Author Boyle Returns Home for Great Michigan Read

Author and Detroit native Kevin Boyle is pretty pumped about the idea of coming home. The reason? Boyle’s compelling book, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age is the Michigan Humanities Council featured title for the 2011-2012 Great Michigan Read.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have Arc of Justice selected for the Great Michigan Read,” Boyle shared in an email, and said the choice of his book holds “particularly powerful meaning.”

Boyle’s Arc of Justice “tells the story of African American Dr. Ossian Sweet and the chain of events that occurred after he purchased a home for his family in an all-white Detroit neighborhood in 1925.”* After an altercation one evening with his enraged white neighbors, Sweet’s life – and the course of Detroit’s racial history – are forever altered.

Published in 2004 (Henry Holt and Co.), Boyle’s Arc of Justice was released to high praise. Called “electrifying” and “powerful” by critics, Arc of Justice snagged several coveted literary prizes such as the 2004 National Book Award for Nonfiction and the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize, and was nominated as a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

Arc of Justice has also made its mark on Michigan’s literary scene. Boyle’s nonfiction book was selected in 2005 as a Michigan Notable Book and was the 2007 pick for the Detroit metro community-wide Everyone’s Reading program. Now Arc of Justice returns for another appearance in the state as the star of this year’s Great Michigan Read.

The Great Michigan Read is a free statewide initiative intended to encourage Michiganians of all ages to read and participate in book discussions and events that take place across the state. It targets Michigan themes so the literature will be more accessible and interesting to citizens of communities throughout the state.

Free is certainly a word that catches the eye these days. As our literary and   educational resources continue to dwindle, programs such as the Great Michigan Read are a boon to local communities and to those of us who relish fine reading. Book clubs, classrooms, colleges and museums are but a few of the potential sites that can sponsor a reading or get directly involved with Arc of Justice and bring fine literature to life.

Boyle currently lives in Ohio but is, in fact, excited to be “coming home” this fall for a six-city author tour as part of the Read program. “It’ll be great to talk about Detroit, about Arc of Justice, and about the big questions the story raised,” Boyle says, “Most of all, it’ll be great to be home.”

Kevin Boyle will be appearing in Detroit at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 7:00 pm. His discussion of Arc of Justice will take place at the General Motors Theater at 315 E. Warren Ave ( If you aren’t in the metro area, feel free to link here for a full schedule of Great Michigan Read exhibits and events.

*Information from Michigan Humanities Council

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-Post by Megan Shaffer

Author Megan Abbott Brings ‘The End of Everything’ Back to the Burbs

Cover ImageMystery writer Megan Abbott is no stranger to Michigan. The award-winning author grew up in the Detroit area, attended Grosse Pointe North High School and graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in English Literature. Though Abbott currently makes her home in Queens, New York, she’ll be bringing her latest novel, The End of Everything, back home this week.

Abbott is the Edgar-winning author of the novels Die a Little, The Song Is You and Queenpin. Abbott was already a favorite among fellow writers when her 2009 novel Bury Me Deep swiftly moved her into the mainstream.

The End of Everything is Abbott’s first work to take place in her hometown of Grosse Pointe, and takes place during the 1980’s of Abbott’s adolescence. The End  is a departure from Abbott’s other books, which draw more from history, film and true-crime.

“It’s definitely the world of my hometown,” Abbott shares. “It seemed like the whole summer world was conducted in backyards, sprinklers, Ernie Harwell on the radio, mosquitoes and peering through window and door screens.”

Abbott originally started writing The End of Everything back in the late 1990’s, and admits that returning to her roots for material feels a little risky.

“We are the least reliable narrators of the places we grew up,” Abbott tells Mulholland Books, “and it’s taken me nearly 20 years to write about my hometown. But now, all these years later, I can finally access Grosse Pointe in a different way. My new novel, The End of Everything, the story of a 13-year-old girl whose best friend disappears, is set in a Grosse Pointe facsimile. Writing it, I came to feel that the stillness I’d once thought of as stasis was precisely the quality that made the big moments of life, when they come, seem larger, bigger, more shocking and more moving. The more I wrote, the more I was able to telescope back, prior to my teen years of bored frustration with the suburbs, back when it was a wooded place of inscrutability and wonder.”

