Wednesday, September 6, 2023

 Post #87  September 6, 2023

Quote for the Day: "The story of how the Upper Peninsula finally became a part of Michigan must have made the angels weep. And doubtless also giggle." John Voelker in the Forward to They Left Their Mark by John S. But. 1985.


Limpy's Adult Lexicon: Raw, Politically Incorrect, Improper & Unexpurgated, As Overheard & Noodled By Joseph Heywood

Fans of Heywood's Woods Cop Mysteries might be initially disappointment when they learn this is not another installment in the author's very popular series. For readers who are not familiar with the author his eleven books in the afore mentioned series follows the adventures and work of Grady Service an Upper Peninsula Conservation Officer. While writing the first book in the series Heywood reports that Limpy Allerdyce, a wayward spirit, habitual poacher and a  Yooper to his ghostly marrow, took up residence in Heywood's literary subconscious. Second only to Grady, Limpy not only became the most popular character in the series but inserted himself  in nearly every one of Heywood's Woods Cop mysteries. And now, other than a fine introductory essay by Heywood entitled "Words from the Word Fiddler" and the last two brief chapters this is, as the title suggests, Limpy's book.

The first chapter is a very good essay on language and words. Heywood explains and demonstrates on how languages are constantly evolving through the invention and use of words, the comingling of languages, and the rise and fall of dialects. Heywood admits he has long been fascinated by Yooper lingo and has been collecting and recording Yooperisms since 1958 and has found that there are several distinct Yooper dialects. He heard and recorded lots of Yooper lingo by living in the U.P. and riding shotgun over the years with numerous Michigan Conservation Officers when researching his books. Heywood is so taken with the lingo he even admits to inventing a few new Yooper words. 

Part II is a compiled list of "Limpy's Thirty Rules for Wannabe Violators." "Rule 17: If womyn gots gun in hand an' wants talk, youse best stop an' listen." The majority of the book, close to 200 pages, is devoted to "Limpyspeak/YouperSpeak (Spokenabulary)." It is the most extensive Youper dictionary I've ever run across and Heywood prefaces it with a guide to some of the peculiarities of the lingo such as "older Yooper speakers don't distinguish singular from plural." I find Youperspeak clever, inventive, imaginative, uniquely descriptive and very much a part of life and living in the U.P. Oh, and I forgot funny.  Such as "go Twinkie" which translate as "go postal, wig out, run amok." I can't resist, two more: "gourmaggot = gourmet" and "hugamanganamus = humongous." 

Memorable quotes from poachers who were caught violating game laws and conservation officer jargon make up the last to sections. The entire book is a delight. Funny, playful, an example of inspired use of language, a window into Yooper culture, and an entertaining book to dip into over and over again on nights you are getting tired of waiting for the next Woods Cop mystery to be published. I'm left with one question. Does Limpy Allerdice get a share of the royalties?

Limpy's Adult Lexicon: Raw, Politically Incorrect, Improper & Unexpurgated, As Overheard & Noodled By Joseph Heywood. Lyons Press, 2023, 246p., $27.95.

The Great Seney Fire: A History of the Walsh Ditch Fire of 1976 by Gregory M. Lusk

The 1976 Seney Fire was the largest, longest, and most costly Michigan fire since 1908 and was in many respects unique. The author was the Assistant Fire Boss of the Seney Fire and after his retirement he brought out all his carefully saved notes, reports, clippings, maps, and data to write this history of the fire. The author is exceeding thorough and at times the book reads more like a report than a narrative history. Due to the author's style the book may sometimes lack narrative drama and this reader got a little bogged down in trying to understand Fire Behavior Indexes, Fuel Moisture Codes, Duff Moisture Code (DMC), Buildup Index (BUI), and others. And yet I found the book fascinating.

The author reviews the geology that made Seney unique and led to a host of factors that made the fire so hard to fight. Seney is an area of bogs, swamps, and marshes, marked by numerous sandy knolls or ridges covered by pines. The U.P. suffered a severe drought the summer of 1976 and the various wetlands pretty much dried up. A lightening strike set marsh grass burning and before long the ground was literary on fire. A fire crew from California could hardly believe it when a local fire fighter took a mass of organic dirt from 8-feet deep. He squeezed a few drops of water from it and then broke up the clod and blew on it. To the astonishment of the California firefighters it started to smoke and then produced a flame. It was an example of how the fire traveled underground, passed below control lines and then resurfaced and spread above ground.

The fire burned for two months, covered 72,000 acres or 112 square miles, and was fought by fire fighting crews from 20 states. The book is chocked full of maps, photographs, charts and filled with fascinating details. The final chapter describes the new methods and equipment for fighting fires from computer modeling to drones, and better communications. 

Sadly, there is more than a little irony in the last sentence of the above paragraph. This summer millions of acres of Canada are burning and I can smell and even taste the smoke here in southern Michigan. The Canadian fires forced the evacuation of tens of thousands while the horrific Maui fire has claimed victims that will reach unimaginable numbers. Those tragic events and the disastrous fires in Europe gave this book a profound immediacy. 

The Great Seney Fire: A History of the Walsh Ditch Fire of 1976 by Gregory M. Lusk. Snowsnake Press, 2023, 230p., $23.99.

The Blue Fame by Nathan Shore.

In this fast paced thriller attorney Ben Hirsh has been disbarred, his wife has divorced him, he has a week left on the lease of his Lansing apartment, and no hopes of getting a job. All are self inflicted wounds. His assets total a few bucks, a Toyota pickup, his father's Smith and Wesson handgun, and a rundown uninhabited family house in Manistique.

