Book signing for mystery
Posted: October 12, 2012
The Winchester Star
Winchester — When Lt. Charles Kimbrough is assigned to defend an American soldier accused of manslaughter as the result of a drunken driving accident, the case appears to be open-and-shut.
But as Kimbrough, with the help of his lover, Brigitta, begins to delve more into the case, the facts just don’t add up. It’s a puzzle, and the unlikely pair is determined to solve it.
To find out what happens as they are drawn deeper into the case, people will have to read Bill Westgard’s new novel, “Article 119: Manslaughter.” Westgard, 74, of Winchester published the book in July and will have a book signing at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Winchester Book Gallery, 185 N. Loudoun St. The book is $25.
“If you liked Perry Mason or the TV series ‘JAG,’ you should like this,” he said.
Winchester Book Gallery owner Christine Patrick decided to have Westgard’s book signing at her store because she thought the novel would be an interesting subject for readers and hopes the author finds a local following.
“I just like to support local writers and independent writers,” she said.
The novel, which is set in 1962 in Germany, is the first in a series following Kimbrough’s exploits that Westgard started writing in 2002. This is the first book he has published, but he has five other finished manuscripts and is working on the seventh installment in the series.
The book is part mystery and part military legal procedure and draws heavily on Westgard’s own experiences while serving in the U.S. Army for 25 years.
After serving four years in the ROTC program at Penn State and graduating in 1959 with a bachelor’s degree in international relations, Westgard was commissioned in the Army. His first assignment was in Germany, and one of his experiences there was the basis for “Article 119.”
At that time, lieutenants could be assigned with no legal training required to defend or prosecute military personnel in special court-martial cases, which were minor infractions.
In one case in 1962 in which he mounted the defense, a soldier was accused of driving drunk and destroying a German telephone pole. There was evidence the military police investigation was faulty and the man was innocent, but he still lost the case. Westgard appealed, lost again, appealed again and won.
The original case was the loose basis for the novel’s plotline, but Westgard “elevated the tension” by changing the telephone pole to a person and upping the charge to manslaughter, which is Article 119 in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Unlike Westgard, Kimbrough is a lawyer, serving in the Judge Advocate General Corps.
Each of the novels that follow Kimbrough’s story pertain to a different article in the UCMJ, including article 114, dueling; 92, dereliction of duty; 93, cruelty and maltreatment; 90, misbehavior before the enemy, and 104, aiding the enemy. The seventh book will relate to article 115, self wounding.
The first four books are set in Germany and the last three in Vietnam, both places Westgard was stationed. Other duty stations included army bases in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Kansas, Iran and the Pentagon, where he was when he retired in April 1984.
The next month, he was hired by the Department of Defense as a civilian contractor managing diplomats. He retired from that job Aug. 1, 1997.
He and his wife, Christine, moved to Florida for five years before moving to Winchester in August 2002. She had become very sick and he took care of her. Part of the appeal of starting to write was that he could work in his home office and “still be available for her.” Christine died in January 2009.
After his wife died, Westgard continued to write. He also became a volunteer docent at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley and has assisted and acted in plays at Winchester Little Theatre.
For years, Westgard tried the traditional route of getting a literary agent and trying to get his book published through a publisher. He became frustrated this spring and decided to publish the first himself. If sales go well, he hopes to use it is a launching point to continue his search for a publisher.
“I have a story to tell,” he said. “I enjoy telling the story. I enjoy putting the characters in a situation and figuring out how to get them out of it.”
Bill Westgard will have a book signing for “Article 119: Manslaughter” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Winchester Book Gallery, 185 N. Loudoun St. For more information, call 540-667-3444 or go to winchesterbookgallery.org. Westgard can be reached at email@example.com.
— Contact Laura McFarland at firstname.lastname@example.org