Abbott will be returning to the suburbs for a reading and signing of The End of Everything at Borders in Birmingham on Wednesday, July 20 at 7:00 pm. If you can’t make Abbott’s Birmingham appearance, you can link here for a full schedule of the author’s events.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Meltzer Brings it on at Borders Appearance

Cover ImageStanding room only, fans waving signs, book tour t-shirts? If you woke up smiling today then you probably made it to Brad Meltzer’s Borders appearance last night in Birmingham. Who knew that the author and star of The History Channel’s Decoded could be… well, so damn funny?

Brad Meltzer was in Birmingham to promote his recently released thriller The Inner Circle and plug his television show, but finessed the push by quickly turning the literary crowd to laughter. Clearly at ease with the mike, Meltzer only gained momentum as he discussed the evolution of his latest book and the cool factor of his show Decoded.

Brad Meltzer is all about history, and the seed of The Inner Circle was planted when the author received a call from Homeland Security. He was asked to be part of a project consisting of “out of the box thinkers” who brainstorm ways that terrorists might strike our cities. Not only did Meltzer find the reality of potential attacks horrifying, but the sessions also led him to the topic of spy rings.

The fact of the matter is that George Washington had a spy ring. When the author inquired how long that ring lasted, the response was “who says it still doesn’t exist?” Wild premise for a book, no? So Meltzer ran with it, and the passing of presidential secrets is the spine that solidly holds his book, The Inner Circle, together.

As for pushing Decoded, Meltzer had a hoot. Admittedly, with the DVD screen set up it appeared as if Borders had us queued up for a forced episode watch. Not so. The “episode” was a walk through of self-poking fun by Meltzer as he emceed his staged poses from the show. Meltzer’s Thinker variations were hilarious, and as the opening scenes from Decoded played on, Meltzer assured us that he was highly trained in such posturing and warned of the dangers of attempting such staid postures at home.

Though Meltzer is clearly connected at the top, he is clearly not all about Brad. When he was asked about Minnie, one of his Inner Circle characters who is afflicted with a certain syndrome (no plot spoilers here), the author shared his desire to draw attention to the obscure condition in his book. In that way, it creates an awareness for readers that normally would never have exposure or knowledge of the syndrome’s existence.

As for the book tour t-shirts? “Why not?” asks Meltzer. Musicians go on tour and sell t-shirts all the time. Holding up the black tee with the hard-core print and the cities detailed on the back, Meltzer said, “Look, where else can you find Birmingham, Michigan and Boca Raton on the same tour?” But it’s not all just for fun, all proceeds go to City Year, a program near and dear to Meltzer’s heart.

In the end, it all goes back to history for Meltzer. He informed the appreciative crowd that “Michigan is where my history exists.” As a University of Michigan grad he tries to incorporate the Ann Arbor institution somewhere in all of his books but says it “loud and proud” in The Inner Circle. Sharing thanks upon thanks with his friends, family, and fans, Meltzer set the jokes aside and wrapped it up with one final serious moment:  “I find words for a living and I can’t find the words to thank you.”

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Prime Yourself with Brad Meltzer’s ‘Decoded’

Cover ImageIn case you didn’t know, best-selling author Brad Meltzer is coming to town for a reading and signing of his latest novel The Inner Circle. Just released January 11th, Meltzer’s Inner Circle is a ripper, packing enough suspense and conspiracy theory to flash it up on the big screen. But more on that later.

Meltzer, who is a University of Michigan grad, will be appearing at Borders in Birmingham next Thursday, but you might want to prime yourself with a taste of “Meltzer the historian” first. You can catch his new TV show Decoded on The History Channel tonight at 10:00 pm. For more on Brad Meltzer and his show, you can link here.

For your information, Brad Meltzer will be reading and signing his new book at Borders in Birmingham on Thursday, January 20, 2010 at 7:00 pm. He will also be sharing footage from his new TV show Decoded. Check Night Light Revue next week for more on the author and his upcoming appearance.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

‘Bad Things Happen’ with author Dolan at Borders in Ann Arbor

Cover ImageSorry for the last minute info but it’s not too late to catch Harry Dolan, author of the Ann Arbor hit Bad Things Happen this evening. Mr. Dolan will be appearing at Borders in Ann Arbor (Liberty Street location) for a reading and signing tonight, August 5th, 2010 at 7:00 PM.  As always, check all event details before heading out the door. For those of you who might have missed my review a few months back I have attached it below for your enjoyment.

It’s true that bad things happen, but are we supposed to enjoy them so much when they do? In Harry Dolan’s Bad Things Happen, half the fun is waiting out the next “bad thing” (of which there are plenty) while the other is enjoying the ride.

