Whats new from local authors
By Robert Downes 11/9/09
Books about Northern Michigan topped the mailbag at the Express this fall as a number of authors explored fictional territory that is close to home. Heres a round-up of whats new on bookstore shelves:
Echoes of LArbre Croche by Donald A. Johnston is a re-write of a 1917 mystery novel called The Indian Drum.
LArbre Croche is French for Cross Village -- once a large town of Ottawa Indians, as well as Pottawatomies and the Chippewa. As the book notes, every time someone dies out on Lake Michigan, an Indian drum sounds in the village to mark their passage.
The book takes place in 1915, some 20 years after the Indian drum sounded for the lost souls of a ship called the Miwaka. As luck would have it, a shipping magnate from Chicago goes missing, embroiling friends and coworkers in the mystery of his disappearance. Then another ship sinks off Beaver Island, uniting the books characters in a 20-year mystery.
Author Johnston spent 40 years in the insurance industry in Detroit. He served as a naval officer in World War II and is an ardent sailor of the Great Lakes.
Published by the University of Michigan Press, the book sells for $16.95.
Who We Were, What We Did: Fresh Perspectives on Grand Traverse History by Richard Fidler offers a slice of life from a century ago in 15 chapters that cover life in Traverse City during its emergence from the lumber era.
This is Fidlers second book, on the heels of Glimpses of Grand Traverse Past. Like my previous book, it takes on controversial topics: racism, dissent, attitudes towards the poor, and the pillaging of the natural world, he notes in the introduction.
Here, Fidler describes life among the poor in Grand Traverse County and how they fared as homeless vagrants or as guests of poor houses. Criminal records are probed in a whos-who of the county jail from 1870-1906. He discusses hospital care at the turn of the century and what a doctors visit entailed. We learn of the lives and treatment of mental patients at the Northern Michigan Asylum, along with the views of Dr. James Decker Munson on treating insanity in a humane fashion. There are stories of soldiers returning from the Spanish-American War and World War I.
Readers will also find a wealth of fascinating details on virtually every page. Did you know, for instance, that bears once preyed on the livestock of Old Mission Peninsula?
Illustrated with vintage photos, Fidlers book breathes life into the dusty past, allowing us to see our distant counterparts through fresh eyes. A ninth-grade biology teacher for 31 years in Traverse City, Fidler does his community a great service, telling us the stories of the past that need to be told.
Good Harbor Bay by Barry Marsh is a childrens book about an 11-year-old boy whose mother is killed by a drunk driver. Josh and his dad move from their comfortable home in a Detroit suburb to live with his eccentric Grandpa Oggy in an old rustic cabin on Good Harbor Bay up in Northern Michigan. As his old life of computer games and text messaging fades away, Josh learns how to be a country kid, working with horses, ice fishing, logging, and studying the workings of nature on Lake Michigans coast.
Author Marsh is a graduate of Wayne State University who lives in Suttons Bay. His book for kids ages 8-12 is published by Crofton Creek Press and sells for $14.95.
Soul Sounds: Reflections on Life by Rabbi Albert Micah Lewis is a collection of thoughts on the spiritual side of life drawn from more than 300 columns written for The Grand Rapids Press.
Rabbi Lewis blends personal anecdotes with his views on life, love, loss and the desire of all people to profoundly connect with one another and with God.
A graduate of Wayne State University with degrees in psychology and creative writing, Rabbi Lewis began writing his column on spirituality in 2001. He frequently writes on issues facing those in middle age and older and has been active in the fields of gerontology and hospice. Published by Commongood Publishing, his paperback book sells for $14.95.
The Hideout by Micheline A. DeCaire is an adventure tale for children set in the authors native France.
After the death of his sole relative, his grandfather, a 10-year-old boy must choose quickly between two paths, the orphanage or escape. His choice to run and hide in the deep wilderness of Provence decides his entire future.
The boy discovers a mysterious cave, filled with secrets, along with a homeless dog that becomes his friend and companion in his adventures.
Author DeCaire is an expert in fashion and skin care who spent four years improving her craft with the Long Ridge Writers Group. Her book is published by Author House and is available as a paperback from their website at $9.30. Look for her book-signing at Pavlova salon in TC on December 10 at 7 p.m.
The Lollipop Murder by Harley Sachs is a comic mystery from the long-time contributor to the Technology column at Northern Express.
A former professor at the Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Sachs divides his time between the U.P. and his winter home in Portland, Oregon. He has written numerous mystery and science fiction novels in addition to thousands of newspaper and magazine articles.
Sachs has a satirical outlook that suffuses his fiction. The Lollipop Murder, for instance, serves as a warning to wannabe novelists! The story involves a group of disgruntled novelists who are invited along for a cruise on their miserly publishers yacht at the Miami Book Fair, only to find that they have no hope of ever earning a dime of royalties for their books. With Hurricane Gerta blowing in, its a set-up for murder.
With an interest in technology as well as writing, Sachs was an early convert to e-books and print-on-demand publishing. Check his book out at www.lulu.com, ID: 7498760.
Ghosts and Legends of Michigans West Coast by Amberrose Hammond offers just that with 19 stories of haunted houses, doomed ships, monsters and spooks.
The author says shes been investigating paranormal activities in Michigan since 2000. She formed the Great Lakes Paranormal Research Organization in 2003 and currently offers a website on similar topics at www.michigansotherside.com .
Her book rehashes many well-known local legends, such as the ghost at Bowers Harbor Inn and The Dog Man created by DJ Steve Cook, but also breaks new ground on local haunts such as the Grand Traverse Lighthouse in Northport, or the old State Hospital, now known as the Village at Grand Traverse Commons. And did you know that the popular shoe trees scattered around the U.S. -- including the one on M-131 north of Kalkaska -- have a sinister origin linked to the so-called Walled Lake Child-killer of the 70s?
Its often spurious stuff, but some chapters include the authors own journeys to spooky cemeteries and the like. Published by Haunted America, the paperback sells for $19.99.
In Her Prime by Glenn Puitt is the fourth true-crime nonfiction book by the former Las Vegas police reporter who currently resides in Northern Michigan.
The book chronicles the poisoning murder of Nevada politician Kathy Augustine by her fourth husband, Chaz Higgs. The book is the definitive account of Kathys high-profile life and the disturbing criminality that led to her death.
Augustines husband was a critical care nurse. Her murder was caused by an injection of succinlycholine -- a drug largely considered in the medical profession to be the perfect murder weapon.
Complicating matters, Augustines husband Higgs was also a suspect in the murder of her third husband, Chuck, who died in a Las Vegas hospital while under Higgs care.
A writer who investigates environmental issues with the Michigan Land Use Institute, Puitt has written three prior books: Witch, Fire in the Desert and Father of the Year. His new book is published by Berkley; Puitt will be on hand for a book signing at Horizon Books in TC on December 5 from 2-4 p.m.