Monday, May 22, 2023

 Post 82  May 22, 2023

Quote for the Day: "In many ways the Michigan Upper Peninsula ... is a world unto itself... ." Clarence A. Andrews. Michigan in Literature, 1992.

Turn to News and Views for the 2023 U.P. Notable Books selected by the U. P. Publishers and Authors Association.

It will soon become obvious that a cruel, mischievous computer elf has toyed with the layout of this post. I have no idea how or why. I guess I just have to let him have his fun. 


North of Nelson Vol. 1 by Hilton Everett Moore.

The six remarkable short stories in this powerful and haunting book are set in Nelson, "a community on the rugged side of nowhere," in the U.P. The stories catalog the lives of the off-spring or parishioners of the village's three generations of ministers and range from the 1800s to the 1960s.

In The Irascible Pedagogue the teacher of Nelson's one-room school is near bursting with his own self- importance and demands to be called Professor. He loathes the unwashed, dirt-poor farmers who send their benighted offspring to his school. Yet Nelson was his last resort after being ejected from Yale for moral transgressions he considers a mere blemish. In Nelson he is brought down and driven mad by declining the advances of a young woman he yearns for but feels is too far below his station in life.

One of the most moving stories is a woman who reflects on the thirty years spent with her common law husband while she shovels dirt on his grave. She also recalls her upbringing as a Native American in a Catholic orphanage, how she ran away to live with the man she's burying, and remembers their suffering during the Great Depression. She supposes, "cause we were dirt poor we stayed together out of necessity, each clinging together like scab apples, blemishes in all, on the same withered tree, I guess some would call it love but I didn't."

Another story is told by a boy stricken with polio and his only friend a kid named after Ernie Harwell. In A Dog Named Bunny a prison inmate tells of a beloved dog that is unlike any dog story you've ever read. The narrator explains how the family pet forever changed the trajectory of his life.

If you love good writing, memorable characters, powerful and original narrative voices, and find more than a few sentences so damn good you commit the sin of dog-earing pages and underlining passages you must read this book. 

North of Nelson Vol. 1 by Hilton Everett Moore, Silver Mountain Press, 2022, 142p. $14.95.

The Moose Willow Mystery: A Yooper Romance by Terri Martin.

A plug for the book on the back cover calling it a "cozy mystery" almost turned me off before I opened it. The book made me laugh and chuckle much too often to make this reader feel snug and comfortable. 

Janese Trout, the narrator, lives in a small U.P town not far from Marquette and I was constantly amused watching her life slowly spin out of control while she tries to deal with the author's bizarre plot and wacky characters. The author has saddled her with a live-in boy friend who doesn't talk much about his past and Janese is not sure where their relationship is headed. Among her jobs at the local community college is heading up the committee for the fourth annual Igloo making contest and creating rules that will prohibit phallic looking entrees. Add the not so Christian infighting in the church choir, and a constantly intruding mother on the prowl for a third husband and Janese has too many plates in the air. 

But this is only the start of her problems. There is the murder of Clarence "Weasel" Watkins in Bucky's meat locker. Could the cold-hearted motive for "Weasel's" demise stem from his cheating and winning last years Igloo contest. If that isn't enough, Janese begins receiving strange but somewhat threatening phone calls, may have encountered U.P.s Bigfoot, thinks she might be pregnant, and her boyfriend disappears in a snowstorm. 

What makes this novel work is Janeses sense of the ridiculous, and her wonderful sense of humor. I also found the start and stop of the narrative amusing as she's constantly getting side-tracked by unexpected problems, ideas, and ruminations over anything that might pop into head. More than once while reading I wanted to shout, "Focus Janese, focus!" This is a woman wondering if she's with child, buys an at home pregnancy test that takes minutes to use but can't complete the test because she is so easily distracted. 

You have of course noted that I've given full credit for the book's success to Janese, a fictional character and not the author. That is the mark of a good writer.

 Moose Willow Mystery: Yooper Romance by Terri Martin, Modern History Press, 2022, 273p, $24.95pb, $37.95hc, 7.95eBook. 

Waltz in Marathon by Charles Dickinson.

This may not make many readers lists of Classic Michigan Literature but it easily found a place on mine. This is a totally engaging and remarkable novel that revolves around a wonderfully eccentric character and his unique family. The fictional town of Marathon lies somewhere between Flint and Pontiac and the richest man in Marathon is Harry Waltz. 

Waltz is a widower, sixty-one, and a father of four. One of his sons was killed in Vietnam and the other son he helped put in prison. He also has twin girls and comes from a family littered with twins. He has a twin brother who he hasn't spoken to in 40 years. Waltz is truly a nice guy, a gentleman who likes people but is not liked in return. He is an anomaly -- a kind-hearted loan shark.  

Waltz loans money on the belief his debtors will honor their word and repay the loan. If a payment is late there is no knee caping or even the threat of violence. He simply talks with the debtor and may give him a weeks grace and reminds him he gave his word to repay the loan. If his business runs smoothly with only minor hiccups his personal life is overflowing with confusion.  One of his twin girls is married and pregnant and her twin is in love with her husband. His imprisoned son continually reaches out and wants to reestablish a relationship with his father who fines it very difficult to do. Then there is the extraordinary request from his twin brother that Waltz finds unacceptable yet undeniable.

The most confusing and confounding change in Waltz's life is that he may be falling in love with a woman who is as remarkable as Waltz. The hesitant and unexpected romance begins when he notices a very good looking woman he met only once is either teasing or stalking him. Waltz learns she lives on Saginaw Bay and begins walking the beach in front of her house but is too shy to approach any closer. The budding romance is a slow waltz as each are drawn to the other. They circle one another while wondering if they will fit together as partners. For Harry Waltz, Mary Hale is a life changer. How Waltz and Mary meet the coming crises in their lives will determine if it's love or love lost.

Simply put this a wonderfully unique, totally absorbing novel set in Michigan in the late 60s or early 70s. It was published in 1983 to an avalanche of rave reviews that must have had reviewers racing to their thesauruses to find words worthy of this novel that is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.

Waltz in Marathon by Charles Dickinson, Knopf, 1983, 265p (pb ed.), $23hc. (Cover photo is from 1st. edition.)

Faces, Places & Days Gone By: A Pictorial History of Michigan's Upper Peninsula by Mikel B. Classen.

I found this photographic history of Michigan north of the bridge surprisingly informative and  enjoyable. It piqued my interest when I did a first quick look and had to stop and return to one striking photograph after another. Then in the author's introduction I learned all the photographs came from "The Mikel B. Classen Historical Pictures Collection" which he acquired over many years and has grown to over a 1,000 photographs. The author chose 100 to tell this wide ranging history of the U.P.

The photographs are divided into chapters including City and Settlement Life, Homesteading, Lighthouses, Logging, Mining, Native Americans, Recreation, Ships and Shipping, and Miscellaneous. The  photos include postcards, restored images, stereo optic cards, cabinet cards and lithographic engravings. Photographers are credited when known and most importantly the author describes and comments on each photograph. He identifies where it was taken and the approximate year. It is evident that the author has thoroughly studied each picture because I can carefully look at a photo of interest and in the following paragraph Classen will call my attention to an important detail I overlooked.