Then out of the blue Kyle, an old friend and the Assistant Prosecutor in Escanaba, calls and offers Ben a job. Sort of. Kyle is obsessed with taking down two brothers who are habitual criminals and more dangerous than a cornered cobra. The youngest brother even pistol whipped a cop and because their sister married money and a political heavy weight the charges were dropped. Kyle wants Ben to return to his home in the U.P. and work off the books as his confidential informant and dig up irrefutable evidence of the brothers' crimes. Kyle will find him a job in the private sector which turns out to be walking natural gas lines looking for leaks.

After Ben has a run-in with one of the brothers he realizes he is in way over his head. Ben wants out but Kyle lays it on thick about helping clean up his childhood community and working for the public good. Ben reluctantly agrees and quickly regrets it. This is a tightly written thriller that builds to a riveting climax. The compelling plot is played out against a great portrait of the Escanaba Manistique area and the beautiful Garden Peninsula and its off-shore islands. This is a very good book by a first time author who lives in southern Arizona and writes of the Upper Peninsula like he has lived there all his life. If I was just another seedy patron of Lily's Tavern  (fictional I hope) I'd tell Shore; "Pour me another and make sure it's set in the U.P.

The Blue Fame by Nathan Shore. Barque Point Press, 2022, 319p., $14.99 pb, $26.99.

High on the Vine: Featuring Yooper Entrepreneurs, Tami & Evi Maki (Cousins, Thrice Removed) by Terri Martin

Tami and Evi, as their last names might suggest, married brothers they met at a wedding.  Whether the romantic glow cast by the nuptials blinded the cousins' to character flaws in the their husbands to be is an open question. The answers seems to depend on what some Yooper's (men) rate as sterling character attributes and others (namely women) find less than desirable in a mate. The cousins meet regularly for tea and one of the main topics of discussion is criticizing their husbands' many faults. Tami holds the opinion that God has a sense of humor and when he made man and saw how flawed Adam was he, "sought to salvage the human race through the creation of woman."

It should be noted the tea always takes place in Tami's house in her parlor, which at any other time is called the living room, and instead of sipping tea they a tap a box of wine with an easy pour spout. The other topic of conversation is thinking up a good business idea that will make them wealthy. Rustic camping for women failed and nudity foiled the next idea. But at every tea the subject of (BEEP) the Business Enhancement Entrepreneurial Plan is discussed. The author achieves inspired lunacy when the ladies become partners with a group of monks. The Benevolent Brotherhood of Sylvan Monks created a God awful wine. Tami and Evi agree to promote and sell what is commonly called "Monk Juice" and tastes like "pond scum." There are high hopes for two new varieties soon to be on the market Pinot Grisly and White Infidel. 

This book is an accumulation of stories featuring Tami and Evi that previously appeared in the UP Magazine. Readers should rejoice that all the stories now appear in one book and follow the sisters-in-law from considering raising fish in a swimming pool to vacationing on a beach with a Pina Colada in hand and the Atlantic Ocean spread before them. The book is filled with grins, giggles, and out-loud laughter. And as a special bonus the book's last page contains Tami's Peanut Butter Pinot Creamy Delight Fudge that includes 6 - 9 ounces of Pinot Noir. As Evi might say, "Bone a the peat!"

High on the Vine: Featuring Yooper Entrepreneurs Tami & Evi Maki (Cousins, Thrice Removed) by Terri Martin, Gnarly Woods Publication, 2022, 151p., $17.95.

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

 Post # 86  August 15, 2023

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 excesses and eccentricities -- as we'll have."  Neely Tucker, Detroit Free Press Magazine. March 29, 1992.


The Arsenal of Deceit by Donald Levin

It's March 1941 in Detroit. The war in Europe has put thousands back to work in Detroit factories and the UAW has stepped up efforts to unionize Ford, especially the Ford Rouge Assembly plant. Pro-Nazi supporters operate openly in Detroit and secretly try to trigger violent confrontations between Detroit's Black population and rightwing extremists and southern whites who have flooded into town looking for jobs. Father Coughlin is no longer on the radio spewing hatred against Jews and Blacks but his diatribes still pollute the air and continue to infect many Detroiters. This is the setting for the author's second in a series of powerful and provocative novels that paint an accurate and disturbing portrait of Detroit in the 1930s and '40s.

We meet some of the same characters introduced in the series first book "Savage City."  Elizabeth Waters has become a private investigator for a lawyer working for the UAW. Elizabeth hires Eva Szabo to go undercover in the Ford Rouge plant to document Ford's unlawful anti union violence against union supports and organizers. Eva is unaware of the danger she faces if Ford's security men discover her mission. Ford's security forces consist of ex cons, killers, and Mafia thugs. It has been called the, "...the most powerful private police force in the world." Police Sgt. Denny Rankin investigates a home robbery that leads to pro Nazi groups that Elizabeth Waters is trying to infiltrate.

Readers also met Black Police Detective Clarence Brown in "Savage City." Brown's character dominates "The Arsenal of Deceit." Brown and other Blacks were hired as cops for the sole purpose of controlling Detroit's Black population. They face almost universal disrespect from white policemen and most of the city's white population. Det. Brown is a man of strong principles and will go to dangerous extremes to seek justice regardless of a person's color. When  Brown finds a one- or two-day-old dead Caucasian baby in the basement of a Black tenement he is determined to find justice for the nameless child. He refuses to drop the case even after it is reassigned to a white officer who tries to wipe the case off the books. Brown's unrelenting pursuit of justice for the baby uncovers a network of crooked cops and puts a bullseye on his back.

This is another superlative historical novel by Donald Levin that leaves the reader making uncomfortable comparisons to the extreme political fringe groups of 1941 to those of today. The author has a great feel for time and place and the book brings 1941 pre-World War II Detroit vibrantly alive. Readers will simply become lost in the book as they race through the pages to discover the fate awaiting Levin's well-drawn characters. This should be an odds on favorite for making the Michigan Notable Books List. 

The Arsenal of Deceit by Donald Levin. Poison Toe Press, 2023, 435p., $22.95.

