod superiors to take action where it might shed light and assist with his brothers’ individual plights. Their parents, still on Sark Island, confront a different kind of Nazi threat— one that is more subtle.

The next book in the series, Eagles Over Britain, is a progression from After Dunkirk as the family continues to hold together as best they can while Hermann Göring unleashes the full might of his bombers against British airfields, and “the Few” struggle against overwhelming strength to fight. They fight for king and country, not knowing that the stakes are much higher than just losing England to a tyrant.

SRP: What are you reading now and/or what good books have you read lately?

Lee: Writing this series required an enormous amount of research, but I find it rewarding. The challenge then becomes incorporating salient points into a story that is as historically accurate as possible without burdening readers with pointless detail. To that end, these are just a few of the books I’ve read in recent months researching for After Dunkirk:

Dunkirk: The Men Left Behind by Sean Longden
A Life in Secrets: Vera Atkins and the Missing Agents of WWII by Sarah Helm
When the Germans Came by Duncan Barrett
A Man Called Intrepid by William Stevenson
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

SRP: As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot?

Lee: The American Eagle

After Dunkirk by Lee Jackson is available now. Get your copy here.

Severn River Publishing signs USA TODAY bestselling author Jason Kasper

SRP is excited to announce the signing of USA TODAY bestselling author Jason Kasper, author of the Spider Heist, American Mercenary, and Shadow Strike thriller series. Kasper will introduce the brand new Shadow Strike series, featuring the fan-favorite character David Rivers, with The Enemies of My Country in early 2021. He will also continue to produce books in the bestselling Spider Heist series and launches a standalone psychological thriller Her Dark Silence later this month.

Kasper uses his experiences as a former Army Ranger and Airborne Infantry and Special Forces officer to create incredibly authentic and action-packed novels that have sold more than a quarter of a million copies worldwide, landing him on the USA TODAY bestseller list.

Kasper said,

‘I couldn’t be more excited to have SRP supporting my work. With the success of my ongoing Spider Heist Thrillers series, and a 10-book outline drafted for the upcoming Shadow Strike series, I look forward to seeing the SRP team reach new readers as I spend more time doing what I love most: writing.’

Please join us on Facebook and Instagram to welcome Jason to the SRP Team!