I was struck by so many photographs but some will have me going back to them time and again. Like the photo of a so called "car" filled with copper miners about to be lowered into a shaft. The "car" is no more than low boxy thing on wheels, equipped with what I assume are bleachers, all of which is tilted at a very steep angle and attached to a cable. The miners are jammed shoulder to shoulder and in moments they will be sent 5,000 feet underground. I shudder at the thought. Two photos a few pages a part caught my attention. One is a portrait of a Native American mail carrier who delivered the mail between the Sault and Alpena by sled dogs. A few pages on is a photo of a working sled dog team carrying the mail. How do you get from the Sault to Alpena by dog sled, yes in the winter? On an icebreaker? And then there is the photo of a Native America mother holding her baby. I can't help but wonder if in a few years the child will be taken from her and sent to a church or government school which will ruthlessly try to entirely strip the child of it's Native America culture. Regretfully it was a fairly common practice. Obviously, my response to the photographs was both intellectual and emotional.

This book is a rich historical look at the the Upper Peninsula that literally shows it from the ragged edge of the frontier to the 1920s. 
Faces, Places & Days Gone By: A Pictorial History of Michigan's Upper Peninsula by Mike; B. Classen. Modern History Press, 2023,117p., $19.95.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Post 81 April 17, 2023

Dear Readers,

The July 2022 announcement that Michigan in Books had ceased publication was premature.  Instead, let's call it a hiatus. Frankly, self-imposed deadlines and the constant back log of review books proved stressful. Authors deserved better than having to wait up to three months for a review. But the blog kept reminding me of books I enjoyed, the authors I got to know, and the gratification of publicizing writers working in near obscurity. The number of Michiganders writing about their state continues to surprise me. And I've come to believe if one could accurately count the number of authors per capita in the U.P. it could be called a writer's colony. Lastly, the blog's monthly readership didn't decline after July 2022 - it increased. Here's hoping this doesn't reverse the trend.

So, Michigan in Books is back with new guidelines. Postings will be erratic and fewer books may be reviewed. Most, if not all postings, will contain a review of a book generally considered a Michigan classic. I have long wanted to look back at Michigan's literary heritage but couldn't find the time. Admittedly a poor excuse is too often close at hand. Readers are more than welcome to comment and openly disagree with my choices. I no longer have a proofreader, so I apologize in advance for typos, grammatical, and just stupid errors that will find their way into this blog. 

Quote of the Day: "Invent a simple device like an automobile, to get you from here to there more quickly than you could go without it: before long you are in bondage to it, so that you build your cities and shape your countryside and reorder your life in the light of what will be good for the machine instead of what will be good for you. Detroit has shown us how that works." Bruce Catton. Waiting for the Morning Train. 1972.


Tin Camp Road by Ellen Airgood

I knew I would like this book within the first two sentences. They are: "Laurel Hill knew that part of her would die if she ever had to leave Lake Superior. Its lapping was a heartbeat, one connected to her own." Laurel is a single mother with a precocious ten-year-old daughter Skye. They live in a tiny U.P.  community on the shores of Lake Superior. Their home is a small, run-down cabin and Laurel manages to scrape together enough money to pay the rent and put food on the table by cleaning motel rooms. 

Airgood has captured perfectly a U.P. that once was and, in many ways, still is. For a number of Yuppers life is a mix of poverty, fellowship, a strong physical and emotional bond with the environment, and a rugged tenacity to do whatever it takes to just get by. Laurel has no safety net under her precarious tight rope of getting by when she learns the cabin is no longer for rent and she must look for a new home and job. She also worries authorities will discover she's leaving a ten-year-old alone in an abandoned trailer when she's working. For Laurel, just getting by is within a heartbeat of broke and broken. 

Adding to Laurel's stress is her constant worry that she is depriving Skye of opportunities for a better life found below the bridge. Laurel is willing to take Skye south regardless of the fact that when she spent time in the lower peninsula she felt like "a fish on a sidewalk." Skye is a fascinating child who's old for her years, deeply loves the U.P., and can read her mother like a book. As their lives tetter on the edge and their future darkens Skye grows stronger.

Airgood has written a deeply felt book on a special mother-daughter relationship. She also writes of the undeniable and profound way in which the Upper Peninsula seems to alter the DNA of its people, and the strong sense of community that steps up when just getting by is in jeopardy. Moving and memorable.

Tin Camp Road, by Ellen Airgood, Riverhead Books, 2021, 288p., Hardback $27, Kindle $4.99. 

Waiting for the Morning Train: An American Boyhood by Bruce Catton

I first read this book some 40 years ago and remember it fondly as a great account of a boy growing up, at the turn of the 20th Century, in the lumbered-out lands east of Frankfort. What made this book even more interesting is it was a major departure from a rather private man who wrote extensively and brilliantly on the Civil War. He was responsible for making me a Civil War buff.

On rereading it after four decades it was a surprise to discover the book was much more than an autobiography. Undoubtably readers will be spellbound by the wonderfully recalled, near idyllic life of the author's first sixteen years in Benzonia. The town was founded in the 1850s as a religious community by men of "deep faith." Included in the town's charter was a commitment to "temperance, anti-slavery, and included the founding of a college." Catton remembers that growing up in the village was, "just a bit like growing up with the Twelve Apostles... ." Some of its inhabitants considered uttering the word "Golly" a form of profanity. Catton as with his award-winning Civil War narratives has the gift of transporting the reader to a place and a time as if he invented a time machine.  

Catton shows his historical chops in several chapters. The first chapter is a concise almost poetic history of the discovery and exploration of Michigan and the Great Lakes by Europeans. There is also a brief yet thorough and lively chapter on the lumber boom in Michigan, its decline, and the clear cutting which left the state a vast land of stumps.

What I forgot was Catton's bleak outlook on modern society as illustrated by the above Quote of the Day. His childhood community was based on the improvement of person's inner self and Catton believes it was out of step with society's growing love affair with technology. Catton reasons that when a technology is invented it can't be stopped. The lumber industry used technology to make logging more efficient. The result was a state covered in stumps and society called it progress. Catton argues that mankind has become a slave of the machine and it "operates at full speed." Technology split the atom and a couple of decades later produced the ability to wipe out humanity. Catton died before climate change became an issue and a threat to our livable world. But he would not be surprised that while nations meet and agree to reduce carbon emissions the past year set a new world for the amount of carbon released into the environment.

Near the closing Catton writes, "The present may be disturbing and the future may be in the highest degree ominous, but nobody gains anything by seeing in the irrecoverable past a charm and comfort which it did not have." You must read the last short chapter to fully grasp the title's brilliant and moving symbolism. 

 Waiting for the Morning Train: An American Childhood by Bruce Catton, Wayne State University Press, 1987, 260p., $26.99.

Under the Ashes: Murder and Morels by Charles Cutter

The author's previous books in the Burr Lafayette mystery series feature courtroom dramas so arresting they handcuff one to page. And when court recesses the reader is immersed in the beauty and ambiance of northern Michigan. This fifth in the series meets the same high standards.