PBB: An Environmental Disaster Michigan Chemical Poisoning Reverberates 50 Years Later by T.H Corbett, MD, MPH

This book, to put it bluntly, is both a horror story and the history of an unmitigated and ongoing  failure by the State of Michigan to care for the health and well being of its citizens. In May of 1973 the Michigan Chemical Co. in St. Louis, Michigan mistakenly shipped a fire-retardant laced with highly toxic PBB as a food supplement for dairy cattle to the Michigan Farm Bureau mixing plant in Climax, Michigan. The extremely toxic feed was then shipped throughout the state. Within months dairy farmers saw their cows sicken, their milk tasted funny, the cows refused to eat, had still born calves, produced less milk, and died unexpectantly.

When farmers complained no one would listen. Some farmers came to the conclusion something was wrong with the feed and again no one listened including the the Michigan Dept of Agriculture or the Health Dept. When independent doctors and scientists discovered fire-retardant in the feed, its harmful effects on humans was down played by officials. It took four years for state agencies to face what had become the worst "environmental contamination episodes in history." For four years most of Michigan drank PBB laced milk. Sick cows were sent to slaughter houses and the meat was sold to the public. Dead cows were sent to rendering plants where they were turned into dog food, chicken feed, and processed as cattle feed and sold back to farmers. If you are older than fifty you still have amounts of PBB in your body and no one is studying the long term effects. That study stopped in the 1990s.

This important book is a detailed, step-by-step history of a totally disgraceful chapter in Michigan's history. The author clearly and simply covers the history of brine mining in Michigan, explains the development of toxic compounds and how they effect the human body, and recounts the unchecked contamination of our rivers and drinking water. The author also discusses how the spread of toxic chemicals has lead to a high degree of male infertility, mental retardation, and any number of neurological problems. The contamination of the Love Canal was once called the worst toxic site in the USA. The government bought the homes of Love Canal residents and moved them to safety. The author contends the toxicity in St. Louis, Michigan, the former home of Michigan Chemical, is much worse. Yet, there has been no comprehensive study of the effects on St. Louis residents whose homes sit on a morass of deadly chemicals. 

The author labels this entire disgraceful story, "a tale of wanton disregard for the public health." It is a book of vital importance, and you will either read it and weep, or read it and get madder than Hell.

PBB: An Environmental Disaster Michigan Chemical Poisoning Reverberates 50 Years Later by T.H. Corbett, MD, MPH. Mission Point Press, 2023, 228p., $19.95.

Too Much Sea For Their Decks: Shipwrecks of Minnesota's North Shore and Isle Royale by Michael Schumacher

The author has built a well-earned reputation for writing superlative narratives on Great Lake shipping tragedies with books on the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald, The Daniel J. Morrell, and the Great Lakes Hurricane of 1913. That same professionalism and knack for telling a great story is evident on every compelling page. The book is divided into three sections. Part 1 covers shipwrecks on the Minnesota coast, Part 2 covers Isle Royale losses, and Part 3 recounts the three worst storms to hit the Great Lakes. The stories of noteworthy losses in Parts 1 and 2 are told in chronological order beginning with the loss of the schooner Stranger off Grand Marais in 1875. The arrangement of the shipwrecks in chronological order also gives the reader a fair historical outline of commercial shipping on the Great Lakes.

The story of the sinking of the Stranger kept picking at me throughout the book. The schooner set sail for Grand Marias, Minnesota without an anchor. Another schooner even offered the captain the use of one which he declined. The schooner arrived in Grand Marias ran aground while maneuvering in port and was blown out into Superior and sank with all hands. An anchor would have saved the schooner. Throughout the book boats go down because captains overlooked the obvious. A captain orders a turn to port without ever looking to port where he would have found another bulk carrier within a football field or two. The result a collision.  Another captain allows his boat to be grossly overloaded and it goes down in a Lake Superior storm like a dropped anchor. Is this over confidence or simple human failure? And by the time I read about the Lake Superior Storm of 1905 I began to wonder if it was possible that some Great Lake captains may not have enough respect for Superior. 

In Part 2 the beautiful, near pristine Isle Royale and her offshore reefs turn into a deadly spider's web that snares and destroys boats blown off cross or lacking the proper charts with striking regularity over the years. And in chapter after chapter in becomes perfectly clear for both crew and passengers that when their boat hits a reef or is simply overwhelmed by Lake Superior the difference between life and death can be infinitesimally thin.  The book is packed with historic photographs and incredible stories of the men and ships who ventured out on the world's largest freshwater lake and paid the ultimate price. This is a fine addition to the history and lore of Lake Superior and if you've ever sailed to Isle Royale it makes the book even more special.
Too Much Sea for Their Decks: Shipwrecks of Minnesota's North Shore and Isle Royale by Michael Schumacher. University of Minnesota Press, 2023, 237p., $24.95.

The SideRoad Columnist: Observations from an Upper Michigan Author by Sharon M. Kennedy
View from the SideRoad: A Collection of Upper Peninsula Stories by Sharon M. Kennedy

The author's U.P. experience dates back to childhood and she calls on her years of living in the eastern Upper Peninsula as inspiration for many of the columns she wrote for Gannett Media. The book doesn't make clear whether this is a selection from her columns or all that she penned. Kennedy's columns are brief, often no longer than a page, and run the gamut from keen-eyed observations, reflections, and occasional opinions, to frequent comments on her life in the U.P. from the present back her childhood. I would guess nearly 90 percent of the columns have something to do with life in the U.P.

