Monday, November 28, 2016

Michigan True crime

Look through the library’s unsettling collection of Michigan Murders, some new and some very old, for a walk on the dark side of human behavior.  Various authors have written about the worst murders in Michigan, recreating the events leading up to, and following, these life-changing events.  These “New” books can be found in the 364.1523 section of Michigan Non-fiction on the second floor of the library.

Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked (2016) by Gregory A. Fournier is a
very readable chronology of seven murders in Washtenaw County between the summers of 1967 and 1969, beginning with the discovery of a mutilated female corpse on a farm outside of Ypsilanti, Michigan.  More bodies of young women were found over the next two years, matching descriptions of missing coeds from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti and the University of Michigan in nearby Ann Arbor.  John Norman Collins, your typical boy-next-door, was finally caught in August of 1969 when he became careless and killed his last victim in the basement of his uncle who was a Michigan State Police officer.  The book is divided into three sections:  Part One describing the actual murders, Part Two recounting the trial of John Norman Collins, and Part Three detailing the time Collins spent in Michigan prisons.  He was transferred to the Marquette Branch Prison in 1977 and has been there ever since.  Fournier waded through hundreds of newspaper articles, interviews, and police reports, in order to relate this true crime story in journalistic style. He also includes a photo gallery, a timeline, and a map of murder locations to clarify the complex string of events. 

Terror in the City of Champions: Murder, Baseball, and the Secret Society that shocked Depression Era Detroit (2016) by Tom Stanton will enthrall baseball fans with the history and sports statistics of the Detroit Tigers during the 1930’s.  Mickey Cochrane jump-started the Tigers by leading the team to the 1934 pennant and the 1935 championship, only to be followed by a string of victories for Detroit’s other sports teams: Red Wings hockey and Lions football.  History buffs will delight in the concentration of regional history in Detroit and southeastern Michigan.  The Motor City was an industrial giant, even during the depression, with Henry Ford and his union busters playing prominently in the cast of the city’s leading citizens.  Readers of true crime stories will be amazed at the brutal activities carried out by the Black Legion, a group of racists modeled after the Ku Klux Klan, who coerced members to join by threatening to destroy their families, homes, and businesses.  No one was safe in the greater Detroit area as long as the Black Legion used the protection of members who were city officials, politicians and police officers to carry out murders, arson, and terror.

Blood on the Mitten: Infamous Michigan Murders (2016) by Tom Carr is written in magazine style with graphics and photos accompanying each short article.  Carr briefly covers Michigan murders from all over the state, some notorious and some known only in their geographic areas.  The oldest crime in this book, from 1753, took place during a lacrosse game between the Ojibway and Sauk Indians.  When the ball went over the fence, the spectators used concealed knives to kill the British soldiers at Fort Michilimackinac and took possession of the fort for over a year.  The most recent murder occurred earlier this year when an Uber driver in Kalamazoo went on a random shooting spree in between driving his customers to their destinations in the city.  This book has the facts about 57 interesting, but gruesome, tales of murder.

Isadore's Secret: Sin, Murder, and Confession in a Northern Michigan Town  (2009) by Mardi Link uncovers the secrets of the tiny town of Isadore in the lower peninsula that has been hiding the details of the disappearance of Sister Mary Janina, a Felician nun at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, since 1907.  The only clues to her existence were her rosary on the doorknob and prayerbook on the windowsill of her room.  Ten years later, her skeleton was found in the church basement, during demolition of the building in order to make way for a new brick structure.  Was Sister Mary Janina having an affair with the priest?  Did she have a conflict with his housekeeper?  Her story ties into those of the priest who may have been her lover, another priest who fathered a child in the community, the sheriff accused of torturing the suspected murderer, and the parish housekeeper who was eventually arrested for the murder.  Two other Michigan Murders by the same author are When Evil Came to Good Hart (2008) and Wicked takes the Witness Stand (2014).

Bath Massacre: American's First School Bombing (2009) by Arnie Bernstein begins peacefully.   “May 18, 1927 started out as the perfect day.”  Then, at 8:45 in the morning, the schoolhouse in Bath, Michigan exploded, killing 42 people and damaging several buildings in town.  Andrew Kehoe, one of the newer and more unusual residents of Bath, set off the explosives and killed himself in the effort.  His wife was found murdered on their farm and set ablaze, along with the entire farm.  This pre-meditated series of murders was unprecedented, and provided the newspapers with headlines for weeks to come.  Walk through the whole chain of events leading up to the worst school massacre in Michigan history.

--Lynette Suckow, Reference Desk

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