Nick Fagan is Michigan's hottest disc jockey from Gaylord north to the Straits and part owner of the area's newest and most popular FM station. WKHQ is simply killing the competition and Nick loves to rub in his success to other station owners and DJs. Ah, but fame is fleeting. On a night out with his wife Molly at their favorite restaurant, the chef prepares "veal morel" dish for Nick with mushrooms he picked earlier in the day. After the main course Nick does a face plant in his Baked Alaska and within days dies of a heart attack.

Molly hires Burr Lafayette to represent her in court when the insurance company refuses to deliver on her husband's million-dollar life insurance policy. Lafayette had eagerly taken the case because his small law firm was deeply in debt, and this looked like an easy paycheck. But the insurance company refuses to cooperate, new evidence turns up, the insurance company pulls a legal rabbit out of a hat, and Molly is charged with murder. As the trial begins the prosecuting attorney is sure he is presenting a slam dunk case while Lafayette believes Molly is lying to him. Even worse he has no idea how to mount a defense. 

The courtroom scenes are brilliant, funny, sharp as a razor, and compelling as Lafayette desperately attempts to discredit witnesses for the prosecution. He also drives the poor judge to distraction as he stalls in search of a defense. The morel of this story is that in the hands of author Charles Cutter death by poison mushrooms is grand entertainment.

Under the Ashes: Murder and Morels by Charles Cutter, Mission Point Press, 2023, 260p., $16.95.

July, 2022 #80

Friday, July 1, 2022

 Quote for the Day. "It is impossible to look upon the present situation of Michigan and not be impressed. It is destined soon to emerge as a great rich state... The future of Michigan appears to be certain, defined, filled with promise and expansion."  Elkanah Watson, father of the Erie Canal, on a visit to Detroit. 1816.

Dear Reader

It has been a privilege and a pleasure to publish this blog over the past three years. This marks the last issue and I want to thank all the readers who discovered and followed Michigan in Books. I hope you continue to discover and explore our wonderful state through books.


Superior Justice: Murder on Lake Superior by Mike Montie.

Cliff Molders, a retired detective from the Madison Police Force, is sailing western Lake Superior while waiting to report to Isle Royale where he will work for the summer as a Law Enforcement Ranger. When a body is discovered floating in Lake Superior within the Red Cliff Reservation boundaries the tribal police chief asks Molders to help in the investigation. The woman can't be identified, and it appears she was murdered. With the case unsolved he sails to Isle Royale, meets his outspoken 21-year-old partner who doesn't look forward to working with what she calls an "Old Geezer. The partnership gets off to a rocky start as they begin their daily patrols. One of the pleasures of the novel is the hesitant relationship between Molders and Ranger Katelynn that grows into a great working team. Each character is fully developed and I'm betting most readers would like to see another mystery featuring two. 

Within days of settling into his job as a Law Enforcement Ranger the body of a young woman is found floating in the waters of the National Park. The young woman can't be identified and was murdered. Molders immediately connects the two murders and suspects a serial killer may be on the loose. The result is a classic police procedural set in the most remote national park in the lower 48. The novel is a good mix of the everyday duties of an Isle Royale park ranger and the hunt for the killer or killers of what becomes three murdered women.

Mystery lovers will find they're handcuffed to the book within a couple of chapters. The two main characters and their growing professional friendship and mutual respect makes for compelling reading as does the hunt for a serial killer set against the beauty of Isle Royale and the often-treacherous waters of Lake Superior. This is the second book in the series of mysteries featuring the retired Madison Police Dept detective.

Superior Justice: Murder on Lake Superior by Mike Montie. Privately Pub. ISBN 9798758487419, 2021, $14.

Guardians of the Manitou Passage: A Chronicle of Service to Lake Michigan Mariners 1840 - 1915 by Jonathan P. Hawley

I'm sure most Great Lakes pleasure boat sailors and all freshwater commercial sailors are familiar with the Manitou Passage. The North and South Manitou Islands lie in Lake Michigan just off the coast of the Leelanau Peninsula. Both north- and southbound commercial vessels that draw less than 27-feet of water and many pleasure-boat sailors steer a course that takes them between the islands and the Leelanau Peninsula. Known as the Manitou Passage it makes for a quick course between the Straits and ports at the southern end of Lake Michigan. It saves commercial freighters and freshwater bulk carriers fuel and time. The islands also offer shelter from significant storms that roar across the big lake. The route also offered boats shelter from a line of islands that run in almost a straight north-south line to the Straits of Mackinac and include Beaver Island.

This fine book is a history of  of the lighthouse service, life-saving stations, and the U. S. Coast Guard efforts to make the transit of the Manitou Passage safer. The route between the islands and the Leelanau Peninsula is plagued by numerous shoals, reefs, and the southern entrance or exit of the passage is all of a mile wide. In a moonless night in a strong storm, it's the equivalent of threading a needle. Plans and specifications for the first lighthouse in the passage were issued in 1839. The first life-saving stations weren't built until the 1870s. This thorough and engaging history includes chapters on the daily life and training of lighthouse keepers and the crewmen of the life-saving stations. The book details the numerous lifesaving missions in the first 75 years of service and includes riveting accounts of some of the more perilous wrecks and rescues. Complimenting the narrative is a host of historical photographs.

The book is an important addition to the maritime history of the Great Lakes.

Guardians of the Manitou Passage: A Chronicle of Service to Lake Michigan Mariners 1840 - 1915 by Jonathan P. Hawley, Mission Point Press, 2021, ISBN 978-1-954786-49-3, $19.95.

Once Upon a Twin: Poems by Raymond Luczak. Gallaudet University Press, 2021, ISBN 978-1-944838-7-76-8, $
Chlorophyll: Poems About Michigan's Upper Peninsula by Raymond Luczak. Modern History Press, 2022, ISBN 978-1-61599-642-1, $

Well, it was bound to happen, two books of poetry by the same author from two different publishers, reviewed by a guy who lost touch with poetry and/or failed to completely grasp its understanding once he got past "Dick and Jane" stories.  "Once Upon a Twin" was chosen as a U.P. Notable Book for 2021. It is a book of autobiographical poems on being deaf, gay, and living in the U.P. Many I found touching, and emotionally powerful while others I found hard to penetrate because of the total lack of punctuation. I unabashedly admit my favorite poem is entitled "the easiest words to lipread in a schoolyard (even) if you're not deaf " Not a typo. No capital letters, commas, or periods. The poem is 25 lines and a bare few more than 25 words. Among the few I dare to quote are, "hey you" and "funny."

The second book's subtitle is a fair description of the contents. These poems I found far more accessible, and I found the author's unique approach to the poems' subjects entertaining and often surprising. In the poem "LILACS" the author describes inhaling the flower's scent:

"laden with that mix of pollen and nectar,
 into the crook of my nose, my veins

throbbing at the slightest twitch.
These lilacs in bloom were pure crack."

Other poems are narrated by the subject of the poem whether it is a white pine, or a dragonfly. The poet even found a voice for basalt who had this to say about its station in life:

"We are the couch potatoes of rocks.
We just sit there and pray someone notices.
The waves always ignore us."

"Chlorophyll" is a unique and entertaining portrait of the often overlooked in the U.P. Poetry lovers will find lots to enjoy and contemplate in these two fine books.

