Books Set in Michigan – Michigan Novels – Michigan Writers


Books set in Michigan, 1800s to the present. Free online fiction; over 70 titles. Michigan authors, mysteries, chillers, crime novels, historical fiction, drama, adventure, outdoors, Upper Peninsula, Detroit, comedy, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Mackinac, Pearl Cleage, New France, Pontiac’s rebellion, Loren Estleman, and Jeffrey Eugenides.

Authors: Julia Altrocchi, Steve Amick, Charlotte Armstrong, Harriette Arnow, Dean Bakopoulos, Nevada Barr, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Mary Hartwell Catherwood, Pearl Cleage, James Fenimore Cooper, Mary Catherine Crowley, Barbara D’Amato, Loren Estleman, Jeffrey Eugenides, Edna Ferber, Judith Guest, Elmore Leonard, Rosalyn McMillan, Joyce Carol Oates, Stewart Edward White, more.

Find the Directory for 90+ pages in this collection at History of the Great Lakes States.

 

Hint: When a book you want to borrow at Internet Archive is already checked out, go to the Internet Archive’s ‘Search’ box, check “Search Metadata”, and search for the book’s title. Quite often they have two or more copies.

Michigan Fiction Collection

Numerous free online books at the Internet Archive, resulting from a search for books on “Fiction – Michigan”. Be patient as the page loads.

Detroit Fiction Collection

Numerous free online books at the Internet Archive, resulting from a search for books on “Fiction – Detroit”. Be patient as the page loads.

The Groper

Aikman, Henry G.
NY: Boni and Liveright 1919

“Lee Hillquit is a dreamer and an idealist who maintains that ‘success comes to the man who works for it’ as the inevitable reward of merit. He goes to Detroit in 1907, at a time when the automobile industry was just emerging from infancy. At first he honestly tries to put his doctrine of trustfulness and hard work into practice, only to find himself the dupe of a real estate concern of decidedly dubious methods. Then, just as he is about to give up and go back to his home in Chatham, luck takes him by the hand. For a while he congratulates himself on his good fortune, only to discover that he must pay a price for it, the price of his self-respect. It is exacted from him insidiously. It is his very idealism that for some time cloaks his relations with Mrs Curran, even from himself. However, though he wanders for a while in a slough of dissipation, he emerges from it and presently sees himself, as always, a veritable groper ‘stumbling, floundering, following false lights, at intervals catching a real glimpse of truth.”
“Many of the minor characters are cleverly drawn, and the book as a whole gives an excellent picture of Detroit during the years from 1907 to 1916, even though it entirely ignores the war.” – The Book Review Digest

Author notes: Henry G. Aikman was a pseudonym for Harold Hunter Armstrong, who was born in Morenci, MI in 1884, graduated from U of M, and took a law degree at Detroit College of Law. ‘The Groper’ is one of four novels that he wrote; all of them related to the business scene.

A Little Learning is a Murderous Thing

Allin, Lou
Five Star 2005

“Life at Copper University in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been good for Professor of Victorian literature Maddie Temple, but the school year is about to get off to a deadly start. Maddie’s first day of school is marred by the death of a student who fell from the library’s upper floors. Soon after, the Chairman of the school is found blind and paralyzed in his bed and dies soon after. Flo Andrews, the ambitious English Coordinator is the likely suspect. Maddie turns amateur detective to figure out who is behind the strange happenings at Copper University, and uncover a killer — before she learns just how murderous a little learning can be.” -Publisher. “Copper University” (Michigan Technological University) in “Stoddard” (Houghton).

Author notes: Lou Allin (1945-2014) grew up in Chicago and received a PhD in English Renaissance literature in 1977. She then was a professor of English at Cambrian College in Ontario, Canada. She published poetry and novels, including the Belle Palmer mystery series and the Holly Martin series.

The Burning of Rachel Hayes

Allyn, Doug
Five Star 2004

An ex-convict veterinarian relocates to a small town to start a new life, but becomes a prime suspect when mysterious fires and deaths occur. Set in “Algoma” (Alcona) in northeastern Michigan.

Author notes: Doug Allyn, b. 1942, is a professional musician who travels around the Midwest with his rock band. He has published at least 10 novels and a number of short stories. He lives in Montrose, MI.

Over 100 magazines free and online, from the early 1800s to today, at Read Old Magazines Online

Wolves Against the Moon

Altrocchi, Julia Cooley
NY: Macmillan 1945

“The dramatic story of a French Canadian who, from 1794 to 1834, operated a fur-trading business on a large scale, and whose orbit extended from Quebec through the Great Lakes country and south to New Orleans. It is replete with melodrama, filled with details of relations of white men and Indians, touching the history of Mackinac, Detroit, and Chicago, and the massacre at Fort Dearborn. All through Joseph Bailly’s prosperous career as trader and friend of Indians, runs the thread of his unwilling infatuation for the French woman who was the wife of his most determined enemy.” -Bkl

Author notes: Julia Cooley Altrocchi (1893-1972) was an author and poet who wrote many works for children and adults. She was raised in Chicago, and graduated from Vassar College in 1914. In 1928 she moved with her husband to Berkeley, California, where he spent his career as a college professor. The couple maintained a summer home near Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan.

Collection of Michigan Biographies & Memoirs

The Lake, the River & the Other Lake

Amick, Steve
Pantheon 2005

A Lake Michigan resort town is the scene of a variety of adventures among its inhabitants during the summer of 2001. Set in “Weneshkeen” (Manistee?) in western Michigan.

Author Notes: Steve Amick’s short fiction has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Southern Review, The New England Review, Playboy, Story, the anthology The Sound of Writing, and on National Public Radio. He has an MFA from George Mason University and has been a college instructor, playwright, copywriter, songwriter, and musician. He lives in Michigan, dividing his time between his hometown, Ann Arbor, and a family cottage on a famously clear lake along the northern edge of the Lower Peninsula.

Cookie Cutter

Anthony, Sterling
Ballantine 1999

A police lieutenant has her hands full trying to solve a series of murders that have targeted conservative African Americans and ultimately are connected with an upcoming mayoral election. Set in Detroit.
“A work of stunning psychological suspense featuring one of the most complex villains in recent literature, Cookie Cutter is more than a compelling thriller. It is also a gritty, passionate tale of family and lovers, crime and politics, and the black experience in America–on both sides of the law.” -Publisher

Books and articles on education, the arts, journalism, recreation and architecture are in Michigan Cultural History

Captives of Cupid: A Story of Old Detroit

Antona, Annetta Halliday
Detroit: Eby 1896

A complex tale of romance, murders and the death of Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames.

Author notes: Annetta J. Halliday-Antona lived in Detroit and was married to Italian Count and former diplomat Guiseppe Antona. In addition to two or three novels, she, with her husband, also translated other works from Italian.

The Case of the Weird Sisters

Armstrong, Charlotte
Gifford 1943

A young bride, meeting her new in-laws for the first time, suspects them of murderous intentions. Set in the failing Upper Peninsula mining town of “Ogaunee” (Vulcan).

Author notes: Charlotte Armstrong Lewi (1905-1969) was raised in Vulcan, MI and received her B.A. from Barnard College. Under the names Charlotte Armstrong and Jo Valentine she wrote 29 novels, as well as plays, screenplays and short stories. ‘The Case of the Weird Sisters’ was one of the novels that was made into a movie, ‘The Three Weird Sisters’ (1948). Her novels were very popular from the 1940s to the 1960s.

The Dollmaker

Arnow, Harriette
Avon 1972

“Gertie Nevels, a courageous and unselfish Kentucky countrywoman who has a talent amounting to a passion for whittling small objects out of wood, is forced by the war to leave the happy, although poverty-stricken, community where she has spent her life and go to Detroit, where her husband has found work in a factory. The meanness, squalor, and lack of privacy of her new surroundings, and the debasing effect of the city on her husband and on some of their children, oppress her, but she maintains her integrity and her fatih in her fellow human beings.” New Yorker
“It is hard to believe that anyone who opens its pages will soon forget (Gertie) and her sufferings as traced in Harriette Arnow’s long, heavily packed masterwork.” NY Times Book Rev

Author notes: Harriette Louisa Simpson Arnow (1908-1986) was raised and educated in Kentucky, teaching school in a remote area of Appalachia for two years before moving to Cincinnati. She published her first novel in 1936. She later married and, in 1944, the couple settled in a public housing complex in Detroit. ‘The Dollmaker’ was published in 1954, after they had resettled in Ann Arbor. It met with considerable critical acclaim, and was also a best seller. She died on her Washtenaw County farm in 1986. -Wikipedia

The Weedkiller’s Daughter

Arnow, Harriette Simpson
Knopf 1970       

The “story of Susie Schnitzer ‘outstanding junior girl student’ in her affluent Eden Hills high school, in Detroit; her father, whom she called Bismarck with reason; the little stratagems necessary in her closely inspected life; her mother’s gentle efforts at peace making; the normal trials and joys of high school life: plus Susie’s quick, intelligent, but dreamy search for happiness.” Buyer’s Guide
“The book is beautifully and skillfully written with insight and understanding on many levels.” Best Sellers

Books and articles about work, medical care, business & industry, etc. at Michigan Economic History

A Woman’s Place

Austin, Lynn N.
Bethany House 2006

At the outbreak of World War II four women from different backgrounds find war work at a shipyard and soon become friends. Set in “Stockton” (Algonac?).