Bad Things Happen is…well…sexy. From the alluring, yet solitary main character David Loogan right down to the seductive college vibe of Ann Arbor itself, Mr. Dolan hooks you up with a delicious murder that fills you with a sweet, edgy unease. As his sultry characters glide in and out of focus, you are left wondering beyond wonder, who in the world can you trust?

After David Loogan becomes inadvertently involved with the mystery magazine Gray Streets, his quiet low-key life somehow slips into a sea of complicated suspicion. However, Mr. Loogan’s appeal lies in his subtle, easy dialogue and blithe manner towards all things homicidal.

As Loogan makes his way through the maze of Gray Street personalities in hopes of solving his friend’s murder, he encounters one Elizabeth Waishkey. Elizabeth is a cop who is also intent on solving the murder, but is saddled with the snag of distancing herself from the ambiguous Loogan, who is a promising prime suspect with each turn of the page.

As Waishkey works on Loogan, and Loogan works on his own, this shadowy tale is spun on pure Ann Arbor background, bringing about a well-deserved nod for this progressive midwestern pocket. Matched in sophisticated tones, Ann Arbor provides the perfect setting for Dolan’s sleek, hard-boiled fiction.

“Ann Arbor has the street life of a much larger city. When the weather is fair, and sometimes when it’s not, the sidewalks along State Street and Liberty and Main bustle with people:  hip, arty, confident people who walk to theaters and shops, bookstores and coffeehouses, who gather at sidewalk tables that spill out of restaurants.

David Loogan found them fascinating. He thought it must be the university that produced them. The university made the city more prosperous and young and good-looking. It gathered all these people to itself and then it sent them out into the city where they ate fine meals, and attended plays, and greeted one another on the street with hugs and cheery shouts and back-slapping.”

Bad Things Happen brings in the sharp, classic styles of other noir lit authors such as Raymond Chandler, whom is mentioned more than once in the book. But even if you are not a seasoned mystery reader (like myself) Harry Dolan’s seductive style easily translates. Mr. Dolan’s work is fun, and mentally unspools itself in close-up, pan-back fashion. Like a smooth, smoky Hollywood flick, Bad Things Happen definitely has movie rights potential, but for now I highly suggest kicking back and enjoying it just the way it is.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Wallace and ‘The Blind Contessa’ at Borders in Ann Arbor

Cover ImageIn case you missed NLR’s piece on Chelsea author Carey Wallace, I am again posting it below for your enjoyment. Ms. Wallace will appear at the Borders Lohr Road location in Ann Arbor for a reading and signing of her wonderful novel, The Blind Contessa’s New Machine. This event is scheduled to take place on Friday, July 30, 2010 at 7:00 PM. As always, call and confirm all event details before heading out the door.

Incredibly unique, wildly vivid, and so unlike anything I have read…

These were a mere few of my many thoughts upon finishing the book The Blind Contessa’s New Machine. Needing to know more about the genesis of this stunning slip of a book, I took to the site of author Carey Wallace.

As the title suggests, blindness sits at the core of this work. Yet as Wallace slowly syphons the reader’s vision, she delicately replaces it with a creative vision that manages to supersede that of any other. While Wallace’s site reveals that she hasn’t personally experienced blindness, she hopes that The Blind Contessa’s New Machine might give her readers “…permission to find the world just a little more beautiful, a little more strange, a little more wonderful than what we think we can see.”

When I realized that Carey Wallace had grown up in several small towns in Michigan, I managed a lovely exchange with the author and found out that she spent her elementary school years in Hillsdale where her dad was a professor before moving on to graduate from Chelsea High School. While Wallace currently resides in Brooklyn, she considers Chelsea her hometown and shares the sweet fact that “the more time I spend there as an adult, the more remarkable I find it.” Ms. Wallace credits the dedication of former teachers who were “fully supported by a community that deeply valued the arts” for her deft skills as a writer and creative.

With Ms. Wallace’s sincere responses to my queries, it was easy to hear the echo of Contessa’s fleshed and heartfelt characters. If she had any program in The Blind Contessa’s New Machine, she says, it may have been this: to challenge materialism, to complicate the seen world’s claim to be “reality”, and to encourage people that their sense that “there must be more than this” is not only accurate, but the foundation of all truth.