Once Upon a Twin by Raymond Luczak. Gallaudet University Press, 2021, ISBN 978-1-944838-76-8, $15.95
Chlorophyll: poems about michigan's upper peninsula by Raymond Luczak. Modern History Press, 2022, ISBN 978-1-61599-642-1, $14.95.

Monkey in the Middle: An Amos Walker Mystery by Loren D. Estleman.

This Amos Walker mystery marks the 87th book written by Mr. Estleman and I feel pretty confident that it makes him Michigan's most prolific writer. But quantity does not necessarily mean quality, except in Estleman's case. He has won 5 Shamus Awards given by the Private Eye Writers of America for outstanding achievement in private eye fiction. He has also won 5 Spur Awards for outstanding western fiction and won three Western Heritage Awards for making significant contributions to Western heritage. And I'm not done yet! Estleman also won an Edgar Award for best mystery novel from the Mystery Writers of America who also named him a Grand Master for a lifetime achievement of consistent quality in mystery writing. So obviously Mr. Estleman is a state treasure and it seems totally unnecessary to review the thirtieth book in the Amos Walker series. But here goes.

Like so many Amos Walker mysteries the narrative begins in Walker's worn, outdated, and just plain shabby office when a self-proclaimed investigative journalist wants to hire the detective to guard him.  Walker takes the case even though the client can't or won't tell the detective why or who he needs protection from. Within days Walker finds himself involved with several federal agencies, a fugitive whistleblower, a publicity driven attorney, and a hired killer. The plot keeps readers guessing or even bewildered until the the final and surprising twist. 

But I'm willing to wager most readers, like myself, are drawn to Estleman because of his incredible writing skills. His prose is sharp as a scalpel and the dialog jumps off the page and slaps you in the face. Best of all are Estleman's bite-sized, pithy, and wry observations on Detroit and Detroit society. Here's a couple of my favorites over the last forty years. "Westland is a workingman's community, functional if it's nothing else, and nothing else is exactly what it is." The above is from "Lady Yesterday" published in 1987. And then there is this observation on the Renaissance Center from "Angel Eyes" published in 1981: "'s a pretty piece of work and about as necessary as a Tiffany lamp in a home for the blind." 

Pick up this book, or one written by Estleman forty years ago and fall under the spell of a master at the top of his form. 

The Monkey in the Middle: An Amos Walker Novel by Loren D. Estleman. Forge, 2022, ISBN 978-1-250-82717-3, $15.99.

June 1, 2022 Post #79

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Quote for the Day: "Up my way [the Upper Peninsula] old township politicians never die; they merely look that way. Instead they become justices of the peace. It is a special Valhalla that townships reserve for their political cripples and has the invariable rules of admission: The justice of the peace must be over seventy; he must be deaf; he must be entirely ignorant of any law but never admit it, and, during the course of each trial, he must chew -- and violently expel the juice of at least one (1) full package of Peerless tobacco." John Voelker. Trout Madness. 1960.

Due to continued loss of readership and some minor health problems the July issue of Michigan in Books will mark the end of this blog. The last issue may not make the July 1st deadline, but it will be posted sometime within the month. I sincerely appreciate the many regular readers of Michigan in Books and am indebted to all the independent authors who took a flyer and sent me a review copy. And a big thank you to all the publishers who sent review copies. My takeaway from three years of producing this blog is a whole new appreciation for the number and quality of Michigan authors who toil in near obscurity and deserve both wider recognition and a contract with a major commercial publisher. A final thanks to my proofreader who saved me from many embarrassing typos, miss spellings, and poorly composed sentences. This issue was proofed by yours truly who invariably reads the final draft as he thought he wrote it, instead of what actually ended up on the page.              


True Tales: the Forgotten History of Michigan's Upper Peninsula by Mikel B. Classen.

Even Michigan natives who know just a little about the Upper Peninsula are aware of how unique it is geographically and historically. It is a beautiful, wild, rugged, sparsely populated peninsula full of unforgettable scenic wonders that is equaled by its unique and often strange history. This work by Mikel B. Classen is a great introduction to the often remarkable and memorable history connected to the U.P. that in all honesty weren't forgotten by the general public. They are historical stories they never even knew about.

Among my favorites is the account of the last stagecoach robbery east of the Mississippi which took place in the U.P. The robber called himself Black Bart and killed one passenger and wounded another. Then there's the Great Lake pirate who operated all over Lake Michigan from his base in Escanaba.  I thought I knew all the relevant facts about the Ontonagon Boulder. I didn't. It was a mass of pure copper the Native Americans worshipped, but the Hell with their beliefs. The boulder was transported to Washington where it was misplaced and lost for years. The boulder was the spark that lit the Copper Boom in the U.P. The author also writes of the prominent settlers to the U.P., throws in the odd shipwreck, and relates the story of a couple of castaways on Isle Royale. The two survived a winter on the island by eating bark, roots, and berries. The husband went crazy from hunger and his wife feared she was next on his menu.

Those who consider history boring need to read this book before doubling down on their misplaced judgement. The book is jam-packed full of interesting and arresting true stories tied to U.P. history.  All I can say is, another volume please.

True Tales: The Forgotten History of Michigan's Upper Peninsula by Mikel B. Classen. Modern History Press, ISBN 978-61599-636-0, 2022, $18.95.

I Killed Sam: A Novel Based on the 1957 Groundbreaking Trial of a Battered Woman by Robert A. Steadman.

It is hard to believe that in the 1950s a Michigan law declared the only illegal brutalization of a wife by her husband was murder. By law a wife could be compelled by force to perform her wifely duties in the bedroom. In 1957 a wife in Flint, Michigan who had been battered, tortured, and repeatedly raped by her psychotic husband killed him after he threatened to kill her and throw their 3-year-old into a lit furnace. They had watched horrified when the man, a few days earlier, threw a live kitten into the furnace. On the morning of their promised death the wife walked into the bedroom to beg for their lives. Before she woke her husband she reached under the bed where he kept his shotgun and picked it up in fear he would beat her with it or simply shoot her. While holding the gun it went off and killed the man. The Genesee County prosecuting attorney charged her with murder in what he considered would be a slam dunk guilty verdict.

The author is the lawyer who defended the woman. It is obvious he changed the names of some of the characters and the name of the small town near Flint where he lived. He also adds an element of romance between the lawyer and client that never existed. In an afterword the author states  the, "book is based on the actual trial.... ." Steadman's narrative style remined me of the way Robert Traver wrote "Anatomy of a Murder." Without impeding the fast-paced, engrossing narrative both authors managed to explain important aspects of Michigan law and courtroom tactics used in defense of the accused. 

Steadman has written an utterly compelling courtroom drama. I was totally shocked by the general acceptance of a Michigan law that allowed a husband to literally rape his wife and beat her into submission. I was further horrified to learn in the afterword the infamous law wasn't taken off the books until 1989 and in a letter accompanying the review copy Mr. Steadman states close to 200 battered women are still in Michigan prisons serving long terms "for defending themselves and their families!" I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is an absolutely riveting reading experience that grabs you from page one and transports you to a Flint courtroom in 1957. 

I Killed Sam: A Novel Based on the 1957 Groundbreaking Trial of a Battered Woman by Robert A. Steadman. Mission Point Press, ISBN 9781954786523, 2022, $16.95

Honor the Earth: Indigenous Response to Environmental Degradation in the Great Lakes edited by Phil Bellfy.

