Author Michael Tougias will present research from his book "The Finest Hours" at Southern Vermont College

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BENNINGTON — Presenting on his book, "The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard's Most Daring Sea Rescue," author Michael Tougias will visit Southern Vermont College (SVC) on April 5 to share slides from the February 1952 double oil tanker maritime tragedy.

Tougias co-authored the book with Casey Sherman and it was turned into a film that debuted in January by Disney Motion Pictures. The writers were approached in 2011 by Disney to turn "The Finest Hours" into a full-length movie which features actors Chris Pine and Casey Affleck.

"The Finest Hours" is about a 500-foot-long oil tanker, the Pendleton, that split during a nor'easter off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass. Twenty miles away, a second tanker did the same, the Fort Mercer, and out of 84 total seamen, 70 of them survived because of the Coast Guard's rescue.

Tougias will display slides of the storm, tankers, rescues, victims and survivors to educate the public on the event, rather than just the traditional reading of excerpts from the book.

The featured writer grew up near Springfield, Mass. and bought a cabin in northern Vermont in his early 20s. The experience led to his 2006 publication "There's a Porcupine in My Outhouse." He said he finds the best writing comes out of vacationing in that cabin, due to being so secluded.

Tougias' last seven books involved true survival stories, in which he decided that was his niche.

"I'm just fascinated by how people do the seemingly impossible," he said. "I get into their heads of how they did it. You learn some neat techniques."

For his talk at SVC in the Everett Mansion Theatre, Tougias will discuss lessons learned, decision-making and leadership. Instead of presenting a lecture, the writer believes students will grasp the content through his visual use of photos and videos. He'll also allow a question and answer session and sign books in the Burgdorff Gallery afterward.

Tougias said he attended the red carpet event for the opening night of "The Finest Hours" and the main character/hero's daughter complimented him for how well her parents were portrayed in the book and film. Bernie Webber is the focus of the book and movie as he was one of the Coast Guard rescuers.

After a film producer in Boston read Tougias' book, she loved it and pitched it to studios and it turned out to be something Disney was looking for.

"She [producer] took two screenwriters who worked on 'The Fighter' with Mark Wahlberg and when they ran it by Disney, they said that it was something they were looking for," Tougias said. "It's an inspirational, true story. They wanted a period piece and a story that was overlooked. The whole thing was filmed in Massachusetts so I could be a part of."

Tougias and Sherman's work earned them the title for the fourth bestselling nonfiction book in New England by the New England Booksellers Association. Tougias also wrote and co-authored 24 other books including "Fatal Forecast: An Incredible True Tale of Disaster and Survival at Sea" and "Ten Hours Until Dawn: The True Story of Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do During the Blizzard of '78."

His newest work includes "Rescue of the Bounty" and "A Storm Too Soon: A True Story of Disaster, Survival and an Incredible Rescue."

Tougias didn't do much but observe when the film was being made, but he worked with the screenwriters a lot, answering questions and tweaking personalities of characters.

He said he loves to research more than writing while investigating these true, hidden stories.

For those looking to attend Tougias' presentation, he said to expect surprises at your seat. Even though he will be presenting on serious topics, he said there is some humor involved as well. Last week he presented to about 700 people and was told that they were on the edge of their seats with anticipation.

Meet Tougias on April 5 at 7 p.m. at SVC's Everett Mansion Theatre.

— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.


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