Private Heat: An Art Hardin Mystery

Bailey, Robert E.
M. Evans 2007

“Private detective and retired counterintelligence officer Art Hardin stays away from the flashy kind of PI work, preferring to pay his bills by checking up on false disability claims, routine surveillance, and the like. So when the senior partner of one of the premier legal firms in Grand Rapids approaches Hardin about a job protecting his niece from her soon-to-be ex-husband for a couple of days, Hardin isn’t exactly eager to take on the job. However, Hardin finds that the fee offered to too great to pass up. After a hatchet attack, a house burnt down, and a few violent encounters with some crooked cops, Hardin can hardly wait for the case to be over. But when the husband is found murdered, the niece attempts suicide, and Hardin is brought in on a trumped-up warrant for the crime, it is no longer a case that he is willing to walk away from — even if he could.” -Publisher. Set in Grand Rapids.

Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon

Bakopoulos, Dean
Harcourt 2005       

“During the summer of 1991, when times were tough, the men of blue-collar Maple Rock outside Detroit disappeared one by one, with one of them leaving a note saying he was going to the moon. The women rage and weep, then start new lives—finding jobs, remarrying, moving to nicer suburbs. But the fatherless sons, among them 16-year-old Mikey Smolij, flounder for years. After an initial period of freedom and licentiousness, during which they take over the local tavern and serve as studs for older women, these teenage boys live with doubt about whether whatever caused their fathers’ disappearances might get them too.” Booklist
“By deftly welding magic realism with social satire, Bakopoulos captures the dark side of the working-class dream.” N Y Times Book Rev

A Lesson Plan for Murder: a Louis Searing and Margaret McMillan Mystery

Baldwin, Richard L.
Buttonwood 1998

The questionable death of a school board member sends a pair of educational investigators on the trail of a possible serial killer teacher. Set in Newberry, Grand Haven, Charlevoix, and other Michigan locales.

She’ll Learn

Barkley-Staples, Sybil
Sadorian 2002

Three African-American women friends, all with a variety of problems with the men in their lives, find solutions and comfort in each other. Set in Detroit.

Books and articles on Exploration & Travel in Historic Michigan

A Superior Death

Barr, Nevada
Berkley 1994

A female National Park Service ranger investigates the connection between the suspicious drowning of a diver and a shipwreck. Set on Isle Royale and its surrounding waters.

“Author Notes: Nevada Barr was born on March 1, 1952. She is the author of a series of mysteries involving national parks. She draws on her own experience as a National Park Service ranger to thrill readers with the majesty of nature. Anna Pigeon, the heroine of such novels as A Superior Death and Endangered Species, is a rough-and-tough ranger who left the wilds of New York for the great outdoors, and is modeled after Barr. Barr began writing in 1978, garnering national attention with the publication in 1993 of Track of the Cat, which won both the Agatha and Anthony awards for Best First Mystery Novel. Her novels are known for breathtaking descriptions of nature, diverse settings, and a no-nonsense heroine. She also provides frequently unflattering portrayals of the National Park Service.” -Bowker author biographies

The Feast of Love

Baxter, Charles
Pantheon 2000       

“An insomniac Mid-western novelist named Charlie Baxter becomes the unwitting audience of a neighbor’s midnight confession, and is drawn into a tale of love in its manifold guises—confused, ecstatic, unrequited. We hear the story Of Kathryn, who left her husband for the female shortstop of a local softball team; of Diana, a capricious lawyer who doesn’t want anyone to want her too much; and of Chloé, a pierced teenager with a strong sense Of justice and a doomed passion for a former drug addict. Baxter’s novel is a modern Symposium, unexpectedly hilarious in its attempt to get at the evasive truths Of love; unlike Plato’s treatise, though, its strength lies in its recognition that such truths aren’t universal.” New Yorker

Author notes: Charles Baxter lives in Ann Arbor and has taught writing at the University of Michigan. He is the author of several novels and is the recipient of an Academy Award in Literature. -Publisher

Who Fought and Bled

Beebe, Ralph
NY: Coward-McCann 1941

“Historical novel of the War of 1812 as it was fought out in the west. Young Roderick Hale of Boston learns from his lawyer that he has fallen her to a vast estate on the Miami river near Dayton, Ohio. Resolving to go west to claim his inheritance, he falls in with Capt. Abijah Stark, western scout and ranger, and the two form an odd partnership. Their joint adventures are described with considerable humor and there is some promise in the early chapters of a plot. This evaporates, and the book should be read as straight narrative giving a clear idea of the times.” -Wis. bul.

The Road to Wellville

Boyle, T. Coraghessan
Viking 1993       

This social satire provides a portrait of 1907 Battle Creek, Michigan “from three perspectives. The first and most central is that of Dr. Kellogg himself, high priest of a sanitarium where the rich and powerful go to be cured of physical and spiritual ‘autointoxication’ brought about by meat eating and sexual activity. Possessed of a Napoleon complex and an abiding hatred of Post, he is saluted around the clinic as ‘the Chief.’ The second is that of Will Lightbody, a patient at the clinic who has trouble getting the Kellogg religion. The third viewpoint is that of Charlie Ossining, a shady businessman who tries to get a piece of the breakfast-cereal action a little too late.” Booklist
The author “evokes the world of the senses with remarkable skill. As always, his prose is a marvel, enjoyable from beginning to end, alive with astute observations, sharp intelligence and subtle musicality. Possibly as an effect of his highly developed style, Mr. Boyle’s vision has been one of the most distinctive and original of his generation.” -N Y Times Book Rev

Author notes: T. C. Boyle was born Thomas John Boyle in Peekskill, New York in 1948. He received a B.A. in English and history from SUNY Potsdam in 1968, a MFA from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1974, and a Ph.D. degree in nineteenth century British literature from the University of Iowa in 1977. He has been a member of the English department at the University of Southern California since 1978. He has written over 20 books and received numerous awards.

Redcloud of the Lakes

Burton, Frederick R.
NY: Dillingham 1909

An epic story dealing with the history of a group of Ojibway Indians through three generations; from the time that the grandfather of the tribe goes forth as a young man to fast, and in the wilderness sees a vision, until the vision is fulfilled in the life time of the grandson. The vision – that of a young buffalo despoiled of horns and mane and heart by a great beast whose body trailed away to in visible distance – foretells the coming of the white man, the end of the wild tribal life, and the civilization of the Indian. – Book Review Digest

Author notes: Frederick Russell Burton (1861-1909) was an author and composer. Born in Jonesville, MI, he graduated from Harvard and later lived in Yonkers, NY. He also studied Native American music and published ‘American Primitive Music: With Especial Attention to the Songs of the Ojibway’.

Touched

Campbell, Scott
Bantam 1997

A twelve-year-old boy tells his parents that a neighbor man has been sexually molesting him; the story is then told by four of the persons involved. Set in Jackson.

Author notes: Raised in Jackson, MI and received his B.A. at Miami Univ. in Ohio. Has also done graduate studies, and taught writing at MIT and Emerson College. Author of two novels and short fiction.

Books and articles on The History of Michigan

Mackinac and Lake Stories

Catherwood, Mary Hartwell
NY: Harper 1899

Story titles are:
– Marianson
– The Black Feather
– The Cobbler in the Devil’s Kitchen
– The Skeleton on Round Island
– The Penitent of Cross Village
– The King of Beaver
– Beaver Lights
– A British Islander
– The Cursed Patois
– The Mothers of Honore
– The Blue Man
– The Indian on the Trail

The White Islander

Catherwood, Mary Hartwell
NY: Century 1893

A romance of the old Indian wars. Characters : a chief and an Indian girl, a white fugitive, and a French girl, captive among the redskins. Jealousy, revenge, scenes of violence and superstitious orgies are wrought into a harmonious whole by the pictorial treatment of the wonderful scenery of forest and river, sunshine and storm. – Guide to Historical Fiction

Mary Hartwell Catherwood (1847 -1902) was born in Luray, Ohio and as an adult lived in several cities in the Midwest. She developed a signature style of incorporating Midwestern culture, dialect, and local color into her texts. Although most of her novels and stories are set in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, some are also based along the American border with French Canada and on colonial Mackinac Island. She spent the last 10 summers of her life on Mackinac Island.