The Blind Contessa’s New Machine appears on the July 2010 Indie Next List. Check back with NLR for a full review later this week.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Information

Carey Wallace also runs ‘The Hillbilly Underground.’ In its tenth year, the Underground is an arts retreat that welcomes a diverse group of artists to the Michigan lakeside for a precious ten day block of undisturbed creative freedom.

Educator Esquith to Light a Few Fires at B’ham Borders

A quick trip to the site of Rafe Esquith will fill you in on the man known to teach like his hair’s on fire. Now the celebrated educator returns with his latest book, Lighting Their Fires: How Parents and Teachers Can Raise Extraordinary Kids in a Mixed-up, Muddled-up, Shook-up World.

“Esquith expands on the techniques presented in Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire to show that any child can become extraordinary,” states the B’ham Borders site. For more on Esquith and his concepts, try this NPR segment Rafe Esquith Offers His Fiery Teaching Methods.

Borders in Birmingham will host Rafe Esquith for a hot reading and signing of his latest work this Wednesday, July 28th at 7:00 pm. As always, confirm all information before heading out the door as details are subject to change.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

Post by Megan Shaffer

Author Sides Brings ‘Hellhound’ to Baldwin Public Library

Cover ImageYou might recognize author Hampton Sides from his previous work Ghost Soldiers which won the 2002 PEN USA award for non-fiction, or perhaps for Americana or Stomping Grounds. Currently though, the narrative history and bestselling author  is promoting his latest work Hellhound on his Trail:  The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for his Assassin.

Laura Miller of writes, “Sides’ meticulous yet driving account of Ray’s plot to murder King and the 68-day international manhunt that followed is in essence a true-crime story and a splendid specimen of the genre – a genuine corker.”

Hampton Sides is a native of Memphis and holds a BA in history from Yale. He has written for several well known publications including National Geographic, The New Yorker, and Esquire. Mr. Sides  has guest lectured at Columbia, Stanford, SMU, Yale and Colorado College, among other institutions.*

This evening, Monday, June 14, 2010 Hampton Sides will be discussing his work at the Baldwin Public Library in Birmingham as part of their Writers Live! series. Mr. Sides is scheduled to appear at 7:00 pm in the connected Rotary and Donor Rooms. Limited seating is available. As always, call and confirm all dates and times before heading out the door.

For more on Hampton Sides and his latest book, check out this article in yesterday’s Eccentric.

Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

*info taken from Random House and Hampton Sides home sites

Chef George Vutetakis Brings Back ‘Vegetarian Traditions’

George Vutetakis is coming home this weekend. Though he now resides in San Diego, the culinary progressive and former owner of The Inn Season Cafe in Royal Oak is revisiting his “roots” with his latest work Vegetarian Traditions.

Veggies have made quite a comeback over the last decade, and no doubt Vutetakis has played a pivotal role in their fame. Before “Whole Foods” and other chains began to tout and commercialize the value of organics and natural, healthy fare, Royal Oak’s very own was already far ahead of the trend.

As stated of Mr. Vutetakis on his site, “His reputation as a leader in the creation of delicious, healthy and innovative vegetarian cuisine using fresh, unadulterated ingredients flourished as chef and owner of the award winning Inn Season Cafe in Royal Oak, Michigan.” You can read all about the famed chef, author, and teacher here, or check out his popular blog at

George Vutetakis will appear at  The Book Beat on Sunday, June 13th at 2:00 pm to promote his cookbook Vegetarian Traditions:  Favorite Recipes From My Years at the Legendary Inn Season Cafe. As always, check all dates and times before stepping out the door.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by  Megan Shaffer

Related Links

-‘Vegetarian Traditions’ is available at several local outlets including one of my favorites, the Birmingham Farmers Market.

Brad Meltzer Brings ‘Heroes’ to Birmingham Borders

Cover ImageBrad Meltzer is a busy man, just hit his author page and you’ll see what I mean. Though  Meltzer’s best known for his prolific novel writing, this time around the University of Michigan alumnus is switching gears with his first non-fiction work, Heroes for My Son.

Upon the birth of his son Jonas, Meltzer began compiling a list of heroes he could share with his son. Eight years in the making, Meltzer’s list topped off with fifty-two people who  live or lived the extraordinary and serve as examples of inspiration. ‘Heroes for My Son’ is the result of this lovely labor of love.

Mr. Brad Meltzer will offer a reading and signing of his latest book ‘Heroes for My Son’ at Borders in Birmingham tonight, Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 7:00 PM. As always, it’s wise to double check all event information before heading out the door.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer