November 1, 2021 Post # 72

Monday, November 1, 2021

 Quote for the day: " 'If you seek a beautiful peninsula, here's a couple of them; take your pick.' This might be rendered into resounding Latin if thought best." E. Larkin Brown suggesting an amendment to the state motto in 1877.


Deadline for Lenny Stern: A Michael Russo Mystery by Peter Marabell

I'm always eager to get my hands on a new Michael Russo mystery for several reasons. I've always thought it improbable that a private eye mystery series set in Petoskey, one of the state's major summer tourist attractions and most livable small towns, would work. But it does. Having spent several summers in the Petoskey area, I enjoy the author's intimate and detailed portrait of the Harbor Springs/Petoskey area. With each new addition to the series, I look forward to seeing which real but often obscure restaurants become destinations within the story and inevitably recall either eating there or wishing I had. A gold star goes to readers who've been to Moose Jaw Junction in beautiful Lark's Lake or the Brutus Deli. And lastly, Marabell's mysteries are always entertaining, and readers become invested in the lives of Russo, his secretary Sandy, and his girlfriend A.J.

In the latest Russo mystery, a Petoskey reporter has spent years researching and writing a book about a sordid Chicago Mafia affair that included murder, bribery, and payoffs to elected officials. The book names names and because it is so damning and  the author has the evidence to back up his reportage he has received several death threats. The author will kick off the book's publication with signings in Petoskey, Harbor Springs, and Mackinac Island. The publisher takes the threats seriously and hires Russo and a retired Army Ranger to guard the author and determine who's behind the death threats.

The threats quickly become real and at first Russo believes the Mafia has hired a hitman to take out the author. When Russo begins to doubt the Mafia is involved the Petoskey PI finds himself in a race to discover who wants the reporter dead before the murderer strikes. As usual, readers can count on a thoroughly satisfying mystery set within an accurate and intimately drawn portrait of the Petoskey area.

Deadline for Lenny Stern: A Michael Russo Mystery by Peter Marabell. Kendall Sheepman Company, 2021, $15.95.

World War II Front Line Nurse by Mildred A. MacGregor

I requested a review copy of this book by somehow mistaking it as a new book when in fact it was published in 2006. The publisher pointed this out and still sent me a review copy. When the publisher is kind enough to send a review copy of a 15-year-old book I feel obligated to read and review it.  I wish all my mistakes were as fortuitous. This is a remarkable diary of a University of Michigan Hospital nurse who in 1942 volunteered to become a surgical nurse in WWII.

MacGregor was assigned to the 3rd Auxiliary Surgical Group. The surgical group was formed as an experimental unit that would be placed closer to the front than any hospital in any previous war. Their placement so close to the frontlines was an effort to save the lives of the severely wounded who would probably die before they could be shuttled to a surgical unit in the rear. The author faithfully kept a detailed diary of her wartime experiences from a terrifying crossing of the stormy Atlantic, visiting London during the Blitz, stationed in North Africa, Sicily, and her tireless work following close behind American fighting forces from Normandy to Germany.

The book is primarily based on her diary, but she also corresponded with doctors and nurses in her outfit to get the full story the unit's history. When time permitted, she and other nurses went sightseeing from ancient Roman ruins in Africa to Paris after its liberation, and even to Hitler's Eagles Nest in the Bavarian Alps. She also recounts the 18 and even 36-hour shifts tending the wounded at Normandy and the 1004 surgeries performed by her unit in Belgium in a period of 86 hours. When she wasn't assisting in surgery, she was a triage nurse who had to decide who might be saved and those so badly wounded they didn't stand a chance of surviving. The latter were set aside and made as comfortable as possible until they passed away. When Germany surrendered and she is sent home she tells how she smuggled her pet French Poodle aboard a homeward bound ship.

The book is a testament to the men and women who served in WWII and worked tirelessly to care for and save the wounded. It is an important addition to the history of World War II. It is also very readable, instantly engaging, and a memorable first-person narrative of a woman's wartime experience.

World War II Front Line Nurse by Mildred A. MacGregor. University of Michigan Press, 2008, $26.95

Superior Tapestry: Weaving the Threads of Upper Michigan History by Deborah K. Frontiera.

The author has taken a unique approach to the history of the Upper Peninsula by telling its story from the point-of-view of historical artifacts, buildings, and more. The book also covers the UP's natural history, geology, outdoor attractions, and environmental riches by letting the trees, rivers, rocks, and minerals speak for themselves. Like a quilter, the author has patched together these diverse and often unusual stories into a fun, attractive, and fascinating portrait and history of Michigan's northern peninsula.

The Fox River tells of its natural setting and the wildlife it supports, the devastation resulting from logging of the white pine along its shores, and the river's slow and gradual healing. A player piano observes the growth and decline of the logging village of Seney which at the time was known as one of the wildest towns in the entire country. There is the WWII B-24 bomber that wandered of course in a storm and crashed in the Sahara with the loss of all its crew. The wreckage was discovered years later and within that story is the story of how a propeller from "The Lady Be Good" ended up in Lake Linden in the Keweenaw Peninsula. And not to be missed is the loss of the Edmund Fitzgerald as told by the boat's bell that now rests in the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum on Whitefish Point. 

This is an inventive and enjoyable retelling of U.P. history and culture. Each story concludes with information on where to see the artifact or natural attraction and a website where you can learn more on the subject.

Superior Tapestry: Weaving the Threads of Upper Michigan History by Deborah K. Frontiera. Modern History Press, 2021, $24.95

Sand, Stars, Wind, & Water: Field Notes from Up North by Tim Mulherin

This fine book of very personal essays recounts, in intimate detail, the author's nearly40-year-long love affair with the Leelanau/ Traverse City area. The author and family took annual vacations there from their home in Indianapolis and ten years ago the author and his wife bought a cottage in Cedar, Michigan. They open the cabin in the spring and spend as many weeks as possible in what will be their retirement home and reluctantly close it in the fall.

The essays recall fishing trips on the Jordan and Boardman rivers and biking and hiking the many trails in the Leelanau Peninsula. He describes his favorite spots he returns to year after year one of which is Pyramid Point overlooking Good Harbor Bay and the Manitou Islands in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I can vouch for both his artistry in describing this monumentally beautiful place and how a visit to the perched dune is forever imprinted on one's memory. The essays cover all aspects of being surrounded by and enjoying the natural beauty and bounty of the area. And the author is no slouch when it comes to a keen observation or turn of phrase. He calls hiking "an ambulatory meditation," observes that as one grows older "time seems to accelerate," and in this age of Covid 19 he is likely dismissed as "acceptable collateral damage" by those who neither get vaccinated nor wear a mask.

The book may also be self-defeating for an author who doesn't like crowded trails, bumper-to-bumper highways, and occasional encounter with careless, rude, self-centered 'Fudgies' who pack the area like sardines in a can at the peak of the tourist season. This loving, well-written tribute to the many charms of his summer home will only attract more visitors.

Sand, Stars, Wind, & Water: Field Notes from Up North by Tim Mulherin. Mission Point Press, 2021, $16.95

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




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