See more of Catherwood’s works at: Great Lakes Novels and Historical Fiction and Illinois Novels and Historical Fiction

I Wish I Had a Red Dress

Cleage, Pearl
Morrow 2001       

“Joyce Mitchell is the social-worker founder of the Sewing Circus and Community Truth Center, dedicated to guiding young women from teenage pregnancies and violent relationships with the ‘babydaddies’ to free and independent adulthood. Joyce herself, five years a widow, longs for enough safety and assurance to wear a red dress, an ultimate symbol of freedom and abandon. When she meets former Detroit cop Nate Anderson, the new counselor at the high school, long-repressed feelings are awakened.” Booklist
“With humor and sparkling dialog, Cleage balances the dark, abusive relationships of Joyce’s clients with the delightfully healthy love between Joyce and Nate and the strength of women’s friendships.” Libr J

Author notes: Pearl Cleage (1948-) is an African American author of fiction and non-fiction. Her novel ‘What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day’ was a 1998 Oprah Book Club selection. She is known for her feminist views, particularly regarding her identity as an African American. Cleage was born in Springfield, MA, daughter of a teacher and minister. The family moved to Detroit when she was a child, where her father became a Civil Rights activist. She graduated from Spelman College in Atlanta in 1971 and was then on Spelman’s faulty as a writer and creative director. Many of her novels are set in Atlanta neighborhoods.

The Resurrectionists

Collins, Michael
Scribner 2002       

“The year is 1979, and narrator Frank Cassidy is stuck in a dead end job in New Jersey. Orphaned at the age of five when his parents were burnt to death in a fire, Frank is still haunted by his past and fights off fits of clinical depression. He’s married to Honey and has two kids, 14-year-old Robert Lee and five-year-old Ernie. When Frank discovers by chance that his adoptive father, Ward Cassidy, was shot and killed on his farm in Cooper, Mich., he packs up the family and returns to his hometown, in spite of his stepbrother Norman’s advice not to come.” Publ Wkly
“With memorable characters and a clever use of the time period, Collins depicts a desperate man stuck in an eternal rerun of the past.” Booklist

Books and articles on Native American tribes in historic Michigan

The Oak-openings; Or, The Bee-hunter

Cooper, James Fenimore
NY:Appleton 1873

Best known for the novel “The Last of the Mohicans”, Cooper set this story in Schoolcraft, Kalamazoo county after a visit. The bee-hunter is reportedly Bazel Harrison, Schoolcraft’s first settler.
A woodsman finds himself in the middle of the War of 1812 and a Potawatomi attack with a British spy and an American army messenger. Set in southwestern Michigan.*

See also: Lounsbury, Thomas Raynesford, James Fenimore Cooper in Century Past Biographies: C

Blackrobe

Corcoran, Charles
Milwaukee: Bruce. 1937

The fictionalized life and explorations of the Jesuit missionary, Jacques Marquette (1637-1675). Partially set at St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie.*
Charles Corcoran, was, like Father Marquette, a Catholic Jesuit priest.

See also: Thwaites, Reuben Gold, Father Marquette in Century Past Biographies: M, N & O

A Daughter of New France; with some Account of the Gallant Sieur Cadillac and his Colony on the Detroit

Crowley, Mary Catherine
Boston: Little, Brown. 1901

“A brilliant picture of Canada, or New France, under Louis XIV, the Regency of Orleans, and the early years of Louis XV. Nearly all the prominent statesmen, explorers, missionaries, soldiers, and Indian chiefs of the period 1687-1735 are introduced, and not only the chief historical events but the buildings, the manners and customs, and trading and military usages are delineated.” -Baker’s Best

Author note: Mary Catherine Crowley (pen name, Janet Grant, 1856 – 1920) was an American author of poems and novels. She was also an accomplished musician and linguist. Crowley began her literary work in 1877 as a contributor of poems and short stories to Wide Awake, St. Nicholas Magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, and The Pilot. In 1892, she went to Europe and on her return, lived for ten years in Detroit, where she was a collaborator on the Memorial History of the city. Crowley was a recognized authority on the early history of that city, and a leader in its bicentennial celebration in 1901, the pageant being founded on descriptions in her book ‘A Daughter of New France’. Her later years were spent in New York City, where, from 1907, she edited the Catholic Missions Magazine and the Annals of the Propagation of the Faith. Crowley lectured extensively on art and literature, and was the author of several novels.

Heroine of the Strait. A Romance of Detroit in the Time of Pontiac

Crowley, Mary Catherine
Boston: Little, Brown. 1902

The story of Chief Pontiac’s attempt to capture Detroit in 1763 and the efforts of a French family to warn the British garrison of the Ottawa chief’s plan.* Also see the description at Crowley’s “Daughter of New France”, above.

Love Thrives in War. A Romance of the Frontier in 1812

Crowley, Mary Catherine
Boston: Little, Brown. 1903

The story of General William Hull’s (1753-1825) surrender of Detroit to the British in the War of 1812, as well as of a young woman who faces many perils to save the man she loves.* Also see the description at Crowley’s “Daughter of New France”, above.

See the resources on this site for: The War of 1812

For U.S. history of the War of 1812, see also on this site: Babcock, Kendric Charles, The Rise of American Nationality 1811-1819 in America in the Early 19th Century – 1809-1861

The Courage of Captain Plum

Curwood, James Oliver
NY: Grosset & Dunlap 1912

A stirring tale of the Mormon colony on Beaver island, in Lake Michigan. At the center of the plot lies the perfidy of James Jesse Strang who as self-proclaimed king ruled the island during the administration of Franklin Pierce. Captain Plum, who visits the island in the interests of righting a grievance of piracy, is plunged into the thick of a revolt, and, at the peril of death, snatches two persecuted young women from the meshes of the Mormon net. – Book Review Digest

Books and articles about everyday life, women, ethnic groups, social issues etc. at Topics in the social history of Michigan

Hard Christmas: a Cat Marsala Mystery

D’Amato, Barbara
Berkley 1996

Invited to spend Thanksgiving at a Christmas tree farm, Cat Marsala investigates a mysterious death apparently caused by a crop-dusting aircraft. Set in the Holland area.

“Author Notes: Barbara D’Amato is a playwright, novelist, and crime researcher. She was born in Michigan. D’Amato held jobs as a carpenter on magic shows, assistant surgical orderly, assistant to a wild animal act, stage manager, and legal researcher. She is a past president of Sisters in Crime International and serves on the board of the Mystery Writers of America. D’Amato wrote a children’s musical, The Magic of Young Houdini, and two musical comedies for adults. She was nominated for the Anthony award for her novel On My Honor and was the runner-up for the Nero Wolfe Award for the novel Hard Women. The Doctor, The Murder, The Mystery won the Anthony and Agatha Awards for Best True Crime and was used as the basis for a segment on the TV show, Unsolved Mysteries. -Bowker Author Biography

Shifting Through Neutral

Davis, Bridgett M.
Amistad 2004

“For Rae Dodson, the early seventies are as hopeful and promising as the peace signs popping up everywhere. The signature sounds of Motown are filling Detroit’s airwaves, and automobile factories are supporting a burgeoning black middle class, which works by day and plays bid whist by night. Rae’s hip older sister, Kimmie, has moved home from New Orleans; her mother’s nerves have calmed enough for her to stop taking her “vitamins”; her father has discovered new painkillers that ease his chronic migraines; and now, despite her parents’ sleeping in separate rooms, the peace between them seems to be holding. All that shifts, however, when Rae’s mother suddenly takes off with her lover down a stretch of highway.” – Publisher

Slouching Towards Kalamazoo

De Vries, Peter
Penguin 1984

“It is 1963 in an unnamed town in North Dakota, and Anthony Thrasher is languishing for a second year in eighth grade. Prematurely sophisticated, young Anthony spends too much time reading Joyce, Eliot, and Dylan Thomas but not enough time studying the War of 1812 or obtuse triangles. A tutor is hired, and this “modern Hester Prynne” offers Anthony lessons that ultimately free him from eighth grade and situate her on the cusp of the American sexual revolution. Anthony’s restless adolescent voice is perfectly suited to De Vries’s blend of erudite wit and silliness-not to mention his fascination with both language and female anatomy-and it propels Slouching Towards Kalamazoo through theological debates and quandaries both dermatological and ethical, while soaring on the De Vriesian hallmark of scrambling conventional wisdom for comic effect.” -Publisher. Partly set in Kalamazoo.

A Little Girl in Old Detroit

Douglas, Amanda M.
NY: Dodd, Mead 1902

A story of Detroit as seen through the eyes of a young French girl from its inclusion in the United States in 1796 until the destructive fire of 1805.*

Amanda M. Douglas (1831-1916) was raised in New York city and lived as an adult in New Jersey. This novel is one of many in her “Little Girl” series; stories set in various U.S. cities for young audiences. Among other books, she also authored a “Helen Grant” series which was more of a ‘college girl’ genre.

Home for Christmas

Douglas, Lloyd C.
Houghton 1937       

Novelette about five prosperous brothers and sisters who return to the old homestead to celebrate Christmas.