This book of updated essays grew out of an environmental conference at MSU on Earth Day, 2007. The essays, as the subtitle suggests, are responses by Native Americans to the miserable record of pollution, over consumption of natural resources, and the all too evident triumph of  greed over maintaining a livable environment in the Great Lakes and the world. Readers should not be put off by what appears, at first glance, to be a book intended for a scholarly audience. Yes the format, extended bibliographies, and chapter headings such as, "Grassroots Indigenous Epistemologies: Native, Non-Governmental Organizations, and the Environment," are a little off-putting. Don't be.

At the heart of most of the essays is the difference between Indigenous Peoples' attitude to the earth and environment which is best summarized by living in balance with nature as opposed to modern society's exploitation of the environment.  The essays address a wide range of environmental concerns and the writing is often sharp, critical and outraged. One essay I found especially interesting and biting was on over population and how Japan is so over populated many of her people are "literally tumbling into the sea." Yet they are worried that their declining birthrate means in the future they will have fewer workers to "produce,' and thus 'consume' whatever it is that's produced." The author then goes on to say, "Think about it. I suggest that this attitude signifies nothing so much as stark, staring madness. It is insane: suicidally, homicidally, ecocidally, homocidally insane." 

The book is a deep dive into indigenous culture, beliefs, and their close relationship to nature and the environment. It is provocative, disturbing, and to the point. And the point is that humanity is "killing the natural world, and thus itself. It's no more complicated than that."

Honor the Earth: Indigenous Response to Environmental Degradation in the Great Lakes edited by Phil Bellfy. Ziibi Press, ISBN 978-1-61599-625-4, $24.95.

U.P. Reader: Bringing Upper Michigan Literature to the World Volume 6 Edited by Deborah K. Frontiera and Mikel B. Classen.

It's always a good day when this annual compendium of poems, short stories, memoirs, history, sparkling essays, and humorous pieces turns up in my mailbox.  The U.P.'s rugged landscape, semi-isolation, long winters, stunning beauty, and the always beckoning adventures makes it a breeding ground for authors. Based on a complete lack of hard facts and the absence of any research I believe there are more authors per capita in the U.P. than any other geographical region in the nation. The peninsula simply calls forth the urge of those living above the bridge to write, record, memorialize, and describe the unique culture and characters spawned by that extraordinary peninsula.

Among my favorite pieces in this anthology is a story of a pair of Yoopers hired by the FBI to put a halt to the smuggling of pasties into the U.P. and another about a group of locals and travelers holed up in the out-of-the-way Dead Wolf Bar during a Christmas Eve snowstorm. Dog lovers will not want to miss Richard Hill's tribute to his cocker spaniel Maxwell who was his constant companion for 16 years. And I was especially impressed with a poem titled "Novel" by Tamara Lauder the subject of which was our last two years of masks and virtual house arrest. One stanza reads:
"Novel    not the kind your read,
     but a virus that you breathe
corona,    without the lime
     invisible, divisible, unjust for all.

This is a great survey and sampling of the literature generated north of the Straits. By turns, thoughtful, entertaining, or just plain funny there is something here for everyone. And over the last six editions it has earned a reputation as an anthology with high literary standards that offers readers a unique step inside the customs and character of the Upper Peninsula. 

U. P. Reader: Bringing Upper Michigan Literature to the World edited by Deborah K. Fontiera and Mikel B. Classen. UPPA, 2022, ISBN 978-1-61599-660-5, $19.95.

Maize & Glory: The Epic Story of Michigan's 2021 return to the Top of the Big Ten edited by Gene Myers.

This is a book for U of M football fans who want a remembrance, tribute, or souvenir of the Wolverines 2021 season in which they won the Big Ten Championship and made the CFP final four. The beautiful and lavishly designed book is the product of the Detroit Free Press and is packed with great photographs taken by Free Press photographers and print coverage of the season by eleven Free Press writers.

A detailed chapter is devoted to each game of the season. The significance of the game, offense and defense strategy is often noted, and standout players highlighted before the game is described quarter by quarter. Various Free Press Sports Writers and USA Today reporters add their observations and impressions of the game, all of which in complimented by attention grabbing photographs. Essays on the team and season are spread throughout the book as are brief compelling portraits of the major impact players and the coaching staff.

If you're a Wolverine fan who wants a detailed and informative review of U of M football's 43rd Big Ten Championship season and/or a keepsake of the season this is a must buy.

Maize & Glory: The Epic Story of Michigan's 2021 Return to the Top of the Big Ten by Detroit Free Press. Pediment Publishing, 2022, ISBN 978-1-64846-008-4, $45.

May 1, 2022 Post # 78

Sunday, May 1, 2022

 Quote for the Day: "...beautiful, empty, glittering, cold and brooding, gull-swept and impersonal; [Lake Superior] always there, always the same -- there for the grateful and ungrateful, there for the bastards and angels." Anatomy of a Murder, John Voelker.

Dear Readers;

It is with no small degree of regret that I tell you that Michigan in Books will cease operations this coming June or July. A year ago, the blog attracted over 800 readers a month but over the last few months readership has steadily fallen. Last month page views were in the 300s. In good conscience I cannot ask publishers or self-published authors to send me review copies for a publication or blog that only reaches some 300 readers. Additionally, it has grown increasingly difficult to identify new books about our state, and harder yet to acquire a review copy. More time is often spent tracking down new Michigan books and self-published authors than it takes to read and write a review of a book. At present only 5 review copies are on hand. I will try to review them all in June. If not, the blog will conclude in July.

I am not sure why readership has declined so rapidly. It could be age has caught up with my writing skills or having to stay at home because of the pandemic more people browsed the Internet. In the end why doesn’t really matter. What I do know after nearly three years of writing this blog is that Michigan has a wealth of very good writers who do not get the recognition they deserve.

To all the faithful readers of this blog goes out a heart felt thank you for your long-standing support. And a special thank you to all the authors I have gotten to know, appreciate, and tried to promote.

I wish you all good reading,

Tom Powers


Huron Breeze by Landon Beach

Rachael Roberts has written three hugely successful thrillers under the pen name Riley Cannon. No one in her very upscale northern Lake Huron community or in America knows Rachael is really Riley except her literary agent Topaz Kennedy. Rachael's third NYTs bestseller appeared 10 years ago and Topaz daily harangues her client for the fourth in the series which Rachel hasn't even started. The bestselling author has a writer's block the size of Hoover Dam. Then fortune smiles on Rachel when a man crawls out of Lake Huron near the home of a neighbor with a knife in his back and dies on the beach. 

A murder investigation is way out of the village cop's league and by default the murder case lands in the lap of the town's successful and eccentric P. I. Obadiah Ben-David. In a moment of desperate brilliance Rachael pays Obadiah a hefty fee to allow her to become his assistant. The murder will be the inspiration for her fourth book and Ben-David's unusual investigation will serve as the plot's outline. Beach has taken a murder mystery, a wickedly satiric look at the publishing industry, the writing of bestsellers, along with a sideways glance at the wealthy in up north Michigan all of which he tosses into a blender and presses puree. The result is a novel smoothie.

