Chris Berhalter is known to most area residents for his successes as Belmont County's Prosecuting Attorney, but thanks to the publication and release of his first novel, "Heir to the Throne" his name is about to become increasingly familiar to the general public well beyond the borders of the Ohio Valley region.
The release of the recently published 170 page paperback book is being celebrated with a public book signing and fund-raiser at the Martins Ferry Public Library on Wednesday, Oct. 13 from 6 to 8 p.m. All proceeds from the signing will go directly to benefit the library and its resources.
The books will be sold for $20 each during the signing.
BELMONT?COUNTY?Prosecutor Chris Berhalter sits at his desk and peruses his recently published book “Heir to the Throne.” The first-time writer will hold a book signing on Wednesday at the Martins Ferry Public Library from 6-8 p.m. All proceeds from the signing are slotted to benefit the library according to the author.
Publishing rights to Berhalter's manuscript "Heir to the Throne" were purchased barely six months ago by the well established publishing house, Aberdeen Bay.
The suspense filled but plainly written novel was commercially launched in August with retail giants Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Books a Million adding it to their available inventory.
Aberdeen Bay is known for successfully beginning the professional writing careers of first time authors such as Berhalter.
After shelving the manuscript for nearly eight years, he is elated at the idea of personally introducing it to local readers through such opportunities as the upcoming book signing event at t Matins Ferry Library.
"One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to the library," he explained, referring to the need for additional resources and funding in light of "devastating funding cuts" imposed by the legislature.
Berhalter's book comes loaded with layers of intrigue - some apparently simple and based in the routine exchanges of an average day, and others unexpectedly intense and complex, and clearly fixed in aspects of our modern world's recently by gone eras.
Each development in the solidly constructed plot moves the reader steadily forward, while still providing a very real sense of emotional connection to it all as the plot plays out with such intensity that at several points readers should not be surprised to find themselves needing to reread a portion of the previous paragraph or even the previous page.
He has crafted a novel that at first glance seems to be putting all the elements of the story neatly into place, almost reassuring the reader they are welcome to anticipate what will come next - yet there are moments when, with no advance warning, he throws details of the plot in completely unexpected directions.
The result: it is almost impossible to set aside for any length of time until you have finished it and are ready to start reading it again --- after having caught your breath and having found yourself mulling over details of what you previously thought were commonly accepted facts of world history.
The backbone of the story rests in a single seemingly straightforward question: What if?.
The book's fictional plot and timeline initially take root in war torn Northern Europe in the fall of 1944.
Though a seemingly simple statement it proves indicative of what readers can look forward to as they move through the work of historical fiction.
"Fred Downey is a powerful man. A well liked United States Senator who is considering running for President. With his loving wife and children at his side, he is thought by many to already have it won. The son of middle class parents, he is about to fulfill the American dream. But just prior to making this decision, his beloved mother passes away. In dealing with the loss, he was in no way prepared for, nor could he have imagined, what he would find. Millions of dollars in his mother's accounts that he never knew existed. Upon further searching, he is amazed to find even more accounts and vast amount of treasure. More accounts that he never knew about even though they are listed in his and his late father's name.
" In a desperate search for answers on how his father obtained this fortune, his efforts are rewarded. Yet in his blind search for the truth, he finds answers that are beyond belief. Everything he knew about his father was wrong. History itself was wrong. These answers also have the power to destroy his political career and they put him and his family's lives in danger.
"Armed with this horrific information and now being threatened and pursued by those who know their secret, he must make a fateful decision. Should he expose it all and destroy his future and his family's? Should he just keep it quiet and just give the money to those making the threats, even though it will fund their evil plans? Or is there another way?
"The man who has never failed to do the right thing regardless of the consequences, now faces his greatest test," shared Berhalter, by way of introducing the book to potential readers.
Berhalter found the motivation to face his own true test of how deeply his personal passion to try his hand at writing a novel actually ran when he shared his dream of becoming a writer with his wife Vanessa some years ago.
Her positive response made all the difference in his decision to take the first official step toward crafting an original novel.
"Why not try it?"
"What's stopping you?"
Berhalter, then a young attorney, had just completed the original work on the novel, and it was at a time when he was about to enter the part of adulthood that comes when someone begins a career, gets married, has children - and in this case - tops it off by working his family owned farm.
The next stage of that project would have to wait.
There simply were not going to be enough hours in the day available to allow for any real dedicated or focused attention being put behind releasing the book to the general public.
He would simply have to be patient.
Deciding to make no real effort to move the project forward all those years ago proved to be precisely the right thing to do, offers Berhalter today.
Berhalter, known for his personal and professional commitment to delivering only top quality work no matter the identified task, knew the time would come when a door into a world of possibilities for his writing efforts would open.
Due to the demands of his schedule while writing the novel he found a way to make the most of the scattered moments throughout a typical work week that put a person into a holding pattern or interject unexpected downtime.
It was during brief breaks in his work day - during which he could do nothing other than wait - he chose to use these windows as productive writing time.
He ended up bringing the novel to life by handwriting it on long, yellow, lined legal pads.
The book's pages were eventually typed and took shape as an initial manuscript.
A decision to set the project aside for nearly eight years - reaching for it again just last fall - has proven the right track to have followed.
The initial query letter Berhalter sent out to publishing houses last fall quickly garnered an invitation from Aberdeen Bay asking he send a manuscript. It was just a matter of weeks before contract details were in the works and he found himself becoming a published novelist.
The question from readers about whether "Heir to the Throne" will be followed by a sequel is not a question he has yet answered concretely for either the reader or himself.
Much like the unexpected aspects of the novel's plot, Berhalter is not likely to let the definitive answer to such a question out of the bag without examining the details of possibilities both expected and unexpected.
Loccisano can be reached at email@example.com