My debut novel, Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel, won a finalist award in the 2011 USA Book News competition in the Multicultural Fiction category, and an honorable mention at the 2011-2012 Los Angeles Book Festival. It tells the story of Jake Malone, kicked out of college and working at a steel mill on the Detroit River in January, who is befriended by Theo Semple, a street wise reprobate. Together they discover that racism comes in every shade of color, but a real friendship sees past that.
Is the story true?
The majority of Zug Island is memoir but linking episodic storylines together in a unified flowing fashion is the fiction writer’s task. I like to say the my novel is eighty percent true and the rest is glue. I did some time compression and created several composite characters to move the story along.
Did you do any research for the book?
In addition to my personal experiences with the subject of racism, my research included news clippings from the era (mostly from The Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press), various internet resources, and Dr. Thomas J. Sugrue’s, “The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit.”
How did you make your book seem real?
Some readers make feel uncomfortable with the profanity and racial slurs used throughout my novel. To achieve some verisimilitude, I used many of the words that made Detroit famous. This is a blue collar story with blue collar language. I hope everyone is offended by the use of these words; unfortunately, they are part of the language of frustration and show no signs of going away anytime soon.
Is there a message in your writing you want readers to grasp?
I wanted to tell a part of the Detroit Riot story that is often ignored or glossed over by white America. There are historical layers of embedded racism and segregation that made Inner-City Detroit a time bomb. The attitudes and factors which lit the fuse then, still exist today. Detroit has never fully recovered from those days forty-five years ago.
At what age did you discover writing?
I caught the writing bug when I was in my early teens. I read James Hilton’s Lost Horizon in a day and was enthralled by it. I admired his characters and how he blended so much story and meaning into his short novel. It wasn’t until I read the book again decades later, that I discovered what the novel was really about. It presented Western history and Eastern philosophy in an interesting story to tell a cautionary tale of the coming of World War Two. I only hope that I can give someone that kind of experience. Now that I am retired from the English classroom, I’m writing and living my dream.
If your book was made into a TV series or Movie, what actors would you like to see playing your characters?
I was asked in a radio interview who I would want to star in Zug Island if it were made into a movie. My answer is that I never thought about that. To me, it is the director who is the most important figure in the making of a good movie, and I have given that question quite a bit of thought – Martin Scorsese.
Who designed your cover?
My novel’s cover was designed by Carole Lecren, a La Jolla High School teacher and talented yearbook advisor, and the striking photograph on the cover is by Bill Deneau, a Toronto photographer. My novel is published by Wheatmark, Inc. out of Tucson, Arizona, and available on Amazon.com and in Kindle format.
What books have inspired you?
The most influential book I’ve ever read was Zorba, the Greek, by Nikos Kasantzakis, and my favorite movie is Spartacus, directed by Stanley Kubrick. My favorite line of all time is something I heard Saul Bellow say once, “There are no limits to the amount of intelligence invested in ignorance, especially when the need for illusion runs deep.” I wish I had coined that phrase.
How have you promoted your book?
I was not enthused about creating a blog as part of my electronic platform in support of my writing career, but I have surprisingly taken to it. In little more than a year, I’ve got close to 10,000 hits. You can find me at http://www.fornology.blogspot.com.
What are you working on now?
My next project is called In the Shadow of the Water Tower. It is about alleged serial killer, John Norman Collins, dubbed the Co-ed Killer by the press. From 1967 through 1969, the community of Ypsilanti, Michigan and the campus of Eastern Michigan University lived in abject fear. This story has never been adequately or fully told before.