Books and articles on Great Lakes Sailors & Shipping in History

A Spy in Old Detroit

Emery, Anne
Chicago: Rand McNally 1963

Despite his conflicting feelings of loyalty, a fifteen-year-old French boy becomes a spy for the British during Pontiac’s siege of Detroit in 1763. *

Edsel; A Novel of Detroit

Estleman, Loren D.
Mysterious 1995       

“Has-been Detroit journalist Connie Minor is hand-picked by Henry Ford Il to create the promotional campaign for his top-secret brainchild—the Edsel. He’s scarcely settled in when he gets caught between Walter Reuther and a Communist-hunting local politician who blackmails him into tapping his old underworld contacts for leads on a plot to kill Reuther. Bouncing from the mob to the union to the boardroom, Minor not only uncovers the murder plan but a stealthy scheme to sabotage the Edsel as well. A swiftly entertaining story of Detroit in the 1950s with all the panache of a Raymond Chandler and a keen eye for historical detail.” Libr J

Author Notes: “Loren D. Estleman was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan on September 15, 1952. He received a B.A. in English literature and journalism from Eastern Michigan University in 1974. He spent several years as a reporter on the police beat before leaving to write full time in 1980. He wrote book reviews for such newspapers as The New York Times and The Washington Post and contributed articles to such periodicals as TV Guide. He is a writer of mysteries and westerns. His first novel was published in 1976 and since then he has published more than 70 books including the Amos Walker series, Writing the Popular Novel, Roy and Lillie: A Love Story, The Confessions of Al Capone, and a The Branch and the Scaffold. He received four Shamus Awards from the Private Eye Writers of America, five Golden Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America, the Owen Wister Award for lifetime achievement from Western Writers of America, and the Michigan Author’s Award in 1997. He lives in Whitmore Lake, Michigan.” -Publisher

Jitterbug; A Novel of Detroit

Estleman, Loren D.
Forge 1998       

“A Tom Doherty Associates book”
In World War Il Detroit “the heat is on Racket Squad leader Lieutenant Maximilian Zagreb and his three detectives when someone starts killing people for hoarding ration coupons. Using some artful manipulation and some very unsubtle pressure, Zagreb leans on a couple of unlikely sources for help. Frankie ‘The Conductor’ Orr, a local mob boss, and Dwight Littlejohn, a black riveter in an airplane factory, are unwilling participants in Zagreb’s efforts to smoke out the killer dubbed Kilroy by the newspapers.” Publ Wkly
“This is historical crime drama at its highest level done by a consummate craftsman.” Booklist

Motown

Estleman, Loren D.
Bantam 1991nbsp;      

Second volume in the author’s Detroit trilogy. “Choreographing the movements leading to the August 1966 Detroit riots, Estleman focuses on three main characters: Rick Amery, an ex-cop hired to spy on a Ralph Nader-like consumer advocate; inspector Lew Canada, trying to prevent a war between the Mafia and black gangs, and a likely race riot; and Quincy Springfield, numbers racketeer and ‘blind pig’ (after-hours club) operator.” Publ Wkly
“Estleman seems more intent here on paying homage to the Motor City than on writing a mystery. Place is more important for Estleman than action, though this time several workable plots merge forcefully toward the novel’s conclusion.” Booklist

The Virgin Suicides

Eugenides, Jeffrey
Farrar, Straus & Giroux 1993       

“The Lisbon girls, all five of whom committed suicide in the early 1970s, haunt the memories of boys next door in a wealthy Detroit suburb. A nameless narrator, one of the boys, 20 years later collects and weaves together the impressions that friends, neighbors, and parents had of the dead girls. Except for school and group outings to two ill-fated parties, the girls’ lives played out confined to their dwelling, a cloistered existence protected by a mother vigilant for their virtue and by a meek father cowed by his feminized surroundings.” Booklist
The author’s “engrossing writing style keeps one reading despite a creepy feeling that one shouldn’t be enjoying it so much. A black, glittering novel that won’t be to everyone’s taste but must be tried by readers looking for something different.” Libr J

Author Notes: Jeffrey Kent Eugenides was born in Detroit in 1960, graduating from High School in Grosse Pointe and graduating from Brown University. He earned an M.A. in Creative Writing from Stanford, and eventually landed a faculty position at Princeton University.

Come and Get It

Ferber, Edna
Doubleday 1935       

Story of the rise and fall of the lumber industry in Wisconsin and Michigan from 1850 to the 1930s.

Author notes: Edna Ferber (1885 – 1968) was an American novelist, short story writer and playwright. Her novels included the Pulitzer Prize-winning So Big (1924), Show Boat (1926; made into the celebrated 1927 musical), Cimarron (1929; made into the 1931 film which won the Academy Award for Best Picture), Giant (1952; made into the 1956 Hollywood movie) and Ice Palace (1958), filmed in 1960. Ferber was born in Kalamazoo and lived with her family in Chicago and Iowa before moving to Appleton, Wisconsin at age 12. She was a journalist before becoming a full-time writer.

An online vintage collection of Settlers’ guides and ‘Emigrant Handbooks’ for the Great Lakes region

Campfire and Trail (The White Captive); A Tale of The Pontiac War

Ford, R. Clyde
Chicago: Rand McNally 1915

Freed from captivity, a young man helps defend Fort Detroit during Pontiac’s siege. Set at Forts St. Joseph, Michilimackinac, and Detroit from 1760 to 1763.*

Author notes: Richard Clyde Ford (1870-1951) had two degrees from Albion College and a 1900 PhD from the University of Freiburg, Germany.

The Loon Feather

Fuller, Iola
Harcourt 1940       

Fictionized autobiography of Tecumseh’s daughter. Setting is the Mackinac region in the early 1800’s.

Author notes: Iola Fuller (1906–1993) born in Marcellus, MI, later Iola Fuller Goodspeed McCoy, was an American writer. Her first novel, The Loon Feather, won the 1939 Hopwood Award from the University of Michigan. During World War II, 150,000 copies of the book were printed as Armed Services Editions, inexpensive paperbacks which the Army and Navy Library Services distributed free of charge to members of the American armed forces.

Fatal Secret

Glenwood, Ida (Gorton, Mrs. Cynthia M. R.)
Philadelphia: Potter 1873

The incidents in this story were reportedly based on the experience of a couple who for twenty years worked at the Mission school on Mackinac Island.

Author notes: The author went totally blind after a serious illness when she was in her mid-twenties. Despite her blindness she was a successful writer of poetry, magazine serials and romantic novels, composing her work on one of the earliest typewriters. Born in Massachusetts, she apparently moved sometime after her marriage to Fenton, MI, where she remained throughout her life.

Curse of the White Panther: A Story of the Days of the Toledo War

Greene, Merritt
Hillsdale, Mich: 1960

This novel is the second in a 3-book sequence. The first book, The Land Lies Pretty, is available on this web page. In this second volume, Martin Langdon has further adventures in southern Michigan during the period of 1833 to 1835, including a role in the Toledo War. The third book in the series, Forgotten Yesterdays: A Tale of Early Michigan, was not found online.

Merritt William Green (1897-1972) was a Toledo, Ohio lawyer who apparently moved to Hillsdale, MI, at some point (retirement?), where he wrote plays and historical novels.

The Land Lies Pretty “Op-Jah-Mo-Mak-Ya”

A story of the Great Sauk Trail in 1832 with an Introduction to the Northwest Territory

Green, Merritt
Hillsdale School Supply 1959       

“This story is laid at the time when the pioneers and Indians were living together in the wilderness of southern Michigan. If, however, the reader wants to enjoy gruesome tales of settlers being murdered and slaughtered by the Indians he will be disappointed; for this book sincerely attempts to depict the conditions as they actually were. Many of the incidents are historically true. The Indian lore and information was obtained from Now-qua-oum, a Potowatomi Indian who now lives near Athens, and whose ancestors roamed the forests of southern Michigan, northern Ohio and Indiana. The Great Sauk Trail was then, as now, the shortest route between Detroit and Chicago. It became the Chicago Turnpike, and is now designated as U.S. Highway 112, named the Pulaski Memorial Highway.” -Author’s Preface. This first novel of a 3-book sequence is set in ‘Grannisville’, which may be Jonesville, MI.

The Tarnished Eye

Guest, Judith
Scribner 2004       

“An entire family has been murdered in their summer cabin in northern Michigan, and the local sheriff faces a staggering uphill struggle in attempting to find an explanation. Guest carefully insinuates the reader into the lives of all the people involved in the case-not only the victims and the sheriff but also relevant townspeople and obvious and not-so-apparent suspects. At a fast but methodical pace, she follows the story of the crime’s ramifications and draws a connection to a simultaneous series of coed murders in Ann Arbor. The gathering momentum is irresistible.” Booklist

Author Notes: “Judith Guest was born in Detroit in 1936. She earned a degree in Education from the University of Michigan. She has been a schoolteacher in Detroit. With no formal training in fiction writing, novelist Judith Guest began to write fiction and poetry when her youngest son started school. Her highly acclaimed first novel, Ordinary People, was published in 1976 and has since been published in 13 languages. It was made into a film, directed by Robert Redford, which received the Academy Award for best picture in 1980. Guest’s subsequent works include Second Heaven (1982), Killing Time in St. Cloud (1988), Errands (1997) and The Tarnished Eye (2004).” -Bowker author biography

Trial by Fire: A Tale of the Great Lakes

Hallet, Richard Matthews
Boston: Small, Maynard 1916

“A long-drawn-out dachshund of the lakes” was the “Yuly Yinks,” a boat on which the forepart scarcely knew the hindpart by sight, so widely were they separated by actual distance and social distinction. Circumstances bring young Alexander Grant to ship as a deckhand forward at the same time that his father and a party of friends, one of them Avis Wrenn, are passengers at the other end. But Alexander, sweating down in the hold, does not know the true inwardness of all these circumstances. Only Cagey the fireman knows. Something of a Caliban is this Cagey, capable of ruminating half intelligently on life as he has seen it, and capable too of rising to a certain height of self-sacrifice.”
“No summary of the story would convey its vivid realism. The language is stripped to the bone of every superfluous phrase, allusion and description. Dramatic scenes are dashed on the canvas with a minimum of colorful words. Cagey is a creation; and Avis Wrenn the heroine is charming. The book is of outstanding merit.”
– The Book Review Digest

Author notes: Richard Hallet was a 25-year-old Harvard-educated lawyer from New England when he abandoned practice of the law for adventure of the sea and a career as a sea-writer. After a passage as a seaman from Boston to Australia and another as a fireman from the Indian Ocean to England, he worked for a few months as a fireman aboard the iron ore freighter James A. Jenks on the Great Lakes. Trial by Fire was his only novel located on the Great Lakes. -from Searchable Sea Literature website

Trumpet in the Wilderness

Harper, Robert S.
NY: Mill 1940

“Two dramatic engagements in the War of 1812 – Colonel Cass’s Detroit campaign and Perry’s victory on Lake Erie – are re-created with an excellent balance between romance and research.”