I think readers will especially like her childhood recollections that range from life in a small cabin heated mostly by wood and without electricity, to being bundled into cocoon by mother to go out in the winter, or visiting her childhood kitchen and taking inventory of its contents. The pieces make for a mosaic of U.P. life. As a married man I winced and unsuccessfully tried not to laugh at her comments on men and husbands. Such as, "Men are notorious for overkill on simple things." or, "When I hang a picture, I pound a nail in the wall and hope for the best. A hired hand would get out a stud finder, yardstick, level, and an assortment of nails, screws, hammers, and drills." Well, Ms. Kennedy this man has only one hammer, and one drill and is not proficient with either. The columns are always interesting, entertaining, and quickly read.  It's like eating a bowel of my wife's popcorn. You can't stop until it's all gone.

The second book is a collection of short stories set in or about living in the U.P. The stories are  funny, haunting, and sometimes painfully sad. The hallmark of each story is a unique narrative voice and a one-of-a-kind character around which the story is told. In the introduction the author tells how some of the stories had been handed down or based on stories by both her mother and father. The author's father was an Irishman and was an endless source of great stories. What makes this collection special is that the stories are grounded in the U.P. experience and at the same time speak to the general human condition. 
The SideRoad Columnist by Sharon M. Kennedy. Modern History Press, 2023, 154p., $18.95.

View from the SideRoad: A Collection of Upper Peinsula Stories by Sharon M. Kennedy. Modern History Press, 2022, 135p., $16.95.


Monday, July 24, 2023

 Post #85   July 24, 2023

Quote of the Day: "Detroit is the wettest and widest open town in the country and has the largest per capita consumption of liquor of all the cities in the United States -- New York included." Plain Talk Magazine . 1930.


Savage City by Donald Levin

Detroit 1932, the Depression is gutting the city. Evections are soaring, jobs are gone, soup kitchens struggle to meet the demand, and the people are looking for someone to blame. The Communist party is attracting followers, the Black Legion a violent white supremacy hate group targeting Blacks, Jews, and Catholics is growing and, the Purple Gang's power may be waning  but it is still deadly. Those are forces in play in this totally engrossing novel covering one week in Detroit in March of '32.  It is in that week that several organizations staged a Ford Hunger March in which 3,000 marched to the Rouge Ford Plant demanding more jobs and aid for the unemployed. Dearborn Police and Ford Security employees opened fire on the marchers. They killed five and wounded 60. Countless marchers and organizers were arrested and held for days without ever being charged.

The novel follows four characters whose lives are transformed during the week of the march and its aftermath. Clarence Brown the only Black detective in the Detroit Police Department is obsessed with finding the killer of a young Black man the department tries to write off as a suicide. Roscoe Grissom has lost his job and joins the Black Legion. He is willing to murder anyone in the cause of white supremacy. Elizabeth Waters, a native Grosse Pointer, rejects her privileged past and works in soup kitchens, supports the rights of the poor, and joins the march. Ben Rubin hopes to take a step up from small-time crime and join the Purple Gang but things don't go as planned.  

A month ago I had never heard of this author and can't remember where I ran across his name. I'm glad I did because "Savage City" is one of the best books I've read in the past twelve months and ranks with the best historical novels set in Detroit I've read. The plot is driven by a powerful and propulsive narrative, the characterizations run deep and true, including Detroit that comes alive as a fully formed character. The author has a great feel for the temper of the times and although it is fiction based on fact and the author may have had to trim facts or invented some events to advance the plot there is an undeniable authenticity to this novel. It is the first in a series of historical novels set in 20th Century Detroit. 

As a point of interest the four killed on the day of the march were buried together in a mass unmarked grave. Fifteen thousand walked in their funeral procession. The fifth victim was a Black teenager who was wounded and died weeks later. He was not allowed to be buried in the white cemetery. It was 50 years before the UAW was allowed to place headstones on their graves. Neither the police or the Ford Security personnel suffered any repercussions from the shootings. 

Savage City by Donald Levin. Poison Toe Press, 2021, 417p., $19.95.

The Luck of the Fall by Jim Ray Daniels

This sixth collection of short stories from a master of the form invites the reader into the lives of the led astray and/or those trying to make the best of their situations. Incidentally they all happen to have more in common than just living along 8-Mile Road in Detroit. Nearly all of Daniels' characters are struggling to deal with life, it's mistakes, missed opportunities, regrets, and emotional burdens. What the stories also have in common is great writing, sly even laugh-out-loud humor, and unexpected observations on life in general or their own that pop into a narrator's mind. These unbidden intrusions are often the heart of the story and are gateways into a deeper understanding of the character and his life.

If the characters face hardships they don't quit, they get back up and keep trying. The Spirit Award story begins: "To say Jack was disappointed was to say it looked like it might rain while it was already streaming off the brim of your new baseball cap." Jack didn't win the Spirit Award but it wouldn't be the last time it would rain on his parade. His father married three times and never had time for Jack. Dad was always late or simply failed to show up for his sons activities. But maybe a negative can be a positive; Jack will learn how to handle disappointment of which there will be many in any life. Like all Daniels' stories it is marked with humor, sharp dialogue, and true to life experiences.

I particularly enjoyed the story The Mighty Wallendas. The nameless narrator and Peggy, his live in girlfriend, love circuses and consider the Wallendas the greatest circus act ever. They continue to go to circuses even though they aren't what they used to be, "but they still have that smell: "exotic animal sh**, cigars from Swampbreath, Louisiana, melting makeup from Buttercup, Missouri, and roadie scum from every federal prison in the good ol' US of A." Going to a circus always sparks vivid memories of the Wallendas. Then one day the narrator is struck by the notion that he and a lot of people often find themselves on a high wire without a net. The narrator's high wire act? His girlfriend is his brother's wife. He stole her when his brother was in Texas looking for work. 

Jim Ray Daniels writes short stories that you can't read and just walk away from.

The Luck of the Fall by Jim Ray Daniels. Michigan State University Press, 2023, 176p., $24.95.

Islands of Deception by Chris G. Thelen

There's a lot to like in this thriller set in Michigan that features more mayhem and flying steel that a figure-eight demolition derby. The book was written by a first time novelist with a BA in Journalism and a Masters Degree from a Theological Seminary. There is not a lot in this thriller that would reflect positively on the latter degree.

