Michigan Mysteries

Our Michigan in the Novel collection contains books from nearly every genre of fiction. Some of our favorites are the mysteries. These tales are all set in Michigan locales, from the back woods to the big cities. Here we’ve listed just a few, but our collection contains hundreds of thrillers, chillers, and whodunits.


The Spiritualists and Detectives (1877)

Allan Pinkerton was a Scottish-American immigrant who gained recognition and notoriety as a detective and spy. During the Civil War, he organized the Union’s Secret Service to protect President Lincoln. Pinkerton published a series of detective books, ostensibly based on his real-life cases. The Spiritualists and Detectives contains a number of different crime stories, some of them set in Michigan locales like Kalamazoo and Detroit.

Pinkerton
The Spiritualists and Detectives, Allan Pinkerton. New York: G.W. Carleton & Co., 1877

The Case of Doctor Horace (1907)

John Harcourt Prentis published this mystery drama, set in Detroit and Ann Arbor, about two men who fake a murder to test a theory that a criminal can be caught through the operation of his own guilty conscience.

Prentis
The Case of Doctor Horace: A Study of the Importance of Conscience in the Detection of Crime, John H. Prentis. New York: Baker & Taylor Co., 1907

The Phantom Violin (1934)

Roy J. Snell wrote over 80 novels, including mystery series for boys and girls. The Phantom Violin, set on Isle Royale in Lake Superior, involves three girls who spend a summer living on a shipwreck and hunting for treasure.

Snell
The Phantom Violin, Roy J. Snell. Chicago: The Reilly & Lee Co., 1934

Exit Screaming (1942)

Christopher Hale was the pseudonym of Frances Moyer Ross Stevens (1895-1948), who worked as an advertising copywriter in Cincinnati and Detroit. Her mystery series featured the recurring character Lieutenant Bill French of the Michigan State Police. In Exit Screaming, Lt. French is called in to investigate the murder of an eccentric woman in the small town of “Avondale.”

Hale
Exit Screaming, Christopher Hale. New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1942

Anatomy of a Murder (1958)

John D. Voelker, an attorney and eventual Michigan Supreme Court Justice, drew on his vast experience with and love of the law to achieve success as an author, writing under the pen name Robert Traver. His best-selling courtroom drama and mystery Anatomy of a Murder was based on a real-life murder case in Big Bay, Michigan. The book was adapted into a movie in 1959 produced by Columbia Pictures, and starred Jimmy Stewart, Lee Remick, and George C. Scott.

Traver
Anatomy of a Murder, Robert Traver. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1958

The Make-Believe Man (1963)

Elizabeth Fenwick wrote over a dozen novels from the 1940s to the 1970s. In The Make-Believe Man, a thriller set in Detroit and Dearborn, a woman and her eleven year old son are terrorized while staying at her mother’s house.

Fenwick
The Make-Believe Man, Elizabeth Fenwick. New York: Harper & Row, 1963

The Glass Highway (1983)

Loren Estleman crafted a popular mystery series featuring the character Amos Walker, a Detroit private investigator. In The Glass Highway, Walker is hired to find the missing son of a local television anchor and finds himself embroiled in a case involving drug dealers, corrupt cops, and hit men.

Estelman_crop
The Glass Highway, Loren D. Estleman. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1983

The Dead of Winter (1995)

Like Christopher Hale (Frances M. R. Stevens), Paula Gosling also worked as an advertising copywriter before finding success as a crime novelist. The Dead of Winter is set in Blackwater Bay, Michigan during a local ice festival, and unravels the mystery linking a dead high school student, a missing chemistry teacher, and a drug dealer.

Gosling
The Dead of Winter, Paula Gosling. London: Little, Brown & Co. 1995

 

Sources

Beasecker, Robert, “Michigan in the Novel 1816 – 2006: An Annotated Bibliography, Second Edition, Revised and Corrected” (2013). Books and Contributions to Books. 6. http://scholarworks.gvsu.edu/library_books/6

“Biographical Notes.” Accessed April 4, 2017. http://www.philsp.com/homeville/fmi/z/z133.htm.

“Gadetection / Hale, Christopher.” Accessed April 4, 2017. http://gadetection.pbworks.com/w/page/7930713/Hale,%20Christopher.

