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: "...it'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.

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