Rachael with pen and notebook in hand copies down anything she thinks could be used in her new novel as Ben-David questions possible suspects. Even characters from her three earlier books make appearances to see if they would fit in the new novel. All the while Rachael is continually at crossed swords with her obnoxious and demanding literary agent. As defined in the book, "a literary agent was one of the traditional publishing industry's cornerstone Threshold Guardians--a gatekeeper, who kept unpublished, barbarian writers away from the cherished castle of book-deal majesty." I have a feeling Landon Beach enjoyed writing this book as much as I enjoyed reading it.

Huron Breeze by Landon Beach. Landon Beach Books, ISBN 9781732257870, 2021, $16.99

Above the Birch Line by Pia Taavila-Borsheim

This small, impressive book of poetry is a life revealed in seventy-five pages by a native of Presque Isle, Michigan who retired as a professor of creative writing and literature at Gallaudet University. The poems describe and capture the author's childhood, marriage, travel, motherhood, aging, and contemplation of death. A great many are set against a beautiful, meticulously drawn word-picture postcard of Michigan.

The author's poems are written with a remarkable smoothness, flow with the ease of the Au Sable, and possess a profound feeling for time, place, and people. The reader's eyes seems to glide down the page as the lines strike one emotional cord after another. The poem, "November, 1963" is twenty-one short lines on the assassination of JFK that doesn't take up a full page yet hits the reader with the force of an unabridged dictionary dropped from the top floor of the Dallas Book Depository. The twelve-word poem "Marriage" is a wise and near perfect observation on matrimony. 

"A floorboard creaks, cries,                                                                                                                                      despite our best intentions                                                                                                             to avoid the plank."

I'd lay money on the husband stepping on the to be avoided board much more often than the wife.

I shy away from reviewing poetry because I just don't feel qualified. And with that said, here is an unqualified, whole-hearted recommendation for this heartfelt book of poetry. I will return again and again to savor these memorable and moving poems. Many of which reflect on life in Michigan. 

 Above the Birch Line: Poems by Pia Taavilla-Borshein. Gallaudet University Press, ISBN 978-1-944838-89-8, 2021, $19.95.   

Bath Massacre: America's First School Bombing, New Ed. by Arnie Bernstein.

Before May 18, 1927, Bath, Michigan was a small, peaceful Michigan town where everybody knew everybody, doors were not locked at night, and newcomers were welcomed. In 1919 one of those newcomers was Andrew P. Kehoe who married a local woman and bought a small farm near Bath. He was polite and friendly but a man of strange mannerisms and behavior. The farm was extraordinarily neat, he and his wife were socially active in the community, and Mr. Kehoe was widely acknowledged as an expert on dynamiting stumps. He ran and was elected treasurer of the board of education even though or because he hated the new taxes levied to pay for a  two-story consolidated school. After the election he spent weeks packing the school's basement with explosives in ordered to blow the new building and its 230+ students to smithereens. On May 18, 1927 Kehoe killed his wife and livestock, blew up his farm, packed his truck with dynamite and headed to town. It was sheer luck that only the explosives under the school's north wing went off killing. The explosion killed 38 children and six adults. 

This riveting and haunting book presents a detailed description of Bath, draws a harrowing portrait of a psychopathic killer living amidst an unsuspecting community, and a minute-by-minute account of the cataclysmic explosion and the horrific results.  The author stitches together dozens of eye-witness accounts from inside the school and around Bath. The author taps both historical sources as well as his interviews with six survivors. One can't read this book without being deeply moved by the pain and horror suffered by the children and their parents, or the almost superhuman effort by the community to rescue entombed children.

The author has done a remarkable job of letting the people of Bath tell of their tragedy. It gives the book an immediacy and a direct emotional connection with Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech and all the recent and horrible school shootings. The book also touchingly relates the lengths the town went to memorialize those lost in the senseless mass murder. Originally published in 2009 this new addition contains interviews with two survivors not included in the first edition. The only question left dangling in the book as well as the current plague of recent school shooting is WHY, WHY, WHY? 

Bath Massacre: America's First School Bombing, New Ed. by Arnie Bernstein. University of Michigan Press, 2022, ISBN978-0-472-03903-6, $22.99 pb.   

Vlad The Impaler: And More Epic Tales From Detroit's "97 Stanley Cup Conquest by Keith Gave.

The author, a retired Detroit Free Press sports reporter wrote the bestselling book The Russian Five that recounted the defection of three Russian hockey players to the Detroit Redwings. And, at coach Scotty Bowman's insistence the Wings later acquired two more Russians by trade. The Russian Five, as they came to be known played a major role in Detroit's winning the 1997 Stanley Cup and revolutionized how the game was played in the National Hockey League. Gave then went on to write and produce a laudable documentary film based on the book.  Gave found he still had reams of material on the 1997 season, winning the Stanley Cup, and Russian Five's experiences playing in the NHL. The result is this book which contains a host of great stories he couldn't squeeze into the book or the film. 

Readers shouldn't think of this book as Gave picking up the scraps he couldn't work into the film or the first book. What makes this book special is that Gave has let the players, coaches, and Red Wing administrators tell the story of the season and winning the cup from their point of view. I especially liked the unique view of the team and the Russian players as seen by the Chief Flight Attendant on Redbird One. She was aboard the plane when Sergei Federov defected and again when Konstantinov defected. My favorite story is told by NHL referee Paul Devorski  who handed out penalties after Darren McCarty pummeled Denver's Claude Lemeieux. McCarty singled out Lemeieux for retribution after driving Kris Draper into the boards the previous season breaking his jaw and multiple facial bones.  Devorski watched tapes of Lemeiux's savage blindside hit on Draper the night before the game. When order was restored the linesmen asked if McCarty was getting a game miss conduct. Devorski called McCarty for double roughing believing Claude deserved the beating. Following the fight the Wings came from behind to tie the game. Then karma struck when McCarty scored the winning goal in overtime.   

The title of the book would imply that it was all about Vladimir Konstantinov. His story is familiar to all Wings fans. If you haven't heard it, the Wings held a party a week after winning the Cup and on the way home Konstantinov's unlicensed limo driver crashed into a tree. Vlad suffered horrific brain and spinal injuries. He remained in a coma for two months and when he awoke doctors said his brain damage left him with the cognitive skills of a small child and he would need around the clock care from nurses and caregivers. The care has been ongoing for 25-years until a recent Michigan law put a cap on the amount of money car crash victims can receive. Or as Keith Gave sees it, Konstantinov "...faces another catastrophe, his survival hanging in the balance, thanks to unconscionable legislation passed by lawmakers on both sides of aisle bought and paid for by the breathtakingly greedy Michigan insurance industry." Doctors are afraid Konstantinov may not survive normal nursing home care. And, one should keep in mind this is not only happening to Konstantinov but thousands of Michigan victims of catastrophic injuries due to car accidents. A portion of the sale of this book is earmarked for the Vladimir Konstantinov Special Needs Trust.

This is a must read for hockey fans, especially Red Wings fans. Keith Gave has scored a literary hat trick with this fine book.

Vlad the Impaler: And More Epic Tales from Detroit's '97 Stanley Cup Conquest by Keith Gave. Teufelsberg Productions, ISBN 978-1-952421-25-9, 2021, $16.99.