It would be almost impossible, or a more talented reviewer, to disclose more than a small slice of the plot without giving away too much. To be somewhat circumspect a man is given an package that he is assured will keep his family safe from danger. It doesn't. The package sparks the most ingenious prison escape I've ever run across in a thriller. Following the escape the plot features non stop action that moves from Detroit to the quite, peaceful, and beautiful Beaver and North Fox islands, which are no longer quiet and peace, and to the waters of Lake Michigan. The good guys include an agent from Homeland Security, a security specialist for the governor, and an ex-con. None of them can quite keep up to speed with their adversaries.  As if the plot needed a touch more action add a drone, a possible terror attack, and what part does a shadowy billionaire play in all of this. 

The book has loads of momentum and the author keeps you guessing up to the last page and then some. Readers should be warned if you get to the prison break the rest of the night may not be yours. This is a promising first effort by a writer with a lot of potential. 

Islands of Deception by Chris G. Thelen. Brookstone Publishing Group, 2023, 274p., $16.99.

Second Hand by Michael Zadoorian

When I stumbled across a list of the MLA Michigan Author Awards (you can find the list on the News & Views Page) the 2022 winner was an author I knew nothing about and had never run across his name before. Among his list of novels I got my hands on the above title. I fell in love with the book and Richard, the main character, within half-a-dozen pages. Time seemed to stand still when I entered Richard's world. I could have read this book in a couple of days but it took much longer because I kept rereading sentences, paragraphs, and even pages.

Richard owns a second hand shop on the ragged edge of Detroit. He has a wonderful oddball sense of humor, is a keen observer of life and society, suffers from a bit of low self-esteem, and simply loves being a Junker. As he says, "Junk has been my friend, my teacher, my mentor. It has taught me what is not required. It taught me to enjoy things, but not need them." He observes that most people are, "saving and sacrificing for stuff, then throwing that stuff out and saving and sacrificing for more stuff." 

Junk is his life and of late his life has been well ordered and without crisis. Then in the space of a week or so his  mother dies and he meets a woman who could be the love of his life. Picking through boxes full of junk, stuff, and treasures in his mother's basement he discovers a mom and dad he never knew. Meanwhile a woman by the name of Theresa wanders into his shop a couple of times and Richard is smitten. A relationship blossoms but "The Junk Goddess," as Richard calls her, is burdened by a mind warping load of guilt associated with her job. Even after Richard is surprised by his exceptional sexual performance, after previously admitting, "I am not the Thelonius Monk of the clitoris," their relationship flounders. Because Richard can't stop questioning or pestering Theresa about her feelings of guilt and unhappiness. The rest of the story awaits you.

Zadoorian has written a singularly original comic novel told with a remarkable voice. It is funny, profound, great entertainment, and concludes with a memorable and moving closing paragraph. And I am so pleased to have purchased "Second Hand" second hand. It has been added to my shelf of classic Michigan books. 

Second Hand by Michael Zadoorian. W. W. Norton & Company, 2000, 270p., $23.95.

Monday, July 10, 2023

 Post # 84  July 10, 2023

Quote for the day: "I expect nothing from Michigan, and heartily wish I had never heard of the state." James Fenimore Cooper in a 1848 letter to his wife. The reference is probably to an investment in Kalamazoo real estate that failed to turn a profit.


Growing Up in Sparta: And Other Adventures by Larry Buege

This autobiography struck an immediate chord with this reviewer because the author and I were born only three years apart and the account of his childhood reaffirmed my belief that we grew up during a golden age for children. Buege grew up in a small town north of Grand Rapids and a good deal of my childhood was spent in Flint. The author remembers in warm and accurate detail the everyday life of a kid and the culture in which he thrived. Our generation may have been the last of unstructured and simplified childhood. We were not chained for hours to digital games, endless TV shows, cell phones, and near endlessly organized year-round little league sports. We organized our own sports, thought up our own games, and marbles was our only serious addiction.


Buege writes, "My parents raised their children as if we lived in a safe and carefree world." I was given the same liberties. Our parents didn't have to tell us to turn off the TV and go play outside. We ate breakfast and were gone. The author tells us that sociologists have called the kids of the 1950s "free range children" and Buege comments "today free range parenting is almost outlawed." The first half of this book will have WWII baby boomers reconnecting with their childhood.


Unhappily there was a debt due for many of the boys who passed through the golden age of childhood and it was stamped paid in Vietnam. Until the writing of this book the author simply refused to tell anyone of his 11 months spent in Vietnam as a Corpsman. I salute his courage and honesty in sharing his indelible and painful experience with his readers. 

His post war years drew him to the U.P. as a teacher and after getting a degree as a physician assistant he spent fifteen very interesting years tending to the inmates at Marquette State Prison. He later worked in a Marquette hospital and somewhere along the way fell victim to the writer's bug. The review copy he sent me was signed and above his autograph he wrote, "We are all making history." This thoughtful, incisive, revealing, and very readable autobiography is proof positive of the handwritten note on the title page. I love history that delves down into the nitty gritty experiences of the common man during any historical era because it proves there are no common men or women only uncommon ones. Bravo Buege!

Growing up in Sparta: And other Adventures by Larry Buege. Gastropod Publishing, 2022, 238p. $16.95 pb.

Indians and Other Misnomers of the Upper Great Lakes: The True Indigenous Origins of Geographic Place Names by Phil Bellfy.

