Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A Bit of Ypsilanti History

Ypsilanti, Michigan is a unique place with a rich history that many residents overlook. Only eight miles east of Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan, Ypsilanti often feels like it is Ann Arbor's poor stepchild.

Prior to World War II, Michigan State Normal School had a quiet, pastoral college campus nestled on the northwest edge of Ypsilanti, surrounded by hundreds of acres of prime farm land and fruit orchards. What was to become Eastern Michigan University was bordered on the north by the Huron River.

Whether as a normal school, a college, or a university,  Eastern Michigan has always drawn most of its student body from around the state of Michigan. Eastern's original mission was as a teachers college, but by the nineteen sixties, it became a full-fledged university broadening its scope by offering masters programs in a wide variety of academic areas such as science, business and technology.

Despite this broadened mission, Eastern is still Michigan's largest teacher preparation institution, providing many of the nation's teachers. EMU is proud of the fact that teachers make all of the other professions possible. Think about it!

During the Civil War, The Spanish-American War, and World War I, the United States drew off  substantial numbers of able-bodied young men from Michigan's farming communities. Many of them assembled and disembarked from the train station in Depot Town on Ypsilanti's east side.

The Great Depression and World War Two saw many of the area's farms fall into disrepair, with some simply abandoned. Big money was to be made in support of the war effort. The bulk of able-bodied men had already joined the service, leaving a manpower vacuum at The B-24 Liberator bomber plant in Willow Run. 

To meet labor needs, the Ford Motor Corporation imported workers from the South and drew additional workers from a previously untapped source, the women of the area. The east side of town soon became a blue collar residential area as it was nearest to the plant.

In the most dramatic demographic shift in the area since the white man drove the red man west, Ypsilanti went from a sunrise-to-sundown farming community to a 24/7 blue collar town.

America changed almost overnight from a rural economy to an urban economy, and soon suburbia would sprawl across the furrowed landscape with the construction of the Federal Interstate Highway System, built during the Eisenhower administration, which changed traffic patterns and hurt the Ypsilanti business community diverting traffic south of town.

Old Ypsilanti runs along Michigan Avenue and comprises the commercial business district. After the Second World War, downtown's fortunes declined. When Ypsilanti had the chance to build a modern shopping center on vacated farm land, the local business community felt it would spell disaster for downtown businesses, and they rejected it. Forward-looking Ann Arbor snapped up the Briarwood development.

During the nineteen sixties, Ypsilanti decided to take some of the War on Poverty money from the Johnson administration's Great Society program and built low-income government housing, known in town as "the projects." 

Rather than incorporating these housing units around the city, the decision was made to build them just north of the expressway and south of downtown. This development created a minority isolated community with a legacy of racial division.

In many ways, Ypsilanti is a microcosm of America history. Its fortunes have waxed and waned with those of the country, yet it still survives with pride in its achievements and optimism for a bright future. 

Recognizing the wealth of historic architecture in their town, The Ypsilanti Heritage Foundation is taking steps to preserve its nineteenth-century homes and restore the area's remaining timber framed barn shells, many of which have been destroyed over the years.

See Ypsi-Ann Trolley post:

Ypsilanti Heritage Foundation website:

Monday, April 11, 2016

Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel Gets Facelift

Photo by Nicole Fribourg
While I am waiting to get Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked back from my editor, I decided to revise Zug Island for a second edition in preparation of the 50th anniversary of the Detroit Riots in July of 2017. 

In addition to correcting minor errors and rewriting a couple of ambiguous passages, I supplemented several areas to include more content. For example, in the riot section I added several paragraphs about the Algiers Motel incident made famous by author John Hershey. The Detroit Police were hoping this multiple murder would get lost in the fog of war, but there were too many witnesses for it to be ignored. Now, it is part of Detroit's history.
Beyond supplementing and revising Zug Island, the novel will have a new cover. I want to cross-market Zug with Terror when that book comes out in July. Both will be available through Amazon and Kindle. When I get specific release information, I will pass it on through my blog. I'm hoping to set up an advanced sales mechanism, so interested people can preorder Terror. Readers who subscribe to my Fornology blog will be the first notified. Your privacy is assured. I do not collect contact information nor share it on the internet. 

Terror in Ypsilanti is independently published and needs all the exposure I can muster. With your help, we can make this long-awaited and overdue nonfiction treatment of the Washtenaw County murders and John Norman Collins' involvement a success.


