June 2021 Post # 67

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

 Quote for the day: "Detroit is a city on wheels. I would go so far as to say of Detroit that even its buildings somehow give the impression of being parked rather than rooted in the ground." R. I. Deffus. Detroit Free Press. May 10,1931.

Important  Notice

The service that handled automatic emailing of this blog to followers and subscribers has eliminated that service. The blog signed on to "follow.it" to continue to provide this service. Followers and subscribers will get an email from follow.it asking if you still want to automatically receive this blog and if so click to do so. Or, you can just re subscribe to the blog now. My apologies if you didn't get Michigan in Books automatically and/or wondered why you were getting an email from follow.it. I understood this change was going to be seamless to regular readers but obviously wasn't. You can also click on News & Views (to the right) for an explanation of the blog makeover and its new features.


Dead of Winter by Stephen Mack Jones

This the third of the author's novels featuring August Snow, an ex-Detroit cop turned private detective, has established Mr. Jones as a major league mystery writer. He belongs on the shelf alongside Detroit's other peerless mystery writers Loren Estleman and Elmore Leonard.

In Jones' latest, August Snow (a wonderfully oxymoronic name) is called to an old friend's death bed. The man owns a prosperous business in Detroit's Mexicantown neighborhood and wants Snow to buy the company. The dying man has a daughter who wants the business but the owner knows she would sell it, say goodbye to the Motor City, and leave his loyal employees without jobs. Then there is an offer from a group of nameless millionaires who want to buy the building, tear it down, and begin the gentrification of Mexicantown. To insure success the group is trying to blackmail the owner into selling. Snow doesn't want to buy the business but doesn't want to see his neighborhood gentrified so he agrees to look into who's behind this nameless blackmailing group. 

When Snow starts digging he finds ten million dollars have gone missing and the ghost buyers believe Snow has it and they will kill to get it back. The plot moves as fast as Snow's 1968 Oldsmobile 442 and has as many sharp turns and switchbacks as a Formula One Grand Prix. Readers need to buckle up on page one and hold on for the ride. In addition to a can't put down narrative the author also creates sentences and dialogue Raymond Chandler would envy and readers will want to highlight. Such as: "Isn't having a Catholic convention in Vegas a little like preaching abstinence in a brothel," or "Here's what's syncopating, vibrating and oscillating in the air these days in your neck of the woods:"

  This is another potential mystery award winner, and the series is under development as a TV program. Lastly, Detroit is a major character in this novel and page for page is pure entertainment.


The Dead of Winter by Stephen Mack Jones. Soho Press, 2021, $27.95.

River Love: The True Story of a Wayward Sheltie, a Woman, and a Magical Place called Rivershire by Tricia Frey

Some 20 miles south of Traverse City on the Boardman River the author and her sister found a piece of property that on first sight they thought of as a mystical place, a sanctuary. Inspired by JRR Tolkien they bought and named their new home Rivershire. The sanctuary on the Boardman soon proved it was all the sisters hoped for. Rivershire's peaceful and infectious beauty changed lives and fostered an extraordinary and profound bonding between the author and a stray dog. 

The sisters had hardly taken up residence on the banks of the Boardman when they became aware of a stray and badly matted Sheltie hanging around their property. Tricia began putting out food for the extremely shy animal. The dog ate the handouts every night but wouldn't let either sister come anywhere near him. They turned an old shed into a doghouse which the stray adopted as his home. With unbelievable patience and unbridled kindness it took two years before the dog allowed the author to touch him. It took months longer before she could get the dog to come in the house. Tricia named the dog Sheldon and in this deeply moving memoir she details the incredible trust and devotion that developed between the two of them. The author believes Sheldon made her a better person. In the eight years Sheldon spent at Rivershire he touched and brightened many lives. 

If Tricia's and Sheldon's devotion to each other is the center piece of this memoir the author also does a wonderful job of capturing the beauty and ambience of northern Michigan and especially the magic of the Boardman River area. She believes there are places in our state so special that they heal people both mentally and physically, as well as quiet the worried or anxious mind. I can't argue the point because I have experienced the same feeling in a handful of very special and highly cherished up north locations. 

This is an honest and beautiful book and long after his passing Sheldon continues to touch and brighten lives through this heartfelt book.

River Love: The True Story of a Wayward Sheltie and a Women, and a Magical Place called Rivershine by Tricia Frey. Mission Point Press, 2020, $15.01.

Kalamazoo County and the Civil War by Gary L. Gibson

In 1860, Kalamazoo County had a population of 24,746 of which 3,321 fought in the Civil War and 396 of those men died to preserve the Union. This readable, informative, and all too brief  book succeeds in recounting the impact the Civil War had on both the men who went to war and those who were left at home.

The author gives a short history of the county and its early opposition to slavery that included a thriving Underground Railroad. The county was strongly Republican and supported the war from the first day. Regiments that held boot camps at Kalamazoo or accepted companies raised in Kalamazoo County receive brief histories that include a list of battles in which the regiment took part. The efforts on the home front include a nice tribute to Kalamazoo' Ladies Aid Society.

As if foreshadowing the many tragic deaths to come in the next four years Kalamazoo's first Civil War casualty occurred when a private caught a cold. The cold turned deadly, and the young man died before his company was even mustered into service. Because the company hadn't officially been enlisted into military service it wasn't until years after the war that records were changed to include the above soldier as a war casualty. One chapter in the book is dedicated to recounting the often-unique stories of individual soldiers. A surprising long chapter covers the post war years in Kalamazoo and the book concludes with a complete list of Kalamazoo County soldiers who never made it home alive. 

Although limited in scope, the book should attract the attention of those interested in the county's history or as an example of how Michigan's small rural communities sacrificed and contributed to saving the Union.

Kalamazoo County and the Civil War by Gary L. Gibson. History Press, 2021, $21.99

The Mason House: A Memoir by T. Marie Bertineau

The author was born and spent a good portion of her childhood in and around the Keweenaw Peninsula. Her mother was a Chippewa Indian and her father was part French Canadian and part Cornish miner. She lost her father at so early an age she could barely remember him.  
Her mother remarried and although the author liked her step father the marriage was plagued by alcoholism, bitter arguments, and screaming fights. The wrong look, word, or attitude could set her mother off like a rocket blowing up on the launch pad.

The author obviously had an unstable childhood and her gramma's house (The Mason House) was like a safe port in a storm. Her gramma was her anchor but that sanctuary vanished when  she died while the author was still a young girl. The family was so poor the author attended her gramma's funeral wearing someone else's used clothes. The family often had little to eat and one night it came down to cornmeal mush. After gramma's death the family became wanderers with stops in West Virginia, Texas, and Oklahoma.

In spite of all of the above, this honest, beautifully written, and moving memoir is one of hope, not despair. Against all odds the family and the author found peace and gratifying success after years of struggle. Her mother quit drinking and went to college. The author married, hand two children, and also graduated from college. Reconnecting with their Native American roots, traditions, beliefs, and community played a large part in rebuilding the author's and her family's lives and healing their souls.

This inspiring memoir is a testament to the author's and her family's courage and perseverance in the long struggle to better their lives. It also unveils a frank and disturbing picture of the formidable hurdles Michigan's Native Americans face in order to make a meaningful, and minimally comfortable life for themselves and their families. 

The Mason House: A Memoir by T. Marie Bertineau. Lanternfish Press, 2020, $18.00

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

No comments

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Powered by Blogger.