“John D(onaldson) Voelker.” In Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Literature Resource Center (accessed April 4, 2017). http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=lom_gvalleysu&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CH1000102096&asid=da91859b407fbef86e17dff622f74a4e.

“Loren D. Estleman.” In Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2016. Literature Resource Center (accessed April 4, 2017). http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=lom_gvalleysu&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CH1000029853&asid=34115c8ddb3e3e17e1d79fab337ec6e5.

“Paula Gosling.” In Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Literature Resource Center (accessed April 4, 2017). http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=lom_gvalleysu&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CH1000038331&asid=510a694c73518dfaa789d42bf8e8558d.

Perkins, George B., Barbara Perkins, and Phillip Leininger. “Pinkerton, Allan (1819-1884).” In Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia of American Literature, 848. Vol. 1. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. Literature Resource Center (accessed April 4, 2017). http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=lom_gvalleysu&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA16854291&asid=1d0edd848286fbd0b9edec1c9429aa17.

Birds and Fish of Japan

In March of 1852, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry received orders to command a diplomatic mission to Japan. Some 18 previous expeditions, 4 of them from America, had failed to breach the Japanese wall of isolation. And while the Perry expedition is famous as a diplomatic coup, less well known are the expedition’s contributions to the sciences of astronomy, hydrography, ethnology, botany, geology, medicine, ornithology, ichthyology, and conchology.

The three-volume report of the expedition to the U.S. House of Representatives, Narrative of the expedition of an American squadron to the China seas and Japan, performed in the years 1852, 1853 and 1854 under the command of Commodore M.C. Perry, United States Navy by order of the government of the United States, was printed in Washington, D.C. by A.O.P. Nicholson in 1856. In addition to the narrative report, the set includes a multitude of charts, fold-out maps,  and illustrations.

Volume II of the set contains a myriad of reports on the agriculture, geology, medicine, biology, and botany of Japan. It includes these beautifully engraved color illustrations of birds, fish, and shellfish, as well as other engravings and illustrations.


Birds

Plate 2 _ Ornithology. Phasianus Scemmering II _ Temminck. Lith of Wm E Hitchcock Phila.
Plate 2 _ Ornithology. Phasianus Scemmering II _ Temminck. Lith of Wm E Hitchcock Phila.
Plate 5 _ Ornithology. Heterornis Sericea (Gmelin). On Stone by Wm E Hitchcock.
Plate 5 _ Ornithology. Heterornis Sericea (Gmelin). On Stone by Wm E Hitchcock.
Plate 6 _ Ornithology. Ixos Haemorrhous _ Gmelin. Lith of Wm E Hitchcock, Phila.
Plate 6 _ Ornithology. Ixos Haemorrhous _ Gmelin. Lith of Wm E Hitchcock, Phila.

Fish

Nat. Hist. Pl. III. No. 1 - Serranus Tsirimenara. No. 2 - Serranus Marginalis. Bayard Taylor del.
Nat. Hist. Pl. III. No. 1 – Serranus Tsirimenara. No. 2 – Serranus Marginalis. Bayard Taylor del.
Page013_L_crop
Nat. Hist. Pl. IV. No. 1 – Sebastes Marmoratus. No. 2 – Sebastes Marmoratus. H. Patterson del.
Page015_L_crop
Nat. Hist. Pl. V. No 1. Pelor Japonicum – Life Size. No. 2 – Sebastes Inermis – Life Size. No. 3 – Trigla Burgei. H. Patterson del.
Nat. Hist. Pl. VIII. 1. Serranus Urodelus. 2. Iulis Quadricolor. 3 & 4 - Iulis Lutesens.
Nat. Hist. Pl. VIII. 1. Serranus Urodelus. 2. Iulis Quadricolor. 3 & 4 – Iulis Lutesens.

 

Shellfish

Conchology Plate II. H. Lawrence, Lith. 88 John St. New York
Conchology Plate II. H. Lawrence, Lith. 88 John St. New York
Conchology Plate V. H. Lawrence, Lith. 88 John St. New York
Conchology Plate V. H. Lawrence, Lith. 88 John St. New York

 

Narrative of the expedition of an American squadron to the China seas and Japan… is a part of the U.S. Serial Set, which is a series of over 14,000 volumes containing hundreds of thousands of numbered congressional reports and documents which have been published since 1817. Grand Valley State University houses this set in Special Collections & University Archives in agreement with the Grand Rapids Public Library.