Zug Island first edition Goodreads reviews:

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Tao of Book Publicity

Writing a book takes blood, sweat, and tears, but without publicity, even the best books are doomed to obscurity. That applies to both traditionally and independently published books. Only 20% ever return a profit. Most titles die on the vine if readers don't know about them or can't find them.

In today's marketplace, authors are required to create their own marketing plans and run their own publicity campaigns. For most authors, book promotion is more challenging and expensive than writing the book.

With the advent of internet publishing and self-promotion, the old ways of selling books aren't as effective. As the business changes, authors new to promotion are often left in the dark and soon become discouraged. Because of the plethora of good and bad internet advice on publishing, much of it green fleecing, it is difficult for the novice to know where to turn.

This is where Paula Margulies' new book, The Tao of Book Publicity: A Beginner's Guide to Book Promotion, can give authors a leg up on the competition. With twenty years of experience in the book publicity business, Paula gives targeted advice about press releases, author platforms, distribution, book covers, blog tours, speaking events, media interviews, social media, websites, contests, and many other topics neatly arranged and easy to find. It is one-stop shopping for practical advice on breaking into the business. Experienced authors will also find this reference book a valuable resource.

Paula's Tao of Book Publishing comes at a great time for me as I gear up to promote my latest book, Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked. I've already put it to good use.

Monday, March 28, 2016

World War II Secret Sub

This is one of the best documentaries about the war in the Pacific. Attached is a fifty-three minute documentary about an incredible and unknown super weapon of World War II. Germany had the V-2 rocket, the United States had the atomic bomb, and Japan had the super-sub.

The Largest Submarine in World War II:

Monday, March 21, 2016

Allegory of Spring - La Primavera

One of the loveliest expressions of springtime is the early Renaissance painting La Primavera (aka. Allegory of Spring) meaning literally "first green" by Italian painter Sandro Botticelli. It is believed he painted it in 1482. The painting hangs in the Uffizi Galley in Florence, Italy, and is a prized Italian national treasure.

Botticelli self-portrait at age thirty in 1475,
Botticelli took his inspiration from the classical writing of the Roman Ovid and his description of spring. The central figure is Venus. To the right of the painting, the blue and chilly Zephyrus catches Flora and impregnates her and she morphs into a fertility figure. To the left, the Three Graces--Charm, Beauty, and Joy--dance as Mercury holds the clouds back from Venus' realm. A blindfolded Cupid seems up to mischief. That's what I see anyway.

For a more detailed analysis of the painting, check out this short link:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rosie the Riveter - Happy Women's History Month, Ladies

In honor of all the Rosies who stepped up to fill the work shoes of the men in uniform. America would never be the same nor would these women.

I love this link. I hope you do also:

Monday, March 7, 2016

Looking Evil in the Face

In act one of Shakespeare's Macbeth, the idea that guilt shows on a person's face is a motif that runs throughout the play. Lady Macbeth warns her husband early on "Your face, my thane, is as a book, where men may read strange matters." She advises him to "...look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under't."

Macbeth has a conscience - Lady Macbeth doesn't. By the end of act one, he tries to take her advice, "False face must hide what the false heart doth know." A person with a conscience cannot pull that off - unfortunately, a sociopath can. By the end of the play, King Macbeth has become a serial killer, through his henchmen, of men, women, and children.

Cesare Lombroso
The idea that criminal traits can show on a person's face gained popular acceptance near the end of the nineteenth century. An Italian criminologist and physician named Cesare Lombroso was credited with the theory "...that some types of people are closer to our primitive ancestors than others." He utilized the work of Pierre-Paul Broca to create this "new science" of criminal anthropology which relied upon facial measurements and anomalies of the skull, face, and body to determine who was a criminal type and who was not.

Broca believed in the concept of the born criminal who was a "throwback to earlier hedonistic races." In the twentieth century, this theory was strongly reinforced in the popular culture through movies, dime novels, pulp fiction, radio mystery shows, and television crime dramas. Rather than scientific, these ideas broke along racial, ethnic, and religious lines more often than not. The Nazis made great use of this junk science which they proudly documented in the last century.

Today, crime science has reliable and irrefutable tools like fingerprints, DNA analysis, and chemical and fiber labs to help catch and convict sociopathic killers. The trouble is that someone must lose their life before any of this science can be put to work.

Understanding "the construction of the mind" simply by looking at someones physical traits does not work. Sociopaths who kill usually look normal and blend into the background, so their behavior often requires psychological profiling before they are caught. Regrettably, profiling only becomes more accurate as the body count rises.