Robert S. Harper was an Ohio author and historian with expertise in the Civil War.

Ann Arbor Tales

Harriman, Karl Edwin
Philadelphia: Jacobs 1902

Romantic and sentimental short stories focusing on students at the University of Michigan.

Please visit our collection of 2,000+ selected online magazine and newspaper articles on 40 subjects, plus online map & vintage photo collections, at Century Past History Resources

Farmer

Harrison, Jim
Viking 1976       

A middle-aged man who has taught for twenty-three years, more from habit than total commitment to his profession, is forced to come to terms with his identity, farm life, thirty-year marriage, and affair with an eighteen-year-old student in a (northern) Michigan community of the 1950’s.

Author Notes: James Thomas Harrison (1937-2016) was born in Grayling, Michigan. After a B.A. and M.A. in comparative literature from Michigan State University in 1960 and 1964, he briefly taught English at SUNY- Stony Brook. During his lifetime, he wrote 14 collections of poetry, 21 volumes of fiction, two books of essays, a memoir, and a children’s book. His novel, Legends of the Fall, was adapted into a feature film starring Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt. Harrison also wrote the screenplay for the movie. – Bowker author bio

Hubbard’s Trail

Holt, Alfred Hubbard
Chicago: Erle Press 1952

Fictionalized biography of Gurdon Hubbard, fur-trader and pioneer merchant. Partially set in Fort Mackinac and in the Muskegon River area.*

See also: Hubbard, Gurdon S., The Autobiography of Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard, Pa-pa-ma-ta-be, “The Swift Walker” in Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History

A New Home-Who’ll Follow? Or, Glimpses of Western Life

Kirkland, Caroline (under the pseudonym Mrs. Mary Clavers)
NY: Francis 1841

The fictionalized experiences of a refined woman on the coarse Michigan frontier written in a satirical style and set in “Montacute” (Pinckney) in the late 1830s.*

Author notes: Caroline Kirkland, from a wealthy family in New York City, moved west with her husband to Michigan Territory in 1835. They helped found the town of Pinckney in Livingston County in 1837. She wrote two very literate and autobiographical novels while in Michigan; A New Home; Who’ll Follow and Forest Life. They returned to NYC in 1843, partly because their Pinckney neighbors were not at all pleased with her humorous portrayals of them. Back in New York she wrote a third book about Michigan; Western Clearings, and went on to become a highly successful novelist.

Forest Life

Volume 2

Kirkland, Caroline
London: Longman 1842

More of the author’s fictionalized experiences on the Michigan frontier are recounted. Set in “Montacute” (Pinckney) in the early 1840s. See the note at the entry for Kirkland’s A New Home-Who’ll Follow?

“Humor, vivacity, keen discernment, graphic powers of description, and a thorough acquaintance with American forest life, are the most striking features of these volumes. There is not a chapter from which we do not feel strongly disposed to quote.” – London Atlas

Western Clearings

Kirkland, Caroline
NY: Wiley & Putnam 1845

See the note above under Kirkland’s A New Home-Who’ll Follow?

Murder Makes the Wheels Go ‘Round

Lathen, Emma
MacMillan 1966       

When John Putnam Thatcher, “a New York banker, goes to Detroit to weigh the possibilities of underwriting Michigan Motors’ new stock issue, he finds that Jensen, who has just finished a jail term for price-fixing, is demanding reinstatement and making threats to the man who betrayed him. But it is Jensen who is murdered.” Buyer’s Guide
It is “witty, literate, complicated.” Library J

Author Note: For more than a decade after Emma Lathen’s first novel, ‘Banking on Death’, in 1961, her readers wondered who was this mysterious woman who was so well-versed in investment banking and business operations. The truth came out in the 1970s; Emma Lathen was not a woman – she was two women. Mary Jane Latsis and Martha Henissart met at Harvard in 1952 when both were in their thirties and working on postgrad degrees. They shared a love of fiction and kept in touch and, years later, began collaborating on novels while pursuing their separate careers in different places.

The Wolverine; A Romance of Early Michigan

Lawrence, Albert Lathrop
Boston: Little, Brown 1904

Stevens Mason, Governor Cass, and Father Richard are important characters in this romance centering around a French-American girl who came to live in Detroit in 1817.

Author note: Albert Lathrop Lawrence was born in Coldwater, MI in 1865. In the early 1900s, when this book was published, he was mainly a Lansing-based writer of short stories for newspapers and magazines.

Pagan Babies

Leonard, Elmore
Delacorte 2000       

“Father Terry Dunn, an American priest working in Rwanda, is forced to return to the United States after exacting penance from a group of local Hutu murderers. Upon returning to Detroit, ostensibly to raise money for African orphans, he becomes involved with Debbie, a recently released ex-convict hoping to strike it rich as a stand-up comedian. A plan for both Terry and Debbie to attain the riches they desire soon gives way to a mix of deceit and false loyalties.” Libr J
This “is one of Mr. Leonard’s funniest books, with a typically colourful cast of oddballs. The dialogue. too, is snappy. .
Mr. Leonard steers the reader effortlessly’ through a maze of plots and counterplots, then brings the whole thing in with a bravura flourish and stops on a dime.” -Economist

Author notes: Elmore John Leonard Jr. (1825-2013) was a very successful novelist, short story writer and screenwriter. His earliest novels, published in the 1950s, were Westerns, but he went on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into motion pictures. His family settled in Detroit in 1934, and he graduated from high school there. After WWII service with the Navy Seabees he earned a B.A. in English at University of Detroit. He went on to work as a copy writer for an advertising agency for several years, until he could support himself with his writing. – Wikipedia

We have an enormous selection of fiction at Free Novels Online & Guides to Fiction

Legends of Michigan and the Old North West, Or, A Cluster of Unpublished Waifs, Gleaned Along the Uncertain, Misty Lie, Dividing Traditional from Historic Times

Littlejohn, Flavius Josephus
Allegan, MI: Northwestern Bible 1875

Author Note: Flavius J. Littlejohn grew up in New York, where he was educated and began practicing law in 1830. In the late 1830s he moved to Allegan, MI, where he became renowned for his eloquent speech. He was elected to the state legislature in 1841, and to the State Senate in 1845. In 1858 he was appointed Circuit Court judge of Allegan County, covering a region that extended to the straits of Mackinac. ‘Legends of Michigan’ appears to be his only published book, but he seems to have also written essays.

Onawago or the Betrayer of Pontiac

Ludlow, Will Cumback
Benton Harbor: Antiquarian 1911

An Ojibwa medicine woman who had warned the Detroit garrison of Pontiac’s attack in 1763 is a mysterious presence among the settlers of Michigan. Set mostly in “Barterville” in Berrien County from 1838 to 1858.* This novel was published four years after the author’s death at age 22.

Gabriel’s Search

Lutes, Della T.
Boston: Little, Brown 1940

“The tang and gusto of frontier living in the 1830’s is highlighted in this story of a newcomer’s adjustment to a community near Jackson.”
“A novel of pioneer life in Michigan in the early 1800’s. The story of the agnostic, Gabe Reed, and how he was looked upon by his God-fearing neighbors is full of the realistic details of the daily life of the period.”

Author notes: Della T. Lutes (1867-1942) was raised on a farm near Jackson, MI. She became a teacher at 16 when she finished high school, working first in Jackson and then in Detroit. She married and remained in Detroit until about 1907, publishing her first book in 1906. She then moved to Cooperstown, NY to join the staff of a magazine, ‘American Motherhood’. She remained in Cooperstown for the rest of her life, writing short stories and editing women’s magazines. She won a National Book Award in 1936 for her book ‘Country Kitchens’.