April 1, 2022 Post #77

Friday, April 1, 2022

 Quote for the Day: "I have seen the storm of the Channel, those of the Ocean, the squalls off the banks of Newfoundland, those on the coasts of America, and the hurricanes of the Gulf of Mexico. No where have I witnessed the fury of the elements comparable to that found on this fresh water sea." Francis Count De Castelau. 1842.


2022 Michigan Notable Books

Click on News and Views to see the twenty books published in the last year that were named as Michigan Notable Books. 

Don't Click on Book Covers

Over a month ago Amazon informed me that at the end of February I and other bloggers could no longer copy and paste products, including book covers, as we had done in the past. Amazon then announced how one might copy and paste using a new set of indecipherable directions. After tearing at what little hair I have left over the course of two weeks I decided to no longer use Amazon for my covers and found I could copy and paste from Google. I don't think it will affect readers of the blog because I get a monthly report on the number of clicks on book covers. They usually amount to less than a half dozen. What I didn't expect was that on all 76 earlier blog postings Amazon blocked clicking on the book covers. 

Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury by Kinley Bryan.

One of the great joys of producing this blog is picking up a self-published book by an unknown author, reading a few pages, and discovering you have fallen under the spell of a great story told by a talented storyteller. And yes, "Sisters of the Sweetwater Fury" by Kinley Bryan is one of those books and she is one of those authors.  

The novel follows the lives of three sisters over the course of three days, November 7-9, 1913. In those three days the most destructive storm in the history of the Great Lakes swept 250 sailors to their deaths, sank 19 ships, and wrecked another 19. One of the three sisters is a cook on a 500-foot ore carrier. The oldest sister, a widow of a husband who died while working at a Life Saving Station, lives in Port Austin, Michigan. She will soon find herself manning the Port Austin Life Saving Station's badly damaged surf boat as it tries to rescue the crew of a grounded freighter a mile offshore. It's a question of which breaks up first, the ship or the surf boat.  The youngest sister has just married the captain of Great Lakes freighter and on a whim decides to board his boat for the last trip of the season. The storm puts the lives of the three sisters in dire peril.

The sisters are convincing and well-drawn characters. The magic of a powerful historical novel is the way words on a page can make readers feel they are experiencing an event along with the characters. In the author's hands the storm becomes an awesome, deadly, maelstrom almost beyond imagination in its violence. Reading this book is the closest one will ever come to experiencing what it feels like as a ship longer than a football field breaks apart under you. 

The research is impeccable, and the novel is full of fascinating details on Great Lakes shipping and the life of freshwater sailors. The masterful narrative is compelling, suspenseful, and very powerful. This novel goes on a small shelf containing my all-time favorite books.

Sisters of the Freshwater Fury by Kinley Bryan. Blue Mug Press, ISBN 978-1-7379152-0-1, 2021, $14.96.

The Big Island: A Story of Isle Royale by Julian May, Illustrations by John Schoenherr

First published in 1968, this wonderful picture book works so well because the striking artwork and the narrative's simple, well-chosen words perfectly complement each other. The result is a classic children's introduction to Isle Royale National Park. This welcome reprint by the University of Minnesota Press includes a short report at the back of the book by noted wolf expert L. David Mech who describes the changes on the island over the last fifty years.

The slim volume recounts the history of Isle Royale. It briefly tells of the island's creation in Lake Superior and how both plants and animals came to inhabit it. Much of the book explains how the island's moose population and wolves depend on each other for survival. The simply told story shows how the moose are dependent on wolves to keep the herd healthy and from growing in numbers until it outstrips their food supply. On the other hand, without moose wolves could not survive on the island. The book is a simple and understandable lesson on ecological balance.  

This may be a children's book, but adults will find great pleasure in the finely drawn illustrations and in reading the book to the young. I visited Isle Royale over 20 years ago and I treasure the book because it is a vivid reminder of four extraordinary days spent on the island. I expect the book will have the same effect on others lucky enough to have visited America's least visited national park.

The Big Island: A Story of Isle Royale by Julian May and Illustrated by John Schoenherr. University of Minnesota Press, ISBN 978-1-5179-1069-3, 2021, $17.95.

Grievers by Adrienne Maree Brown

Dune, the main character of this impressive debut novel, is sitting at a table watching her mother work in the kitchen. Dune is stunned as her mother stops talking in mid-sentence, freezes in position as if playing a kid's game of statue, and dies. Dune's mother proves to be patient zero of a plague, pandemic, or undetermined killer that only strikes African Americans living in Detroit. Within days of her mother's death hundreds have died from the mysterious killer. The wealthy have fled and left the poor to suffer. 

As her world crumbles around her and grieving over the death of her mother Dune wanders the city talking to survivors, those leaving the city, and documents the dead she finds left in their homes or lying in the streets. Municipal services disappear, including hospitals, grocery stores, police, businesses of all kinds are gone. She learns from a doctor who stayed that Black Detroit is not dying from a virus but has no clue as to what is killing them. Dune continues exploring the dying city searching for food while taking notes and recording the unthinkable tragedy in hopes of discovering what is happening to her city and people. 

Do not mistake this book as a story of the Covid 9 pandemic from a Black point of view. The novel is a powerful portrayal of grieving, the struggle to find joy in life, and the love for a city. The book is set in the near future in a country still rent by racism, voter suppression, corruption, and failing schools. Detroit serves as symbol for all that's eating away at America's promise but as the author notes, "Detroiters are persistent when it comes to surviving the impossible." This book will stay with you long after the last page is turned. And by the way, there is no "The End" on the last page. 
Grievers by Adrienne Maree Brown. AK Press, 2021, ISBN 978-1-84935-452-3, $15.



March 1, 2022, Post #76

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

 Quote for the Day: "In this uncertain climate the hopes of the eager watcher for spring are doomed to many and many a disappointment."  Bela Hubbard. Memorials of a Half-Century in Michigan and the Lakes Region. 1887.

Breaking News: Don't Click on Book Covers

Over a month ago Amazon informed me that at the end of February I and other bloggers could no longer copy and paste products, including book covers, as we had done in the past. Amazon then announced how one might copy and paste using a new set of indecipherable directions. After tearing at what little hair I have over the course of two weeks I decided to no longer use Amazon for my covers and found I could copy and paste from Google. I had completed the March issue well before the end of February and planned telling readers about the change in the April issue. I honestly didn't think it would affect readers of the blog because I get a monthly report on the number of clicks on the book covers. They usually amount to less than a half dozen. What I didn't expect was that on all 75 earlier blogs Amazon blocked clicking on their copy and pasted book covers. And I found it absolutely baffling that clicking on the book cover now takes one to Pinterest.  But if you are on Pinterest it gives you a chance to pin the books on your sites. I encourage readers to take their business to local bookstores and I will include ISBN numbers, so it is easier to locate books. God bless software writers, and may they live by the motto, "If it's not broke don't fix it."


A Dangerous Season by Russell Fee

In an inspired use of literary license, the author made Michigan's Beaver Island the state's smallest and most remote county and installed a physically and psychologically damaged ex Chicago cop as the sheriff. This is the third in the Sheriff Matt Callahan mystery series and it more than lives up to the first two very promising opening volumes in what I hope will be a long- running series. The second in the series, "A Dangerous Identity" won the Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award, and in my humble opinion this newest offering in the series is the best yet.

