Casablanca Meets Das Boot
John Winn Miller’s first novel is a hit
By KEVIN NANCE
When John Winn Miller set out to become a newspaperman several decades ago, the Lexington native saw it as the means to a different end, a different career. “I wanted to write the Great American Novel — or at least a novel,” he recalls with a laugh. “But I realized that I didn’t know how to write, and I had no experiences to write about. So I thought, ‘I’ll be a journalist.’”
And so it went, the newspaper gigs piling up over the years: as a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal in Italy, as a reporter and editor at the Lexington Herald-Leader, as an editor in Pennsylvania and Florida, as a publisher in Washington state and New Hampshire.
Back in Lexington as a retiree with time on his hands during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, Miller finally got down to the business of fiction writing that had been waiting for him for nearly half a century.
The result is The Hunt for the Peggy C, a World War II maritime thriller that was a semifinalist for the Clive Cussler Adventure Writers Competition and was published in November 2022 by Bancroft Press. Set in 1941, the painstakingly researched novel follows the hair-raising voyage of the American smuggler Capt. Jake Rogers and his ragtag crew on a decrepit tramp steamer in the North Atlantic. They’re pursued by an implacable German U-boat commander bent on recovering Peggy C’s contraband cargo: a Jewish family from the Netherlands fleeing the Holocaust.