Michigan in the Novel

Comprising over 2,600 titles with additional copies in different formats, editions, and bindings, Michigan in the Novel is the most comprehensive collection of novels with Michigan settings existing in any institution. All genres of fiction are represented, including juvenile literature, mysteries, romances, literary fiction, and science fiction. The earliest title in the collection dates from 1816 and the collection spans to the present day. This online exhibit features a small selection from this wonderful collection.

Michigan in the Novel 1816 – 2006: An Annotated Bibliography, Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged

Braun, Lilian Jackson   (1913-2011)

Lillian Braun books

  • The Cat Who Went Bananas.  NY: Putnam, 2004.
  • The Cat Who Talked Turkey.  NY: Putnam, 2004.
  • The Cat Who Brought Down the House.  NY: Putnam, 2003.

Lilian Jackson Braun began her long-lived “The Cat Who” series in 1966 with The Cat Who Could Read Backwards.  Each book feature a pair of very clever Siamese felines who assist a reporter in solving a variety of puzzling mysteries.  The first four books were set in Detroit, and those that follow have taken place in the Upper Peninsula town of “Pickax City” which the author describes as “four hundred miles north of everywhere.”  Braun’s 29th book in this series was published in January 2007.

Reardon, Lisa  (b. 1962)

Books by Lisa Reardon

  • Billy Dead.  NY: Viking, 1998.
  • Blameless.  NY: Random House, 2000.
  • The Mercy Killers.  NY: Counterpoint, 2004.

Lisa Reardon, born Lisa Ann Hicks in Ann Arbor, began her writing career as a playwright.  Her novels show a distinct gift for characterization, and all fearlessly explore the seamy, anguished, and mostly hidden sides of family relationships: child abuse, drug and alcohol dependency, incest, and murder.  Two of her books are set in southeastern Michigan (Lenawee County and Ypsilanti) and the third in the Grand Traverse area.

Baxter, Charles  (b. 1947)

Books by Charles Baxter

  • Saul and Patsy.  NY: Pantheon, 2003.
  • The Feast of Love.  NY: Pantheon, 2000.

Winner of the Michigan Author Award in 1993, Charles Baxter has taught at Wayne State University and  the University of Michigan before moving on to the University of Minnesota.  Although he has said that he prefers writing short stories, his novels have all received critical acclaim.  In these two novels, the first set in Ann Arbor and the second near Midland, he continues his favorite theme of his characters’ hopes, dreams, and tragedies.

Strickland, Brad  (b. 1947)

Books by Brad Strickland

  • The Beast Under the Wizard’s Bridge.  NY: Dial, 2000.
  • The Tower at the End of the World.  NY: Dial, 2001.

Beginning in 1973, John Bellairs (1938-1991) wrote a number of children’s books that featured Lewis Barnavelt, his magician uncle, and friend Rose Rita Pottinger in a variety of occult mysteries.  Brad Strickland has continued the series, which is set in Marshall, Michigan—in the books called “New Zebedee”—in the 1950s.

Cleage, Pearl  (b. 1948)

Books by Pearl Cleage

  • What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day…  NY: Avon, 1997.
  • I Wish I Had a Red Dress.  NY: William Morrow, 2001.

Born in Massachusetts and now living in Atlanta, Georgia, Cleage spent her childhood and high school years in Detroit.  Her first novel received national attention when it was selected for Oprah Winfrey’s book club.  Both of the books here deal with African-American women and the consequences of life choices.  Set in the African-American resort community of Idlewild near Baldwin in Lake County.

Estleman, Loren D.  (b. 1952)

Books by Loren D. Estleman

  • Motor City Blue. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980.
  • Sinister Heights.  NY: Mysterious Press, 2002.

Estleman’s first book featuring Amos Walker, the cynical, hard-drinking, and wise-cracking private investigator, appeared in 1980.  Since then the series has been going strong and has a wide following.  Some critics have claimed that the more important character in the novels is the city of Detroit itself, deftly drawn by the author with a combination of love and loathing.

Whelan, Gloria Ann  (b. 1923)

Books by Gloria Whelan

  • Welcome to Starvation Lake.  NY: Golden Books, 2000.
  • Rich and Famous in Starvation Lake.  NY: Golden Books, 2001.
  • Are There Bears in Starvation Lake?  NY: Golden Books, 2002.

Noted young-adult novelist Gloria Whelan has been the recipient of the Michigan Author Award and the prestigious National Book Award.  In these books she has created three connected chapter books for fourth-grade readers.  “Starvation Lake” is loosely based on Whelan’s northern Michigan hometown of Mancelona.

Driscoll, Jack  (b. 1946)

Books by Jack Driscoll

  • Stardog.  NY: Dorling Kindersley, 2000.
  • How Like an Angel.  Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.

Jack Driscoll, writer in residence at Interlochen Center for the Arts south of Traverse City, has written novels, poetry, and short fiction.  In these two recent novels his male characters struggle with mid-life crises and troubled relationships with women.  The settings are Sault Ste. Marie and a Benzie County cabin, respectively.

Hellenga, Robert  (b. 1941)

Robert Hellenga, Blue Lessons

  • Blues Lessons.  NY: Scribner, 2002.

Blues music and the daughter of the African-American foreman of his family’s apple orchards are twin loves a high school junior.  Both will greatly affect the rest of his life.  The novel is set in “Appleton” in Berrien County, and is probably based on Three Oaks, the town where Hellenga grew up.

Eugenides, Jeffrey  (b. 1960)

Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex

  • Middlesex.  NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2002.

When published in 2002, Detroit native Jeffrey Eugenides’ second novel received both critical acclaim and some notoriety for its subject matter.  Set mostly in Detroit in the 1970s, the book concerns a Greek-American girl who, while attending a private school, becomes attracted to a female classmate and discovers that her family carries a genetic mutation that causes a predisposition to hermaphroditism.

Heywood, Joseph

Woods Cop books by Joseph Heywood

  • Ice Hunter.  Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press, 2001.
  • Blue Wolf in Green Fire.  Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press, 2002.
  • Chasing a Blond Moon.  Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press, 2003.
  • Running Dark.  Guilford, Conn.: Lyons Press, 2005.

Former Marine and Vietnam veteran Grady Service is the protagonist in Heywood’s “Woods Cop” series of mysteries.  Service is a Michigan Department of Conservation officer who operates in the “Mosquito Wilderness Tract” in the Upper Peninsula and becomes involved in a variety of adventures, from poachers and animal rights advocates to illegal fishing.  Heywood, an avid sportsman himself, lives in Portage.

Kasischke, Laura Kay  (b. 1961)

Books by Lara Kay Kasischke

  • Boy Heaven.  New York: HarperTempest, 2006.
  • The Life Before Her Eyes.  New York: Harcourt, 2002.
  • Suspicious River.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.

Since the publication of her first book of poetry, Wild Brides (1992), Laura Kasischke has been recognized as a writer of great talent in both poetry and prose.  She received her MFA from the University of Michigan where she now teaches creative writing in the Department of English.  She has been the recipient of many national awards, besides the numerous Hopwood Awards from Michigan when she was a student: the Bobst Award for Emerging Writers (NYU Press), Beatrice Hawley Award, Juniper Award (Univ. of Massachusetts Press), Alice Fay DiCastagnola Award (Poetry Society of America).