Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Post # 35

Quote for the day: "...(Elmore) Leonard's nine Detroit books form as good a portrait of life in this city during the past 20 years -- its unwritten codes and attitudes, its views of the world, its excess and eccentricities -- as we'll have."  Neely Tucker. Detroit Free Press Magazine. March 29, 1992.

Happy New Year! When I began this blog in August of 2017 I never considered its life expectancy. So it is with some surprise and a degree of wonder that this is the second ringing in of a new year for Michigan in Books. This endeavor takes up far more commitment and time than I imagined. But, I still enjoy reading and spreading the word on Michigan books and authors. Evidently there are a gratifying number of you out there who find the blog worth your time. You spur me on.  Thank you for your interest and readership.


Raylan Goes to Detroit
by Peter Leonard

I went out of my way to choose the above Quote for the Day to leadoff this post because the first book reviewed herein was written by Elmore Leonard's son. At the time of his death, Elmore Leonard was widely recognized as the best writer of crime novels of his day. When I saw that his son had picked up the pen dropped by his father and was also writing crime novels I stayed away from them. I thought the son was just setting himself up for failure and a painful literary comparison to his father. Then along came Raylan Goes to Detroit and I couldn't resist temptation. The character of Raylan Givens, a U. S. Marshall, was created by Peter's father and was the basis of a long-running and popular TV series entitled "Justified."

I never missed the show on Thursday nights on Fox and I wasn't going to miss this book. It becomes abundantly apparent from the first few pages that Elmore Leonard passed down his writing genes from father to son.  Every page showcases a natural born storyteller with great timing, memorable dialogue, unforgettable characters, and a plot as sleek and fast as a Lamborghini.

As is often the case Deputy US Marshall Raylan Givens crossed a superior in the Kentucky Marshall's office and is transferred to Detroit's fugitive task force hunting down escaped prisoners, fugitives who failed to appear in court or have outstanding warrants. Raylan and his partner Bobby Torres follow a tip that leads them to Jose Rindo, a drug kingpin, and a ruthless killer. After arresting Rindo and jailing him Rayland and Torres cross swords with Nora Sanchez, a no-nonsense, by-the-numbers FBI agent who wants Rindo for the murder of another FBI agent.

Rindo has as much respect for prisons as Raylan has for superiors and the drug lord escapes from jail even before he has a hearing and heads to Ohio. Raylan and FBI Agent Sanchez are not pleased when they are ordered to Ohio to transport Rindo back to Detroit after he is recaptured in Columbus. Neither one wants to spend several hours in a car with the other. The duo brings the fugitive back to Detroit and survives a running shootout with Rindo's gunmen who attempt to free him. It proves much harder for the two to survive each other's company.

That Ohio trip sets the table for a long, deadly, cross-country pursuit of Rindo by Raylan and Sanchez when Rindo escapes yet again and heads for Mexico.  This novel of pursuit is thoroughly enjoyable. The action comes quick and violent, the two law officers relationship produces more friction than a set of disc brakes, and like his father, Peter Leonard can write scenes that not only hold the reader spellbound but in timing, tone, setting, and surprise twists are gems of perfection.  Peter Leonard joins a handful of authors who could write anything,  including a description of eating Haggis, and I'd read it.

Raylan Goes to Detroit by Peter Leonard. Rare Bird Books, 2018, $26.95

Stuck in Manistique
by Dennis Cuesta

I liked this book almost as much as all the memorable time I've spent over the years in the Manistique area. It takes the book's two main characters a few days to warm up to this small, Upper Peninsula town on Lake Michigan's northern shore. And Manistique doesn't take but a few days to alter the course of their lives.  

Mark, a Chigaco investment analyst, is surprised to learn that his Aunt Vivian, a member of Doctors Without Borders, has died and left him her house in Manistique. The request comes as a surprise because he hardly knew Aunt Vivian even though he was her last living relative. Mark has no idea where Manistique is even located.  Vivian's lawyer has to tell him how to get there. When Mark does make it to Manistique he is in for several additional surprises.

Dr. Emily Davis, fresh out of medical school, is driving north for an assignation with her lover, a married doctor and her teacher, on Mackinac Island. After crossing Big Mac she decides the affair must end and instead of catching a ferry to the island she heads west on US-2. Outside of Manistique, she hits a deer, or as she insists, a deer hit her car and shattered the windshield. The garage in Manistique has to order a replacement and tells her it will take a day to repair.   Asked where she can stay the night, she is sent to the Manistique Victorian Bed & Breakfast.

Mark hasn't finished his first look at his aunt's house when he answers a knock at the door and finds Emily, a suitcase in hand, asking if he has a room for the night. Mark is dumbfounded and wonders if there is a strange UP custom in which one allows strangers to spend the night in a spare bedroom. He is shocked to discover his aunt was running a bed and breakfast and although he permits Emily to stay the night he doesn't want anything to do with running a B & B. And so two stranger's lives slowly become entwined in the world above the bridge that, like Brigadoon, is a world unto itself.

Emily discovers "a day to repair" can mean a week in the UP.  Mark keeps answering more knocks on the door and reluctantly turns into a bed and breakfast proprietor. Over the course of a week, Emily and Mark become fast friends, play host to an entertainingly oddball number of guests, re-assess their lives, and deal with the emotional damage of past mistakes. Dennis Cuesta's first novel is a pleasing and entertaining mix of humor, the power of friendship, life in the UP, and self-forgiveness. Ah, what I wouldn't give to be Stuck in Manistique again!

Stuck in Manistique by Dennis Cuesta. Celestial Eyes Press, 2018, $24.

Sister Pie: The Recipes and Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery in Detroit
by Lisa Ludwinski

One has to only flip through a few pages of this beautiful book of recipes, from a bakery whose reputation has grown well beyond its location on Detroit's west side, to realize this book is unique. Before opening Sister Pie in a former beauty shop the author trained in New York and sold pies from a stand at Detroit's Eastern Market. Curiosity and word of mouth might account for many first time visitors to the Sister Pie but its the taste and the creative mind behind the pies that bring people back.

The recipes are strikingly original and adventurous. Where else will you find recipes for Peanut Butter and Paprika Cookies, Minted Peas and  Potato Hand Pies, Sweet Beet Pie, Sweet Potato Coconut Pie, and, my personal all-time favorite strange name for a pie, Sweet Corn Nectarine Streusel Pie! How I wish I had made that for Christmas and served it to my grandchildren. As a lover of pecan pie, I can't wait to blow what little diet I adhere to on Brandy Pecan Pie which includes not only apple brandy but, maple syrup, honey, turbinado sugar, cornmeal, and not a lick of heavy corn syrup.

There are also chapters on salads and breakfast recipes. The latter includes three recipes for Fat Tuesday Paczkis. I'll have a Maple Coffee Cream Paczki, please. And if I don't sleep in too long, one New Year's morning I've got to try and make Roasted Asparagus, Potato, and Chive Waffles topped with a medium-boiled egg.

Each recipe has clear and precise instructions and each is usually preceded with a note on how the recipe came to be. The book opens with a short autobiographical sketch that includes the mission and culture of Sister Pie. A second short chapter contains tips on baking and a discussion of ingredients. 

This is a great, one-of-a-kind cookbook and after simply reading it I'll have to put in a half-hour on the exercycle. 
Sister Pie: The Recipes & Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery in Detroit by Lisa Ludwinski. Lorena Jones Books, 2018, $25.

All books reviewed in this bog can be purchased by clicking your mouse on the book's cover which will take you to Amazon where you can usually purchase the book at a discount. By using this blog as a portal to Amazon and purchasing any product helps support Michigan in Books.

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