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September 15, 2020

The discovery of a drug-runner's derelict boat, with extensive and inexplicable damage, leads Coast Guard Officer Ben Wyporek and his crew on a dangerous mission to locate a crashed alien vessel before a transnational criminal organization, known as the 252 Syndicate, can find it. 

Driven by Dr. Peter Simmons, a mysterious government agent obsessed with secrecy, the crew of the aging Coast Guard Cutter Kauai is ill-prepared to handle the mission. The operation quickly turns into a life-and-death race with the technologically-advanced 252 Syndicate to find and contact the first known extraterrestrial visitors to Earth. 

For DIA Agent Simmons, the objectives are clear; he must preserve the secret of the aliens' arrival and discover if they are hostile or benign. Either way, he must keep the 252s from accessing alien technology. From his perspective, his ultimate mission is to save the world, no matter the costs.

Lieutenant Samuel Powell, Commanding Officer of the Kauai, distrusts Intelligence specialists like Simmons, and despite his best efforts to protect his crew, he still can't prevent his First Officer and best friend Ben from being drawn into the fight of his life.

Exploring the friendship and teamwork of a typical ship's crew, in the face of unexpected and hazardous challenges, Engage at Dawn: First Contact illustrates the bonds and humor common to Coast Guard and other military units.

"The entire narrative has a conspiratorial feel, as though it’s a true story we shouldn’t be reading. The intensity of certain moments, the rapid-fire dialogue, and the incredibly high stakes of the plot make it difficult to put the book down, and Hochsmann knows how to masterfully draw out suspense. Engage at Dawn is an imaginative and captivating story, one that explores the nuance of brotherhood and service, along with plenty of rich twists and extraterrestrial tangles, for a uniquely compelling sci-fi thriller."

Self-Publishing Review


BookLife 2020 Prize Assessment:

Plot: The novel is linear and easy to follow. When a Coast Guard mission uncovers alien technology and a criminal syndicate seeking to recover it, an exciting conflict ensues. The plot is fast paced and concludes neatly.

Prose: The novel is well written, if not particularly elaborate. Of noticeable quality is the dialogue, which effectively captures the spirit and jargon of the Coast Guard.

Originality: While the book fits solidly in the military adventure genre, its integration of sci-fi and crime thriller elements lend a unique excitement and originality.

Character/Execution: The characters are distinct and have some arcs of their own, but largely act as role-players within the greater mechanisms of the plot.

Download the Engage at Dawn: First Contact Media Kit, containing author information, plus book and main character details.

Excerpt from Chapter 20

“Conn, Mount 51, sound of gunshots 040 relative, no visual target!” Hebert shouted through the bridge door from his position on the starboard machine gun.

“Conn, aye!” Hopkins replied.

Sam watched the scene ashore unfold in real-time in the video feed from the orbiting Puma.  His heart pounded, and he felt rising nausea as he watched the SUVs split apart and then stop.  Figures emerged from both vehicles.

Kauai, Shore-One, we are taking fire, repeat we are taking fire, request immediate assistance!” Ben’s voice burst from the radio.

“Conn, Mount 51, sound of continuous gunfire 050 relative, no visual target!” came the redundant report.

“Conn, aye!  Captain, one point seven miles to shoal water.”  She had called down to Drake at two miles and saw the engine speed back down slightly to “normal” emergency ahead in response.

“Very well, prepare for crash back.  Williams?”

“Nothing yet, Captain, sorry,” Williams said, shifting in his seat.

“Captain, one and a half miles to shoal water.”  Into the telephone, she said, “Chief, stand by for crash back.”

“Very well, stand by.”

Suddenly, the deck seemed to jump with a loud “thud,” and a second later, a low “boom” sounded through the Bridge.  “Mount 51, report!” Hopkins shouted.

“Sound of an explosion 020 relative!  Gunfire has stopped!”

On the Puma’s video display, Sam saw the figures behind the westernmost vehicle aim a mortar-like device and fire it.  The camera picked up a flash of a small object, then a burst overhead Ben and Simmons’s redoubt.  Either Ben or Simmons—from the camera aspect and mist he couldn’t tell which—fast-crawled to the other briefly then returned to his position.  Sam was unconsciously pounding his right fist on his thigh as the scene played out before him.

“Getting something,” Williams said.  “Yes! Two targets on long-wave IR.”

Sam leaned in.  “Surface action starboard, train on the target on the far left and standby.  Deffler, illuminate the hostile vehicle farthest west.”  Standing up, he shouted, “OOD, Crash Back Now!”  He keyed his handheld radio. “Pickins, haul ass back to the Boat Deck now!”

Hopkins shouted into the telephone, “Main Control, Conn, Crash Back, all back full!”

“Unmasked,” Deffler piped up.  “Target illuminated.”

Sam held on to the bridge rail as the patrol boat pitched down and violently shuddered while shedding speed quickly in the emergency stop.  He watched the firing resume on the screen, and the figures started moving from behind the vehicles and closing on Ben and Simmons’ position. 

“Main Control, Conn, All Stop!” Hopkins shouted into the phone when the speed dropped to zero.  The roar of the engines immediately died away.

“Conn, Mount 51, more continuous gunfire bearing 060 relative, no visual target!”

“Conn, aye!”

“Target identified, target confirmed, on target and tracking!”

“Batteries release, commence fire!”

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