This is really quite a simple but important book that must have taken an enormous amount of work and research to produce. I also personally thought it profoundly ironic for multiple reasons. Basically, as the subtitle states the book simply lists names that were given to places in the Great Lakes area by the indigenous people that are still used today. There is a chapter for each Great Lake state and Ontario listing the indigenous names you will find on maps, highway signs, city limits, lakes and the meaning of each name in it's native tongue. Michigan has nearly a 100 Native American place names. They include Manistee which means Crooked River, Naubinway = Place of Echo, Munising = Island in the Lake, Muskegon = Swampy, Pinconning = Potato Place, and Menominee = Wild Rice People to name a few. It comes as a revelation when one discovers how many Native American words were used or appropriated by Europeans throughout the Great Lakes area in naming geographic features or places. 

I can't help but find it ironic that the very people throwing Native Americans off their land would keep the original place names that originated with the indigence people. Or, that Indian Agent Henry Rowe Schoolcraft who signed treaties with various tribes that resulted in the loss of their homeland then named ten new counties in Michigan with "Indian Sounding " names such as Allegan, Oscoda, and Tuscola. Lastly there were the indigenous children who were taken from their homes and sent to schools for the purpose of stripping them of their culture. They were forbidden to speak their native tongue while Europeans thought nothing odd in adopting indigenous words for places Native American children were not allowed to utter. 

In addition to the indigenous geographic names found in each of the states and Ontario there is a lengthy alphabetical listing of all the indigenous place names, treaty signers, and untranslatable words used as place names. This is followed by a listing of treaties in the Great Lakes area, the date signed, the location of the signing, and the tribe or tribes involved. Of special note the land involved in each treaty is keyed to the maps preceding the chapters on each state. This is an important and fascinating book that reminds the reader that the culture and language of Native Americans is still with us today. It enriches our language, and the words alone make clear how long this land has been revered and cherished.

Indians and Other Misnomers of the Upper Great Lakes: The True Indigenous Origins of Geographic Place Names by Phil Bellfy. Ziibi Press, 2023, 152p., $25.95 pb.

Shipwrecked and Rescued: Cars and Crew: The City of Bangor by Larry Jorgensen.

This slim book is packed with Great Lakes maritime history and a detailed account in words and photographs of one of Lake Superior's most unusual shipwrecks. The City of Bangor was launched from a West Bay City, Michigan shipyard in 1896 and was built to be a Great Lakes grain hauler. By the 1920s automobile manufactures came to realize that shipping their new cars via Great Lake freighters to dealers on or near Great Lake ports was very cost effective.

The City of Banger was purchased by a transit company and converted to a car hauler by constructing a second lower deck and removing hatches and redesigning the main deck to carry automobiles. Elevators were installed to move the cars between decks. In August of 1925 the City of Bangor set a record for the largest single shipment of automobiles when it docked in Chicago with 500 new cars  on board. Less than 18 months later the ship was caught in a late November Lake Superior storm and was tossed on a Keweenaw Peninsula reef like a thrown away toy.

The 29 member crew made it safely ashore then spent 36 hours without shelter on the blizzard swept beach. They nearly froze to death and many suffered severe frostbite before they were discovered by chance when the Eagle River Life Saving Station crew came to the aid of another nearby shipwrecked crew and spotted the City of Bangor crew. The brisk narrative is complimented by numerous photos that tells the extraordinary story of how the crew finally reached Laurium and a badly needed hospital. Then the author tells the equally remarkable story of unloading the cargo from a ship 200 feet off shore and then driving the cars the length of the Keweenaw Peninsula and loading them on trains. All of which was done in a bitterly cold January on a finger of land jutting into Lake Superior on which it's few roads were buried under 30 feet deep snow drifts. It makes for quite a story. The book was was named to the 2023 U.P. Notable Book List.

Shipwrecked and Rescued: Cars and Crew: The City of Bangor by Larry Jorgensen. Fresh Ink Group, 2022, 85p., $20pb.

U.P. Reader: Bringing Upper Michigan Literature to the World Vol. 7. edited by Deborah K. Frontiera and Mikel B. Classen.

 I don't envy the hard choices the editors had to make in selecting the poetry, fiction and non fiction included in this annual publication showcasing the best from what I consider the largest (geographically speaking) writers' colony in the country.

Among the cornucopia of fine fiction, non fiction and poetry readers will find a profile of a Calumet hockey player who in 1916 was one of the first American born players to play for the Stanley Cup. He enjoyed a long career in both amateur and profession hockey and later in life became a pairs figure skater. The article also recounts some of the early history of  professional hockey in the U. P. Then there is The Karate Club a short story in which seven fresh foods in a refrigerator, led by the Sensei Pickle, practice Karate in order to vanquish spoiled food. One of the virtues I like best in this annual collection is the wide diversity of styles and subjects in both fiction and nonfiction. It is a literary three ring circus. And that includes it's host of poems from haiku celebrating Fiddlehead ferns, to a poem about a dead tree, or Michigamme Grades a poem that embraces the wonder of a place. They all share the magic of poetry represented by this stanza from Michigamme Grades.

"A place where time and essence meet                                                                                                        in a dance                                                                                                                                                      with the Milky Way                                                                                                                                    and the flapping of a preening loon."

I can't help but comment on my favorite piece. It is an essay by Leigh Mills who cleans year-round and vacation homes in the Les Cheneaux Islands area. She enjoys her work and never tires of it because she takes short breaks or, as she calls them, "little vacations" in a favorite spot in each house where she enjoys, "the peace, quiet, and wonderful views... ." In conclusion she writes, "I focus on experiencing life...every moment is special, not fancy or filled with things...just joy in the smallest way. To be glad we're alive, attuned to the greatness of life and the glory of the Universe is the attitude I carry with me and share with the world."

Does anything else need be said?

U.P. Reader 7th vol. edited by Deborah K. Frontiera and Mikel B. Classen. Modern History Press, 2023, 170p., $19.95pb.

Odin's Eye: A Marquette Time Travel Novel by Tyler R. Tichelaar.

