Prosecutor's novel fulfills longtime dream

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

It isn't every day that the dream of a lifetime is fulfilled.

But such was the case recently for Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle, as he published his historical novel -- long in the making -- based on many years of research into Cape's history.

"I wanted to be a published novelist longer than I wanted to be a lawyer," said Swingle, the longtime Cape Girardeau County prosecutor.

His book, a work of fiction based on extensive historical research, is entitled "The Gold of Cape Girardeau."

The story centers on a court battle over gold found in a Lorimier Street home.

Along the way, it weaves in the heyday of steamboats plying the Mississippi River and the divided loyalties in the town during the Civil War.

Southeast Missouri State University Press will publish Swingle's 296-page book this fall. It's the first book for the school's University Press, the school's new grant-funded venture in small-press publishing.

Swingle started researching local history back in 1981 and began writing his book in 1983 when he was assistant prosecutor. He read 20,000 pages of local history to put his novel together.

"I knew I wanted to write a Michener-type book that would tell Cape Girardeau's history in a novel," Swingle said.

It appears he succeeded.

Swingle is nothing if not persistent, and as dogged in the pursuit of his goal as he is in pursuing convictions against the criminals he prosecutes.

He finished writing the work in 1987 and has spent the last 15 years revising the manuscript.

Part of Swingle's motivation comes from a love of the river that gave the town its birth, but from which everyday city life is increasingly divorced.

"People go through life in Cape Girardeau without glancing at the Mississippi River," he said, before adding that it's that same river that put us on the map.

Swingle is right, of course.

Here's a bouquet to a leading local citizen who has seen the dream of a lifetime come true. In his literary effort, he has enhanced our collective historical memory -- and the life of our community in the process.

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