By James D. “Keeper James” Charlet © 2023
When I started to write a book five years ago about my new passion – the United States Life-Saving Service –, I don’t remember having any particular expectations. In fact, I had no idea what all there was to do. I would have to learn as I went. None of that mattered to me; getting this message out about “America’s Forgotten Heroes” was the vitally important thing to me.
I had discovered a national treasure and when I realized that it had virtually disappeared from our history, I created a phrase and an introduction that I would use often:
The United States Life-Saving Service is one of the least-known yet is also one of the most fascinating and inspirational aspects in all of America’s storied history. Author Ralph Shanks says, “They were the greatest heroes of the American coast, routinely risking their lives in the grand maritime rescues…yet somehow, America forgot these peaceful heroes.”
The United States Life-Saving Service existed from 1871 until 1915, with nearly 300 lifesaving stations along all of America’s Atlantic, Gulf, Pacific and Great Lakes coasts. The brave souls known as Surfmen had a singular mission: saving lives in peril of the sea, “so others may live.” During their 44-year history, nationwide, using no more than small, open, wooden boats and cork life belts, often in violent and dangerous storms, they responded to over 178,000 lives in peril from shipwrecks…of which they saved, OVER 177,000; yet, somehow, America forgot these peaceful heroes. In 1915, the United States Life-Saving Service merged with the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and was renamed the United States Coast Guard.
My book, Shipwrecks of the Outer Banks: Dramatic Rescues and Fantastic Wrecks in the Graveyard of the Atlantic, Globe Pequot Press, was released internationally in early March of 2020…we all know what else was released internationally in early March of 2020! When covid shut the world down, all I could do was keep writing. That will be Volume II.
Finally, both the publisher and I were able to promote the book. Globe Pequot made this book available in all major U.S. Book Retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, Books-A-Million. Independent bookstores were encouraged to stock it. Globe also made it internationally available from Renaud-Bray (France), Rakuten Kobo (Canada), Billigkroken ARK Blog (Norway), Amazon.com.uk (Great Britain), Amazon.es (Spain), Amazon.it (Italy), Bol.com (The Hague, Netherlands), Rakuten.co.jp (Japan), Book Depository (UK), Mighty Ape (New Zealand), Adlibris (Finland), JPC (Germany), and Coinfo Book Service in Australia.
It started out much better than I expected. I started doing some presentations and book signings. I then was thinking of any way that I could help promote this book in order to get out my message of “America’s Forgotten Heroes.”
It worked, and then things started “coming out of the blue.” Unexpected invitations, opportunities and events. A wonderful list followed. Books weren’t ‘flying off the shelf,’ but I was hearing that many outlets were frequently reordering. Then I was informed that the entire original print-run was exhausted, but books would still be available “on-demand.”
A recent week was an all-time highlight for things “coming out of the blue.”
On Monday, I was asked to present a program at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse – one of the most famous places in America! Then, I was hired as the step-on guide for an Outer Banks tour bus group. It would be for the next four days, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with my fee, meals and lodging included.
Then, I got a phone call from Patrice out-of-the-blue. She and her husband Kevin produce and host a travel series for the Discovery Channel. They would base their RV in a campground on Hatteras Island close to my home. They wanted to film “Keeper James” in a segment…this Thursday evening.
It all worked out and my wife Linda and I had a magical evening watching this production unfold. We were told it will be Episode 1 in Season 2024 for the Series “RV There Yet” airing in April. I will post links!
Then I got this email out-of-the-blue. It was from Devon from Wisconsin:
I purchased your book 2 days ago when visiting Cape Hatteras lighthouse on vacation with my family. The title was intriguing, the cover art was exceptional, and the cashier on duty recommended a signed copy of the book. I didn’t expect to get drawn in to the point of finishing the book on the 19 hour car ride home, but every self-encapsulated chapter was succinct and informative. I felt the need to reach out and thank you for educating and entertaining on the service of life saving individuals. I plan to visit some of the landmarks in your book on my next trip to the Outer Banks.
I am in the process of training to be a ski patroller; a volunteer first aid responder on the ski slopes of Wisconsin. I saw many similarities in dedication and duty between the Life-Saving Services and the National Ski Patrol and your book made me more excited than ever to join an organization dedicated to the aid and service of others.
Thank you again for a great read.
Having been called a wordsmith, I do often wonder about words and phrases. I started thinking about “out-of-the-blue.” We all use it. We all know what it means. But, why, I wondered was it out of the blue. Not out of the green or red or orange. Blue. Sky? Heaven?
I do now think these events that are “out-of-the-blue” may be divinely inspired.