The author has made a career of writing both fiction and non fiction about his hometown. His body of work includes a very popular and highly lauded 1,200 pages plus historical fiction trilogy that brings the history of Marquette brilliantly alive from it's founding to it's sesquicentennial in 1999. Yet the author wished there was a time machine so he could travel back in time and walk the streets of historic Marquette. "Odin's Eye" is the result of the author scratching that itch and creating his own time machine. 

The book opens with a young man waking up in a Marquette hospital who doesn't know who he is and couldn't even make a wild guess as to the date or even the historical era in which he awoke. When told he was found unconscious and suffering from a concussion at the exclusive Huron Mountain Club west of Marquette he feels some familiarity with the city. He is bewildered when he is assured the year is 1900 and is further confused when he has fleeting images of cars and other modern machines and devices that briefly flicker in his mind. Several characters take this young man, they decide to call him John, on walks around Marquette hoping either he will be recognized by someone or vice-versa. He's introduced to some of the most famous and influential citizens of the town. There is much of Marquette he is somewhat familiar with but no real progress is made. John decides his best chance is to return to the Huron Mountain Club in hopes it can help him figure out who he is and what has happened to him.

When he is led to the spot where he was found unconscious a Huron Mountain Club guide finds an object he has never seen before but it is a stunningly encouraging discovery for John. Yet within minutes of that discovery his world is once again turned totally upside down. It may well change his life forever or mean the end of his existence.  It would be criminal to give away any more of the plot other than to say the author has produced a time machine that readers will also enjoy. And to compliment Tichelaar's fine descriptive prose he has supplied readers with contemporary photographs from 1900 Marquette. The book is immersive and compelling.

Odin's Eye: A Marquette Time Travel Novel by Tyler R. Tichelaar. Marquette Fiction, 2023, 417p., $28.95.

Monday, June 12, 2023

 Post 83  June12, 2023

 Quote for the Day: "Nothing can exceed the beauty of this island. ....If the poetic muses are ever to have a new Parnassus in America, they should inevitably fix on Michilimackinac. Hygeia, too should place her temple here; for it has one of the purest, driest, clearest, and most healthful atmospheres." Credited to Henry Schoolcraft but the book below states he took credit for poems and works written by his wife. 

Turn to News and Views for a complete list of the Michigan Author Awards given by the Michigan Library Association in recognition for an outstanding published body of literary work by an author from Michigan or has substantial ties to the state. 


Great Women of Mackinac 1800-1950 by Melissa Croghan.  

I consider myself fairly well read on Michigan and Mackinac Island history simply because it has been of life long interest and I'm embarrassed to have never heard of the thirteen women profiled here. The author makes it clear these women made a significant impact on the history and development of the island, even though they could hold no office, nor vote, or present their opinions in official political groups or meetings.

The author has divided these women into three divisions. The first group consists of Native America women who became leaders and examples to the rest of their community. They all started by assisting their husbands in the fur trade and when their husbands died, disappeared, or in case of war, left Mackinac Island they simply took the reins of business and prospered. In addition to managing all aspects of the fur trade some women also made maple syrup on Bois Blanc Island for additional income. Elizabeth Mitchell's husband. a British loyalist, fled the island when the U.S. and Britain went to war. Elizabeth continued to run their fur trade, while she also started a commercial garden, in addition to raising and selling hay. She was greatly respected and was famous for refusing to be domesticated. Her son said, "she knew not the use of a needle."

The second group of women were contemporary writers of the 1800s who recorded much of the early history of the island. For me, the most fascinating woman in this group is Jane Johnston Schoolcraft (1800-1842). She was a Native American who wed Indian Agent Henry Schoolcraft. Jane had been sent to Europe for  an education and spoke English, French and her native tongue. She was the 1st Native American to write poems, record tales, and songs of her people in her native language as well as English. Her husband didn't or wouldn't speak of her writing, yet claimed to be the author of some of her work which he had hidden away. 

The third group are the social reformers and community builders that made Mackinac a thriving community at the beginning of the tourist industry. This book pays homage to the historical women who were prominent in the history of Mackinac Island but long absent in the island's narrative. The book is a testament to thorough research and is both scholarly and very readable. And yet again it is a sad reminder that too much of history is just that "His Story." "Her Story" can also be very interesting and balance the scales of the historical record.

Great Women of Mackinac 1800-1950 by Melissa Croghan. Michigan State University Press, 2023, 244p., $37.95 pb.

Yooper Ale Trails: Craft Breweries and Brewpubs of Michigan's Upper Peninsula by Jon C. Stott.

What a sacrifice! The author took it upon himself to visit ever craft brewery and brewpub in the U.P. He did it for those of us who enjoy craft beers and live in or may visit the land above the Bridge and, with his book in hand, always be able to find the closest craft brewery or brewpub. 

Seriously, craft breweries have become very popular and Michigan is tied for 6th among all states for the number of craft breweries at 407. The author has done a meticulous job of supplying the craft beer lover with everything they would want to know about U.P. craft breweries and brewpubs. As of the writing of this book there are 29 such breweries north of the Straits. The author presents each brewery with a 2 or 3 page essay that includes a short history, a conversation with the owner, presents a feel the bar, and a describes the brewery's signature beers. Each entry includes a photograph, address, phone number and both the website and Facebook addresses.

What makes the book totally unique are the appendices.  There is a list of breweries and brewpubs by location. Following that is a listing of each brewery with it's production by number of barrels, it's flagship beers are named, followed by a core list of all beers produced, whether available in cans or growlers only, and finally it's distribution area. Next is a several page essay on how beer is brewed. There is yet another appendix on a guide to beer styles and which U.P. breweries offer which styles of beer. There is also a glossary of brewing terms, and finally an annotated list of books about beer. It made me thirsty reading the book.

Yooper Ale Trails: Craft Breweries and Brewpubs of Michigan's Upper Peninsula by Jon C. Stott. Modern History Press, 2023, 218p. $24.95 pb.