Books Go To War

Armed Services Editions, 1943-1947

During the Second World War the paperback series known as the Armed Services Editions were distributed free to American soldiers, sailors, and airmen overseas.

Mash1

The idea for the program came from two Army officers and was further developed by the Council on Books in Wartime, an association of publishers, booksellers, and librarians.  This group was able to convince the armed forces, publishers, and printing firms of the positive impact that this initiative would have on the American men in uniform.

Mash2

Not sold or available in the United States, these paperback books introduced thousands of servicemen to the pleasures of reading.  Between 1943 and 1947, almost 123 million copies of 1,322 titles were printed.  All types of literature were available: classics, best-sellers, non-fiction, mysteries, and westerns, among others.

The books displayed here are from the Grand Valley State University Libraries’ collections and loaned by J. Randall Bergers.

Chained Books

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, books were valuable goods in that they were expensive to purchase.  One source mentions that one book was worth as much as a farm.  Being portable, books were easily subject to theft.  To prevent such occurrences, churches and schools developed a system of chaining books to tables, desks and lecterns in such a way that they could be read, but not taken away.

This book still has its sixteenth-century chain of eight links that is connected to a hasp, itself attached to the rear wooden cover.  The book appears to have been owned privately before it ended up as part of the collection of the English parochial library in Ecclesfield, Yorkshire, which probably added the chain. Grand Valley State University Libraries purchased the volume in 2011, and it can be viewed and studied at Special Collections & University Archives.

Suetonius 1491 binding

Suetonius Tranquillus, Gaius. Vitae XII Caesarum. With commentary by Marcus Antonius Sabellicus.
Added texts: Marcus Antonius Sabellicus, Epistola Augus-tino Barbadico and Vita Suetonii. Ausonius, Versus. Sicco Polentonus, De Suetonio.
Milan: Uldericus Scinzenzaler, 19 November 1491.
Folio.  Collation:  a-f8 g-h10 i-m8 n-r6 s8 (-s8 [blank])

Suetonius, a Roman historian, was born ca. AD 70 and died sometime after 130.  He was a contemporary of Tacitus, another Roman historian, and friends with Pliny the Younger.  Suetonius was a prolific writer, but his most famous work is Lives of the Twelve Caesars.  It has always been a popular work, although it concentrates on personalities and ignores the generalities of the times and society, and perhaps relies too much on gossip, scandal, and amusing anecdotes.  No fewer than thirteen editions were printed in the fifteenth century.

Dell Map Backs

Dell Publishing was founded in 1921 by George T. Delacorte.  In the 1920s and 1930s it published a variety of magazines, including the so-called “pulps,” as well as comic books.  Beginning in 1943 the company began its foray into paperback publishing, which consisted mostly of reprints of hardcover mystery novels, but later included westerns and romances.

With its fifth book in 1943, George Harmon Coxe’s Four Frightened Women, the company initiated its ten-year program of putting a map on the back cover of these books.  These “scene of the crime” maps could show streets of a town or city, the plan of a country house or apartment, or a bird’s-eye-view drawing of the locale where the story takes place.  Some are not maps at all, but merely drawings that illustrate scenes from the novel.  This successful marketing strategy gradually ended by 1953; by that time more than 600 Dell map backs had been issued.  They are now highly esteemed by collectors.

A few examples from the University Libraries collection are featured here.  The wide range of front cover art should be noted; some are very well designed, while others are more typical of lurid and sensational pulp fiction.


 Mysteries

Spring Harrowing by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
Spring Harrowing by Phoebe Atwood Taylor
The Wall by Mary Roberts Rinehart
The Wall by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Romance

White Fawn by Olive Higgins Prouty
White Fawn by Olive Higgins Prouty
The Heart Remembers by Faith Baldwin
The Heart Remembers by Faith Baldwin

Westerns

Gunsmoke and Trail Dust by Bliss Lomax
Gunsmoke and Trail Dust by Bliss Lomax
Cactus Cavalier by Norman A. Fox
Cactus Cavalier by Norman A. Fox