The Indian Drum

MacHarg, William Briggs, De La Vergne, Earl W. and Balmer, Edwin
Boston: Little Brown 1917

Dewey Defeats Truman

Mallon, Thomas
Pantheon 1997       

“Owosso, Michigan, was Dewey’s birthplace, and in the summer and fall of 1948 the townspeople are basking in the national attention that brushes the town. Anne Macmurray, a bookstore clerk and aspiring novelist, is being courted by two men, one a U.A.W. organizer, the other a smug Republican lawyer running for state senator. That romantic rivalry is shaped not only by the political passions of 1948 but also by the skeletons buried (and in one case unburied) in the pasts of other Owossoans. This work is so tightly constructed that it sometimes feels contrived, but Mallon’s gift for the telling detail, whether of place or of character, quickly banishes such reservations.” New Yorker

Please visit our Century Past Free Online Library, with thousands of books to read online or download

Blue Collar Blues

McMillan, Rosalyn
Warner 1998       

“Thyme Tyler is an African American plant manager for Champion Motors (a hybrid of Ford, GM and Chrysler) who has hit the glass ceiling even though she holds a Ph.D. Khan Davis is a handsomely paid factory worker who faces the threat of layoff and daily struggles for overtime in the plant. The two women maintain a friendship despite their class differences and despite Khan’s refusal to forgive Thyme’s marriage to a sterotypically lily-white Champion exec.” Publ Wkly

Author notes: Rosalyn McMillan (1953-2017) was raised in Port Huron, MI, and is the sister of novelist Terry McMillan. The family struggled to make ends meet when Rosalyn was a child. When she finished high school she went to work for Ford Motor Co., remaining there 20 years. She worked on her writing in her spare time, and her first novel was published in 1996.

The Outbound Road

Mulder, Arnold
Boston: Houghton Mifflin 1919

“As the scene for his novels this author chooses a quaint Dutch settlement in Michigan. In the present story the hero is a young man who as a child was adopted into a Dutch household. His dead mother had been an actress and his heritage from her breaks out in spite of the narrow religious training that regards theater going, even as novel reading, as sin. The boy while yet a child, shows a gift for acting, and as he grows older turns naturally to the theater, but his true genius is to express itself in play writing. The story is told by the boy’s father, a college professor, who has let his petty ambitions in his profession, withhold confession of his parenthood.”
“What we need in American fiction is just such simple veracity, insight, sane and liberal human feeling as Mr Mulder displays in his descriptions of his Dutch country-folk in East Nassau.”
“Interwoven through the story is the glamor of a strange country and a stranger people.” – The Book Review Digest

Author notes: Arnold Mulder (1885-1959) was raised in Ottawa County, MI, and received his B.A. at Hope College in Holland, MI. He then earned an M.A. at Univ. of Chicago. He spent his career as a newspaper editor in Holland, MI, and also wrote several novels.

At War with Pontiac or the Totem of the Bear. A Tale of Redcoat and Redskin

Munroe, Kirk
NY: Scribner 1919

The twelve-year-old son of a retired British major is involved in a series of adventures during Pontiac’s Conspiracy in 1763. Partially set in Detroit.*

Author notes: Charles Kirk Munroe (1850-1930) was born in a log cabin in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and while a child moved with his family to Cambridge, Massachusetts. He finished school at 16 and began work as a NY newspaper reporter, and then worked as a young magazine editor. From 1979 to 1884 he was the commodore of the New York Canoe Club, and in 1880 co-founded the League of American Wheelmen, which soon became the main organization in the U.S. for bicyclists. In 1886 he and his wife moved to Miami, where he joined the Audubon Society and became an active environmentalist. He published many novels between 1886 and 1905.

Them

Oates, Joyce Carol
Vanguard 1969       

“Violent and explosive in both incident and tone, the work is set in urban Detroit from 1937 to 1967 and chronicles the efforts of the Wendell family to break away from their destructive, crime-ridden background. Critics praised the novel for its detailed social observation and its bitter indictment of American society.” -Merriam-Webster’s Ency of Lit

Author notes: Joyce Carol Oates was born in 1938 and grew up in Millersport, NY, a farming community. She went to Syracuse University on scholarship, where she trained herself by writing novel after novel, throwing each away when she finished. She was valedictorian of her graduating class in 1960, and then earned an M.A. at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Oates was teaching at the Univ. of Detroit when she published her first novel in 1964. She later had a faculty position across the river in Windsor, Canada, and in 1978 accepted a position at Princeton, where she stayed until retirement. Over the years she has received many awards and prizes for her books.

Robert Cavelier: the Romance of the Sieur de La Salle and his Discovery of the Mississippi River

Orcutt, William Dana
London: Heinemann 1904

Robert Cavelier de la Salle, from the real character as portrayed in Parkman’s La Salle and Jesuits in North America, and from original documents in archives in Paris. Characters include Frontenac, Louis XIV, Mme. de Maintenon, Mme. de Montespan, Joliet, Tonty. Pictures early life at Montreal and Quebec, and the struggles of the Jesuits for the temporal control of Canada, aided by their influence with the Indians. The magnificent and heroic work of the missionaries and their martyrdom is brought out in contrast with the struggle of their order to gain power. The scenes shift from Paris to North America and Versailles, and culminate in the discovery of the Mississippi by La Salle. – Guide to Historical Fiction

Author notes: William Dana Orcutt (1870-1953) was born in New Hampshire, was a graduate of Harvard, and had a career in designing and making books in Massachusetts. He was the first president of the Boston Society of Printers, which was inspired by the principles of the Arts and Crafts movement. He also wrote about printing, reviewed and translated articles, and researched and wrote history. -Wikipedia

See the resources on this site for: La Salle the Explorer

Vintage housekeeping books at Sustainable Living, Homemaking

The Citadel of the Lakes

Orr, Myron David
Dodd 1952       

“The reader relives the turbulent and hazardous days when England and the United States contended for the prize of Mackinac Island and the control of the Great Lakes during the War of 1812. Myron David Orr has taken as his central point, the fur trader, John Jacob Astor, who, because of his insatiable lust for money, betrays his country and eliminates all those traders who defy him in his conquest of the Northwest Territory fur trade. The sinister influence of Astor dominates and encompasses the lives of all the people of this pioneer outpost, causing disastrous results to the armed forces of the United States, as well as personal tragedies to the families themselves. Out of a lifetime spent on the scene, and 25 years of research gathering original letters and military reports, Mr. Orr has presented an authentic picture of intrigue, love, violence, and hate.” -Publisher

Mission to Mackinac

Orr, Myron David
Dodd 1956       

Story of English-French conflict in the area of Mackinac Island prior to the War of 1812.

Author notes: Dr. Myron David Orr (1831-1891) was raised and educated in Genesee County, NY, being trained as a medical doctor. In 1854 he moved to Michigan and joined a medical practice in Flint. In 1864 he moved his family to a farm in Almer (thumb area), and raised fruit. He also served in a number of local government positions, including school inspector, justice of the peace, and probate judge. He published at least five novels in the genre of Michigan historical fiction.

The Boy Spies at the Siege of Detroit: a Story of the Ohio boys in the War of 1812

Otis, James
NY: Burt 1904

An adventure for boys by the author of Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus.

Author notes: James Otis Kaler (1848-1912) was born in Maine, and spent much of his career as a journalist. His first published book, in 1880, was ‘Toby Tyler; or, Ten Weeks with a Circus’, which was very successful. In 1960 Disney made it into a movie. Kaler continued to write children’s books under several pen names; nearly 200 books in all, although scholars believe some of the later books for young children may have been written by his wife. He was appointed Superintendent of Schools in South Portland, Maine in 1898.

The Power and the Glory: a Romance of the Great La Salle

Parker, Gilbert
NY: Harper 1925

Author notes: Sir Horatio Gilbert George Parker, 1st Baronet (1862-1932) was born in Camden East, Ontario. He began his career by teaching, then went to Australia in 1886 where he edited a newspaper and traveled extensively. By the early 1890s he was gaining a reputation as an author of fiction. He is largely remembered today for his historical novels about Canada, and for his poetry. In addition to writing many popular novels, Parker was a politician, serving in the British House of Commons from 1900 to 1918. At Parker’s funeral one of the honorary pallbearers was the Prime Minister of Canada. -Wikipedia

See the resources on this site for: La Salle the Explorer

Sword of the Old Frontier: a Tale of Fort Chartres and Detroit. Being a Plain Account of Sundry Adventures Befalling Chevalier Raoul de Coubert, One Time Captain in the Hussars of Languedoc, During the Year 1763

Parrish, Randall
Chicago: McClurg. 1905

A plain account of sundry adventures befalling Chevalier Raoul de Coubert, one time captain in the Hussars of Languedoc, during the year 1763, in which he gallantly draws his sword for France and his English lady-love in the stirring times of Pontiac’s conspiracy. Meeting with treachery from both white men and red, he takes desperate chances, escapes from his enemies and wins honor, wealth, and love. – Book Review Digest

Author notes: George Randall Parrish (1858-1923) grew up in Kewanee, Illinois and began a legal career in Wichita, Kansas. In the early 1880s he left his law practice and worked at a number of odd jobs throughout the west, eventually becoming a newspaper reporter. This was one of many adventure stories he published. See the Illinois Fiction page on this site for more.

