Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Post #36

Quote for the day: "Suddenly each summer on the lake shores of northern Michigan a living truth is rekindled. I have felt its glow all the way around the world, across the continents and across borderlines that let down their barriers only for those who know the universal password.  ...Interlochen is a magic word in the music world." Van Cliburn, 1968


Reviews



Lives Laid Away
by Stephen Mack Jones

August Snow is on the prowl again and that is cause for celebration. The author's first mystery featuring the ex Detroit cop turned sometime private-eye, when not buying and fixing up every abandoned house on his block and making them livable again, was named a Michigan Notable Book and a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Best Book of the Year. The first novel was also nominated for two distinguished mystery writing awards. Happily, Lives Laid Away meets every expectation readers of the first book looked forward to in the second.

For the uninitiated, Snow's mother was Mexican and his father an African American. He is proud of his ethnic roots and lives in Detroit's Mexicantown where he grew up. He was fired by the Detroit Police Department and sued for unlawful dismissal and won a $12 million settlement. He uses the money to buy and rebuild abandoned homes on his block and finds needy families to whom he either sells the house or gives it to them. The only interruption in this one-man effort to rebuild a Detroit neighborhood is his habit of getting snared into helping right a wrong, sticking up for his neighbors, and working as an unlicensed private detective. All three of the activities usually brings Snow face-to-face with the police department and ex-superior officers that set him up for a fall but instead cost the city $12 million.

The second book, in what is hoped will be a long series, involves Snow in a case as volatile as today's headlines. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau (ICE)  is on the prowl in Mexicantown and when the body of an unidentified Hispanic woman is pulled from the Detroit River the police look to quickly close the case.  The Wayne County Coroner sends a photo of the dead woman to Snow in hopes he can circulate the picture and ID the deceased. 

When Snow starts nosing around trying to identify the body he discovers there may be a rogue element within the Detroit ICE office that is grabbing undocumented females and turning them over to a criminal element who sends them into the underground world of sex trafficking. The plot moves at the speed of light, the characters are authentic, the body count is high, and readers will be hooked right up to the bittersweet conclusion.

Lastly, among the many pleasures of this deeply satisfying novel is the author's intimate knowledge of Detroit and its suburbs that are described with razor-sharp prose that cuts to the essence of today's Detroit and the plight of its under-served and preyed upon inhabitants. The book is a triumph and much more than just a very readable, guns-blazing thriller.  

Lives Laid Away by Stephen Mack Jones. Soho Press, 2019, $26.95



Duffy Daugherty: A Man Ahead of His Time
by David Claerbaut

Given its title, this is not the book I expected it would be. What I was looking for between this book's cover was a well-rounded, authoritative biography of one of our state's most iconic college coaches. What readers get instead is a detailed, informative, and interesting game-by-game retelling of Duffy Daugherty's nineteen seasons as head coach of Michigan State University football team.  

The book's first seventeen pages recount his birth and childhood in Pennsylvania coal country and his early career as an assistant coach. The book's last five pages briefly covers his life after coaching but are pretty much limited to writing his autobiography, his regrets that he didn't retire sooner, and his dislike for how the Big Ten administers football. His wife is mentioned two or three times and there is a passing note about adopting a child and that is the sum total of information on his marriage and life away from football.  

Within the story of  Duffy's nineteen seasons as MSU's head coach, there is much said about the clashing of the two huge egos within MSU's sports family-- Duffy Daugherty's and that of the Athletic Director Biggie Munn. Both liked the limelight and there was probably no better speaker and storyteller in football than Duffy Daugherty. He was a literal quote machine and could almost rival Yogi Berra for odd and memorable one-liners like, "I could have been a Rhodes Scholar, except for my grades."

Much has been made of Duffy's tapping into the wealth of Black football talent in the 1960s in the South and bringing many of those players to MSU because they weren't allowed to break the color barrier at Southern universities. I wanted to know more about how Buffy decided to go after these Black players and how he recruited them. Late in the book, Duffy is quoted as saying he hated recruiting but no details are given as to why.  Other than noting and quoting from his many public speaking engagements, there is hardly a word in the book about what the man did in the offseason, how he conducted spring training or arrived at his innovative offensive sets and plays. The players loved him but little or nothing is said about his relationship with those players after they graduated.

If you're looking for a complete and thorough biography of the man, look elsewhere.  On the other hand, if you want to be regaled by Duffy's great sense of humor on the banquet circuit or in press interviews that are interwoven within a game-by-game and often a play-by-play history of his nineteen seasons as the Spartans head coach the book will not disappoint. 

Duffy Daugherty: A Man Ahead of His Time by David Claerbaut. Michigan State University Press, 2018, $29.95 pb.

All books reviewed in this blog 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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August 1, 2019 Post # 45

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