Village Talk: A Country Merchant's Memoir and Folk History by Ray Nies, edited by Michael J. Douma and Robert P. Swierenga.

The story behind this book is as extraordinary as the stories found between the covers of this personal recollection and observation of life in southwestern Michigan from the late 1800s to the early 1940s. Ray Nies (1877-1950) owned and operated a hardware store in Holland, Michigan from before World War I until he retired. He wrote this book in 1940. The unpublished manuscript was discovered a few years ago in the Holland Museum archives. 

Nies has a great knack for describing the life, social customs, family life, and economics of the times. He does all this while weaving memorable stories and characters within the narrative. The author was born in Saugatuck and recalls in great detail the winter evenings when Civil War veterans gathered around the stove in his father's hardware store and told war stories or spun outrageous lies. Like the Civil War nurse who recalled saving a man's life by replacing his shot up stomach with that of a sheep's. He claimed the man fully recovered but couldn't pass a hay field without stopping to graze.  

When the family moved to the religiously strict village of Holland he recalls that the words, "darn," "by George," "Gee Whiz," and "gosh." were not to be used by boys. Thirty years later in the author's Holland hardware husbands complained that electric washing machines made life too easy for their wives and why two tubes and a washboard weren't good enough. And there was the man who thought the government ought to give everyone $25 a week. When Nies asked where the money would come from the man replied, "...well just tax everyone $25 a week, that's where." A friend told Nies of the man whose house was electrified and that night he tried to turn off the light by blowing on the bulb harder and harder without success.

 The author was drawn to unique and interesting characters and had the wonderful ability to bring them fully alive. There's the well-liked, self-taught horse vet who maintained a fine tuned, happy balance between drunk and sober everyday for for sixty years. My personal favorite was the stranger who came to town and guarantied to teach anyone to swim or their money back. He did this without ever entering the water himself. For $10 he even guarantied a women he could teach her dog to swim. Miraculously he did! Eventually the man received his wet comeuppance. In old age Nies philosophizes a bit and leaves readers with with a number of thought provoking comments on life. Among them are: "a fool can instruct wise men, but no fool can instruct a fool," and, "we all want to live a long time, but we all hate like hell to grow old." 

After more years than I care to count reviewing books or reading them for pleasure there are very few books I have enjoyed as much or more than this recently unearthed gem. On finishing this book I wished I could have known the author, then realized the wish had come true.

Village Talk: A Country Merchant's Memoir and Folk History by Ray Nies, edited by Michael J. Douma and Robert P. Swierenga, Privately Published, 2023, 262p., $31.95.

Poppy and Mary Ellen Deliver the Goods: Book One of the Frankenmuth Murder Mysteries by Roz Weedman and Susan Todd.

Well here is another "Cozy" Mystery of which I'm not a regular reader or even very familiar with the genre's benchmarks. So I thought it time to do a did a little research. Here is what I found and how this cozy mystery compares to the genre's criteria.

1 Sex and violence usually occurs off stage. Yes in deed.
2 The detective(s) is an amateur sleuth. Polly and Mary Ellen qualify.
3 The sleuth(s) is usually a middle-aged woman. Check and check.
4 The setting is a small intimate community. OK I guess, but Zenders et al is hardly intimate.
5 There are no serial killers or psychopaths. Nary a one.

The chicken dinner capital of Michigan is the setting for this quirky mystery featuring Poppy and Mary Ellen, two middle-aged women who run a somewhat casual detective business. More often than not their cases involve chasing down runaway dogs and on occasion, checking up on possible straying husbands. That is until every kook and crazy from a dysfunctional Ohio family, the Stanleys, are ordered to Frankenmuth by Mrs. Stanley, the family's very rich, aging aunt. She has brought the family together to stuff them with fudge and chicken before announcing her new estate plan which they will find much harder to swallow.

While the gaggle of in-laws, nieces, and nephews wonder what's up a Stanley family member arranges for his aunt to take a carriage tour of the town. The driver is told to have her back at the hotel by 5 p.m. when she has arranged to meet with her clan and drop the bombshell. The carriage arrives on time but Mrs. Stanley fails to disembark. Well its hard to get out of a carriage when your throat has been cut. And who is witness to this shocking scene but Poppy and Mary Ellen who just happened to be there helping deliver the goods for their caterer friend.

And off go Polly and Mary Ellen careening like pinballs racking up points as they bounce from one clue to another, rebound from unexpected plot twists, help discover another dead body, and manage to play a mah-jongg game or two before the police collar the murderer. With the ladies' help of course. If you like cozy mysteries you'll gulp this one down and be waiting for the next one from this pair of Frankenmuth residents. Read it now or pick it up as a calorie lite souvenir after a dinner in Michigan's Willkommen land.

Poppy and Mary Ellen Deliver the Goods: Book One of the Frankenmuth Murder Mysteries by Roz Weedman and Susan Todd. Mission Point Press, 2023, 239p., $14.95.

Boats Can't Jump: The Story of The Soo Locks by Laura Barens, Illustrated by Don Lee.

This delightful picture book told in rhyme and complimented by Don Lee's colorful and entertaining illustrations is a great introduction to the Soo Locks. The book simply and clearly explains how ships pass through the Soo Locks that even young children can understand. 

If you're planning on taking a young child to the locks I would think the book a must. They will be awed by the closeness of the huge ships and how almost by magic they rise and fall before their very eyes. This book will help them grasp what is actually happening. I'm betting even adults will enjoy the clever rhyming and the lively and often humorous illustrations.

There is a glossary if the reader is caught off guard by a youngster asking what is a Lockmaster, a Linchpin or another technical term. The glossary is followed by a number of basic facts about the Soo Locks and a Timeline that may interest adults and older children.

Boats Can't Jump: The Story of the Soo Locks by Laura Barens, illustrated by Don Lee, Schuler Books, 2022, 34p., $12.99. Available from


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.

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