The book is set during the winter season when the ferry from Charlevoix stops running and the only way off and on the island is by plane. So how did a young teenage girl get on the island during the depths of winter. She appears to be able to survive in the island's least populated areas and is rarely seen except when she steals food from the island's residents. Sheriff Callahan and his small staff find the girl and discover she won't or can't speak and doesn't match any statewide postings of missing girls. When it becomes apparent she may be a Native American, Callahan works with tribal police in the UP to try and find out why she ran and how she got on the island. It turns out the girl believes a mythical Ojibwa beast is out to kill her, when in fact she is the target of a human killer. A secondary mystery concerns who and how did someone cause the wide-spread infection of all the fish in one of the island's lakes.

The author fully captures Beaver Island during the winter and the hardy souls who weather the cold, snow, and the isolation. Major and minor characters ring true and Callahan and his staff grow and develop with each new book in the series. Of particular interest in this mystery are politics, business, and law enforcement on Native American land in the Upper Peninsula.  This book goes down like a hot cup of cocoa while setting before a fire while a January blizzard howls outside. Completely satisfying and left wanting more.

A Dangerous Season by Russell Fee. Outer Island Press, 2021, $14.99

Justice for Max by Scott Daniel

Ray Hunter is a local reporter of a small weekly newspaper in Southfield, Michigan. Ray just happens to witness a deadly hit-and-run accident in which the city's star high school quarterback is killed. The driver of the hit-and-run car is the mayor of Southfield and has high political aspirations. She also has a lover, the city's Chief of Police. As she speeds away from the victim lying on the pavement, she calls her lover and asks him to cover her back and find someone else to frame for the crime. All this happens in the first twenty-five pages and is the set-up for an engrossing novel of suspense.

Ray Hunter is driven to cover the crime and when he has doubts as to how the police are conducting the investigation, he starts his own inquiry into the hit-and-run. He soon learns there are many questionable aspects of how the police are handling the case. Ray also discovers his life may be in danger by conducting his own investigation. When the police announce they have arrested a suspect Hunter quickly realizes it is a set-up. The real question is can Hunter survive until he unravels the lies and reports the truth.

The book is written by an experienced Detroit reporter and Ray's journalistic work comes across as very authentic and Southfield, Michigan is well drawn as a wealthy cheek-by-jowl suburb of Detroit. The author also accurately portrays the struggle of small papers to survive in the Internet Age. This is a fine first novel in which the suspense builds relentlessly and will leave readers hoping for more from this promising author.

Justice for Max by Scott Daniel. Sentinel Media of Michigan, LLC, 2021, $11.99.

Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes: Tragedies and Legacies from the Inland Seas by Anna Lardinois

Before cracking the cover of this book, I went to Amazon and typed in great lakes shipwrecks. I stopped counting at 30 titles. And in the past few months this and another new book on the subject have been published. Obviously, there is an enduring fascination with the subject. The book quotes the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum on Whitefish Point that estimates 6,000 ships have gone down in the Great Lakes and claimed 30,000 lives. This informative and readable book will impress readers by the variety of ways in which these ships met their fate.

Many of the shipwrecks can be blamed on overconfident captains, poorly built unseaworthy ships, inadequate weather services, and the speed and violence in which storms could descend on the lakes. The author has picked the stories she tells because they are either unique or the sinking has much in common with other shipwrecks. Passenger ships often sailed dangerously overcrowded and often lacked enough life jackets and lifeboats for their passengers. In 1882 the SS Asia, built to hold 40 passengers, carried nearly a hundred on its last voyage. Capt. Savage sailed in spite of being denied a license to sail because of the weather. His ship was a flat-bottomed river boat that broke up in a Lake Huron storm. The Capt. made it into the first and only surviving lifeboat and was only one of two survivors. A ship that carried convicts to Australia and served as a prison ship in the 1850s was turned into a museum, brought to the Great Lakes, and sank in Lake Erie in 1946. Then there is the strange story of the Atlantic that went down in Lake Erie in 1852 taking the lives of hundreds of emigrants. Both Canada and the US claimed the wreck. The issue was not settled in court until 1996. 

Strangest of all is the Lake Superior ghost ship. The SS Bannockburn sank in 1902 with all hands. For years sailors swore to have seen the ghost ship and its unique silhouette. In the 1940s the freighter Hitchinson was struggling to survive a terrible storm and was hugging the Pictured Rocks shoreline. With navigational aids gone due to ice the crew was afraid they would run aground when out of the mist appeared the Bannockburn.  She was spotted 100 yards away and heading straight for the Hitchinson. The ship turned to avoid a collision and the Bannockburn disappeared. When navigational aids were restored, the crew learned if they had not turned to avoid running into the ghost ship they would have run aground. Pick any chapter in this book and you'll be hooked.

Shipwrecks of the Great Lakes: Tragedies and Legacies from the Inland Seas by Anna Lardinois. Globe Pequot, 2021, $19.95.

Great Lakes for Sale: Updated Edition by Dave Dempsey.

If you live in Michigan or the Great Lakes watershed you need to read this book. It is a disturbing and alarming look at efforts over the past four decades, to commercialize the water of the Great Lakes and its water table. Since 2001 Nestle has drawn two billion gallons of Michigan's public water and sold it. The CEO of Nestle put it succinctly when he said that water is not so much a human right but simply a "grocery product." But that's only a drop in the bucket compared to future and current attempts to divert Great Lake's water around the world. Canada proposed selling 50 tankers of Lake Superior water a year to Asia. In this country someone had the crazy idea of refilling the badly depleted Oglala Aquifer, tapped throughout the Great Plains to irrigate crops, by pumping it full of Great Lakes water.  Another company wanted to send Great Lakes water to coal mining areas where the water would be mixed with coal to create a slurry so it could be moved via pipelines. The desert Southwest also has eyes on our freshwater seas.

The author traces the threat of diverting much of the Great Lakes to an early 1980s Supreme Court decision that limited a state's ability to block transfer of water out of state. The NAFTA agreement also prohibited signers of the treaty from banning water transfers between treaty signees. The governors of Great Lake States and Ontario's prime minister met in 1983 to devise plans and policies that would limit out-of-state water transfers due to conservation measures. The governors' and prime minister of Ontario's plan to stop water diversion was codified in what became known as the Great Lakes Compact. The author then details how governors would step in to halt another state from diverting water based on the Compact but then got away with doing the very same thing in his or her state. The author claims that the Great Lakes Compact "resulted in more new or increased diversions out of the basin in its first dozen years than the number of diversions authorized in the previous 118 years."

This isn't fun reading, but it may well be the most important book you'll read this year or next. It lays out the current and future threats that can dangerously lower the water level of the lakes. Nestle's wells are already threatening to dry up natural flowing springs, picturesque trout streams, and make rural homeowners redrill their wells in search of a disappearing water table. This book is an alarm bell in the night.

Great Lakes for Sale: Updated Edition by Dave Dempsey. Mission Point Press, 978-1-954786-58-5, 2021, $14.95.


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