North of Saginaw Bay

Petersen, E. J. (Pete)
Sand Lake, MI: Tall Timber 1952

“In North of Saginaw Bay, E. J. (Pete) Petersen, himself an old-time lumberman and timber-cruiser, retells and relives for the reader those days when Michigan’s now famous resort and vacationland resounded to the ring of the lumberman’s axe and the crash of falling timber. In this story of young Clay Woods and his desperate uphill battle for justice, the reader will form an intimate acquaintance with the rugged pioneers, their friends among the Indians, like Chief Green-sky, and the many other characters who made frontier life colorful, such as the gnarled little preacher who become one of the heroes of the tale.” -Book jacket

Please visit our collection of selected online magazine and newspaper Biography Articles

The White Squaw; A Sequel to “North of Saginaw Bay”

Petersen, E. J. (Pete)
Sand Lake, MI: Tall Timber 1954

Once a Wilderness

Pound, Arthur
NY: Reynal & Hitchcock 1937

“The changing background of our state [Michigan] from agriculture to industry is exemplified in this story of the Mark family, pioneer farmers in the vicinity of Pontiac.”
“This engaging family chronicle, opening in 1890, has for its background Mark section the 640 acre Michigan farm owned by Captain John Mark, on which he and all of his children and their families still lived. Farm activities, especially cattle breeding, make a vivid background, but the lively story is about the Marks themselves, especially the lusty and vigorous patriarch, Captain John.”- Bkl

Author notes: Arthur Pound (1884-1966) was born in Pontiac, MI and made his living mainly as an editor and editorial writer at newspapers for many years. In 1935 he was made a research professor of American History at the Univ. of Pittsburgh, and from 1940 to 1944 he was the State Historian and Director of Archives and History in New York. He published at least ten historical books, including a couple of industrial histories, and corporate histories of General Motors and General Electric.

The Adventures of Captain McCargo

Ratigan, William
NY: Random House 1956

“Dashing Great Lakes Captain matches wits with danger from Detroit to the Upper Peninsula.”

Author notes: William Ratigan (1910-1984) grew up in Detroit. In college he was an all-Dixie quarterback at the University of Chattanooga, and then became a respected radio journalist, holding important positions at NBC during WWII. After the war be brought his family back to Michigan, buying a home in Charlevoix, MI, where he operated a tiny used bookstore in a converted fishing shanty and wrote books. His most popular book was ‘Great Lakes Shipwrecks and Survivals’. -Charlevoix Courier

Wacousta; or, The Prophecy: A Tale of the Canadas

Richardson, John
London: Cadell 1832

A renegade Englishman allied with the Ottawa Chief Pontiac seeks revenge on the daughter of the woman he could not have. Set in Detroit and Michilimackinac in 1763.*

Author notes: John Richardson (1796-1852) was born in Queenston, Ontario. His father was a surgeon in the British army and his mother was half-British and half-Ottawa. As a child, Richardson lived for a time with his grandparents in Detroit. He enlisted with the British army at 16, and during the war of 1812 participated in the Battle of the River Raisin (Monroe, MI) and the Battle of the Thames, where he was taken prisoner by U.S. troops. He made a career of the army until at least 1838, rising to the rank of Major. In 1849 Richardson moved to NYC to try to make a living writing fiction, but failed in this. He died there in 1852, supposedly of starvation, and was buried in a pauper’s cemetery. – Wikipedia

A Land I Will Show Thee

Schoolland, Marian M.
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1954

“The Founding of Holland, Michigan, by a small group of Dutch immigrants seeking a religious refuge.”

Author notes: Marian M. Schoolland (1902-1984) was the daughter of a Dutch immigrant professor at the minister-training institution that became Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, MI. She was a 1934 graduate of Calvin College, going on to a teaching career in elementary school while also translating, editing, and writing articles and books. Most of her books were for children, and of those, her best known were devotional. -Banner of Truth website

Montlivet

Smith, Alice Prescott
Boston: Houghton, Mifflin 1906

“A rather well written love story with enough adventure with Indians to keep you turning the pages. Early trading days, when the French, English and the Indian were contending for supremacy, give the setting. The story centers about Armand de Montlivet who masquerades as a French trader and saves an English youth.” – ALA Booklist
Features Fort Michilimackinac.

The Original

Smith, Larry
Herder & Herder 1972       

Picture of the grim, unremitting labor that was the reality of farm life at the turn of the century. Set in Michigan.

Larry Smith was a newspaper and magazine editor with the New York Times and Parade magazine, where he was managing editor for nineteen years. Former president of the Overseas Press Club of America, he lives in Norwalk, Connecticut. The U.S. Marine Corps presented him with the Esprit de Corps Award for his work with veterans and active duty service personnel.

Spring Flight

Smits, Lee J.
NY: Knopf 1925

“Kenneth Farr, just before World War I, combines newspaper and advertising work with relaxation on the Detroit River.”

Author notes: Lee J. Smits made his living writing for Detroit newspapers. Other than that, the only information found about him was in a 1934 article, “Good Books that Almost Nobody Has Read”. Malcolm Cowley, New Republic literary editor, identified ‘The Spring Flight’ as such a book. Cowley wrote, “I can recall Eaton (Smits’ editor) saying that Smits was one of the laziest people mentally he ever knew. He vastly preferred the life of a beachcomber on the waterfront at Detroit (if you can imagine such a thing) to the labors of composition… I know Easton and myself were enthusiastic and hoped ‘The Spring Flight’ was the first of a series from Smits’ pen…. Mr. Knopf (publisher) had the same idea and did everything possible to induce Smits to work.” – New Republic, 18 Apr 1934

F.O.B. Detroit

Smitter, Wessel
Harper 1938       

“Bennie, who accepts his work in the Holt automobile plant uncritically, asking nothing better of life than to become a ‘straw boss’, tells in his own vernacular the story of his friend Russ, a former lumberjack, whose restlessness and longing for independence make it impossible for him to adjust himself to the stultifying regimentation of the factory’s assembly line. A compact, dramatic novel which is also an indictment of the modern industrial system.” – N.Y. libraries

Author notes: Wessel Smitter (1892-1951) was born to Dutch immigrants in Plainfield, MI. He graduated from U of M in 1922 and worked in advertising for one of the Detroit auto makers. He detested the “industrial machine” way of life and abruptly left for Hollywood, where he finished his novel ‘F.O.B. Detroit’. A New York Times review compared him to John Steinbeck, and the book was made into a movie, ‘Reaching for the Sun’, in 1941. – IMDb website

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Felice Constant, or The Master Passion; a Romance

Sprague, William C.
NY: Stokes 1904

Set in Fort Detroit at the time of the British occupation.

Author notes: William Cyrus Sprague (1860-1922) was born in Malta, Ohio, son of a banker and U.S. Congressman. He was educated at Dennison College and Cincinnati Law School, moving to Detroit in the mid-1880s to practice commercial law. In Detroit he played leading roles in Sunday school education, the Masons, and in a nationwide association of commercial lawyers. In 1890 he launched the Sprague Correspondence School of Law, a radically new way for prospective lawyers all around the country to prepare themselves for bar examinations. His success in this led very soon to the Sprague Publishing Company and the Sprague Correspondence School of Journalism. He also did a lot of writing. In addition to adventure novels for boys, he wrote ‘An Abridgement of Blackstone’ for law students and edited a newsletter entitled ‘The Law Student’s Helper’.

The Long Winter Ends

Thomas, Newton G.
NY: Macmillan 1941

Tells the story of a year in the life of a young emigrant miner who leaves Cornwall in the southwest of England to work in the copper mines of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Through Jim’s story, The Long Winter Ends offers a glimpse into the lives of an often neglected emigrant group that played an important role in the development of the Great Lake and American mining industries since the 1840s. Drawing on his own experiences as a young Cornish immigrant in the mining communities of the Upper Peninsula, Thomas incorporated firsthand knowledge of the work routines and vocabulary of underground mining into this novel. This narrative traces the Cornish emigrant experience from the failure of the mines in Cornwall, their hopes to preserve Cornish traditions in America, and then finally the acceptance of a future in America.

The Red-Keggers

Thwing, Eugene
NY: Grosset & Dunlap 1903

“Changing times for the people of Red Keg, five miles from Midland, as the farmer’s plow replaces the lumberman’s ax.”

Alice Wilde: The Raftsman’s Daughter. A Forest Romance

Victor, Metta Victoria Fuller
NY: Beadle 1860

His proposal of marriage rebuffed by his cousin, a New York man meets the beautiful daughter of a Michigan sawmill owner and falls in love. Set in “Center City” in the 1840s.*

Author notes: Metta Victor (1831 – 1885) was raised in Wooster, OH and lived about 1850 or 1851 in Ypsilanti, MI with her sister. She later moved to Mansfield, OH, where she married a newspaperman, and they soon moved to New York City. She had an extremely prolific and successful writing career, publishing poetry, romances, mysteries, short stories, humor and even cookbooks under a dozen pen names. At one point she had a 5-year, $25,000 contract with the New York Weekly.

