A lengthy stay in a prison cell was not what Michael Swiger expected when he left Tiltonsville 22 years ago in pursuit of a mechanical engineering degree. Now, with his incarceration behind him, a new man with a new career has emerged – and Saturday he will be back in the Ohio Valley.
Swiger, a published author with one work considered for a Pulitzer Prize, will appear for book signings from noon to 2 p.m. at the Shadyside Public Library and from 3-5 p.m. at the Martins Ferry Public Library.
"I am really looking forward to seeing my classmates and hometown friends," Swiger said. "I obviously can't visit all of them, but I am hoping they will come to visit with me and my family at the book signings."
His wife, Susan, and 10-month-old son, James, will be on hand as Swiger gets down to business with his autograph pen.
His latest release, "Lethal Ambition," is part of a three-book deal with Capstone Fiction. It will be followed this Summer by "Lethal Objection" and later by the unfinished "Lethal Obsession."
Swiger describes his first two books as Christian fiction, pro-life thrillers set in the Ohio Valley.
The first one, "A Trial of Innocents," earned Pulitzer consideration. It and its sequel, "A Murder of Innocents," were written under the pen name Michael Andrew.
"I didn't want people to know I was in prison," he said. "They deal with very controversial, ethical and political issues, and I didn't want the message to lose credibility because of the messenger."
Swiger went to prison on June 8, 1990, for his role in the June 17, 1988, murder of Roger Pratt – a college friend of Swiger's older brother, Edward.
Michael Swiger faced the death penalty when he went to trial, but he was found innocent of the most serious charges against him. He was convicted of complicity to manslaughter – a verdict that yielded a sentence of 21-50 years.
From the time of the crime to the day he was arrested, Swiger agonized over what he had done and what he knew was coming.
He would spend 16 months living in the shadows of his secret, followed by 16 years in prison once the criminal justice system shined light on his misdeeds.
Behind bars, he had a lot time on his hands. He read constantly – and the more he read, the more he realized he could do what the authors do.
"When I read the novel 'The Illuminati' by Larry Burkett, I immediately thought, 'I can do this,'" he said.
"The best way to get published is to start writing," Swiger said. "If you wait until you have the time, it will never happen."
At 40, Swiger loves the writing life, but he has no plans to give up his day job.
The 1986 graduate of Buckeye South High School is an associate pastor at the Gospel House Church in Walton Hills, Ohio, and is a chaplain in the Gospel House Prison Ministry, Ohio's largest prison outreach ministry.