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

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The Backwoods Bride; a Romance of Squatter Life

Victor, Metta Victoria Fuller
London: Routledge 1861

A new landowner accosts a group of squatters who have settled on his property and falls in love with one of their daughters. Set in southern Michigan in the 1840s.*
For a brief biographical sketch of the author, see her other entry on this page.

The Fabric of the Loom

Watts, Mary Stanbery
MacMillan 1924       

A story depicting the superficial aspect of materialistic American society in contrast with European culture.

Author notes: Mary Stanbery Watts (1868-1958) was raised on a farm in Delaware County, OH and educated at a convent in Cincinnati. She married a successful real estate agent and spend her adult life in Cincinnati. Her first novel was published in 1908, and followed with a number of others in the ‘teens and ‘twenties. Several of her articles and short stories also appeared in Harpers’ magazine, and probably in others.

What End But Love

Webber, Gordon
Little 1959       

Memories of farm life and industrial growth set in the framework of a family reunion on a Michigan farm near the automobile factories in 1934.

Author notes: Gordon Webber (1912-1986) was raised in Linden, MI and graduated from college in Jamestown, ND in 1934. He then earned an M.A. in journalism at Univ. of Michigan, and was working as a writer for NBC before the war. In WWII he served in the Navy as a gunnery officer, receiving a Navy commendation at the Normandy invasion. He went on to write short stories, film scripts, and four novels during a post-war career at an advertising agency. In 1952 he was the founding president of the Classic Car Club of America.

The Blazed Trail

White, Stewart Edward
NY: Doubleday. 1902

“It is a record of outdoor life, of life in the logging-camps along Lake Superior, a story of the fight of men with nature. … the author carries the hero from his first experience as a raw hand through all the phases of logging to the time when he is owner of a great logging-camp. When he has finished, the reader knows as much about the preparations of a log for the sawmill as he would know if he had read a government report on the subject.” – Literary Digest

Author notes: Stewart Edward White (1873-1946) grew up in Grand Rapids, MI and was a graduate of the University of Michigan. An avid camper and outdoorsman, Theodore Roosevelt said he was “the best man with both pistol and rifle who ever shot” at Roosevelt’s rifle range at Sagamore Hill. White wrote fiction and non-fiction about adventure and travel, with an emphasis on natural history and outdoor living. Beginning in 1922, he and his wife Elizabeth wrote a number of books about spiritualism.

“White’s books were popular at a time when America was losing its vanishing wilderness. He was a keen observer of the beauties of nature and human nature, yet could render them in a plain-spoken style. Based on his own experience, whether writing camping journals or Westerns, he included pithy and fun details about cabin-building, canoeing, logging, gold-hunting, and guns and fishing and hunting. He also interviewed people who had been involved in the fur trade, the California gold rush and other pioneers which provided him with details that give his novels verisimilitude. He salted in humor and sympathy for colorful characters such as canny Indian guides and “greenhorn” campers who carried too much gear.”- Summary by Wikipedia and David Wales

The Riverman

White, Stewart Edward
NY: McClure. 1908

See the biographical note about the author at The Blazed Trail, on this web page.

A story of Michigan rivermen which deals with the fortunes of a log-driving firm. The hero is a river-boss who is induced by a New York lawyer, roughing it for his health, to join him in organizing a company to handle expeditiously all of the logs of the section. The treachery of the partner is outlined in detail against the sterling strength of the rugged hero. Local color and atmosphere abound.
– Book Review Digest

The Adventures of Bobby Orde

White, Stewart Edward
NY: Doubleday 1908

The nine-year-old son of a river boss has a number of outdoor adventures and helps clear a neighbor of a murder charge. Set in the lumber mill town of “Monrovia.”*

See the biographical note about the author at The Blazed Trail, on this web page.

Please see our selection of articles about such topics as Clothing, Food, Recreation, and Customs in Popular Culture in History

In the Michigan Lumber-Camps

Whittier, Charles Albert
NY: Broadway 1904

From the “Boys Vacation Series”. The author wrote in the Introduction that he, “purposes to take his readers on “personally conducted” tours through the interesting and instructive regions …” “The incidents related are based upon the actual experiences and adventures of a party of boys who spend every school vacation in travel under the guidance of a gentleman in hearty sympathy with his young charges …”

Author notes: Charles Albert Whittier (1840-1908) was raised in Boston, completing graduate studies at Harvard in 1860. He was studying law there when the Civil War began in 1861, and he enlisted as a lieutenant in the Massachusetts infantry. By the end of the war he had risen to Brevet Brigadier General, before his 25th birthday. He remained in the army until 1870, when he resigned to become a lawyer and a partner in a Boston investment bank. He apparently became very rich from the bank’s investments in railroads. He served in the army again, for less than a year, during the Spanish American War. – Wikipedia

Indian Affairs

Woiwode, Larry
Atheneum 1992       

Sequel to ‘What I’m Going to Do, I Think’. This novel set in Michigan is, “in part, an anatomy of a marriage strained by the death of a baby and racial differences: Chris is a native American and Ellen a white Christian Scientist. They have returned to their home turf to stay in Ellen’s grandparents’ cabin so Chris can work on his dissertation about the Michigan poet Roethke in peace and quiet, but they get very little of either. . . Both Chris and Ellen fall into depression. Chris is suffering an identity crisis over the conflict between his native American heritage and his academic pursuits, while Ellen decides to write about her grief over being childless.” -Booklist
“Indian Affairs’ is an intelligent, psychologically harrowing book.” N Y Times Book Rev

Author notes: Larry Woiwode was born in Carrington, North Dakota on October 30, 1941. He went to the University of Illinois, but did not graduate. His short stories and poetry appeared in several magazines including Harper’s, Partisan Review, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. His first novel, What I’m Going to Do, I Think, was published in 1969. His other novels included Beyond the Bedroom Wall: A Family Album, Poppa John, Born Brothers, and Indian Affairs. He also wrote a collection of poems entitled Even Tide. He was named North Dakota Poet Laureate in 1995. -Bowker author biography

Whistlestop

Wolff, Maritta M.
Random House 1941       

Set in a small Michigan town this describes “a family on the borderline between crime and respectability . . . The characterization is sharp and definite, and in general convincing . . . there are hints of perversion and much profanity.” – Booklist

Author notes: Maritta Martin Wolff (1918-2002) was born at Grass Lake, MI, growing up on her grandparents’ farm and attending a one-room school. She attended Univ. of Michigan, and wrote her first novel, ‘Whistlestop’, for a writing class in her senior year. Despite vulgar dialogue and themes of incest and violence it won a university prize. When it was published in 1941 it was a best-seller and was praised by author Sinclair Lewis as the most important novel of the year. It was later adapted as a 1946 movie. Her second novel, Night Shift (1942) was also highly praised, and became the 1946 film ‘The Man I Love’. She wrote a total of 7 novels, the last one completed in 1972 but not published until after her death.

Anne

Woolson, Constance Fenimore
NY: Harper 1910

Traces the fortunes of Anne Douglas, a young orphan of strong impulses, fine character and high devotion to duty. Scenes laid on Mackinac Island and in New York.

Author notes: Constance Fenimore Woolson (1840-1894) was raised in Cleveland, OH, and was a grand-niece of James Fennimore Cooper, one of the best-known American writers of the second quarter of the 19th century. Constance was educated at the Cleveland Female Seminary and at a New York boarding school, and traveled extensively when young in the northeast and Midwest, including the Great Lakes. She began publishing short stories and essays in 1870 in the leading national magazines, and published ‘Castle Nowhere’, her first volume of short stories, in 1875. She continued a very successful career as a novelist, poet, and travel essayist until her accidental death from a fall in 1894.

Castle Nowhere: Lake-Country Sketches

Woolson, Constance Fenimore
Boston: Osgood 1875

Where Copper was King; a Tale of the Early Mining Days on Lake Superior

Wright, James North
Boston: Small, Maynard 1905

The author wrote in the Introduction that he, “…has been urged to take upon himself the office of chronicler, lest the memories of that rough and difficult and, in no slight degree, heroic life be irrevocably lost …” “The characters whom he has attempted to draw are real characters, who played parts of more or less prominence in the Lake Superior country forty years ago; and the incidents – distressing, tragical, and ridiculous – which he has described are taken from real life, with but little coloring or exaggeration.”
A story of the copper mining industry on the Keweenaw Peninsula in the 1860s, with much detail given about the techniques, dangers, and working conditions associated with mining.*

Author notes: The only information found about James North Wright was that he worked for at least two large mining companies in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, as an agent or superintendent.

Links to Museums & Historic Sites in the Michigan U.P.: Museums & Historic Sites in Northern Michigan

*Plot Summaries were found in Beasecker, Robert, “Michigan in the Novel 1816-2006: An Annotated Bibliography, Second Edition”(2016)

 

Of nearly 250 webpages of books and other resources at Century Past History,

over 90 pages are in the group History of the Great Lakes States.

 

You can find more works like these at our other History of the Great Lakes States ‘Fiction’ pages.

Great Lakes Fiction

Illinois Fiction

Indiana Fiction

Ohio Fiction

Wisconsin Fiction


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