Six New Books for May
1. The Art of Cooking Morels, by Ruth Mossok Johnston (University of Michigan Press, $29.95). Foraging for morels is often the most romanticized and documented aspect of the treasured mushrooms, which appear in Michigan woodlands this time of year. But cooking with the honeycombed fungi can be just as adventurous. Johnston, a Franklin-based food writer, includes such dishes as morel- and scallion-filled Ebelskivers (traditional orb-like Danish pancakes), grilled and skewered morel-bison kafta, along with more routine fare. The book’s illustrations, by the author’s artist husband, David McCall Johnston, lend distinction and impart a hunger for the real thing.
2. Detroit: A Biography, by Scott Martelle (Chicago Review Press, $24.95). Detroit’s well-documented woes, which continue to be the darling of roving international reporters in search of shock and awe, are the subject of this book. Writer Scott Martelle, a former Detroit News reporter, traces the roots of Detroit’s decline through various eras and examines prospects for the city’s future.
3. The Skeleton Box: A Starvation Lake Mystery, by Bryan Gruley (Touchstone, $25). In this, the third of Bryan Gruley’s Starvation Lake books, the narrative continues to follow small-town newspaper editor Gus Carpenter as he runs down a story that intersects his private life. Writing of what he knows (Northern Michigan and newspapering), Gruley, a Michigan native and reporter at large for Bloomberg News, pulls in the reader much the same as a solid news story captures public attention. This old-school whodunit headlined by a humble protagonist keeps the reader turning pages well past lights out.
4. The Michigan Companion, edited by Arthur M. Woodford, foreword by Philip P. Mason, distinguished professor of history, Wayne State University (OmniData, $46). Alphabetically, this hefty guide blankets the state from Sid Abel to Zug Island. The 847-page tome takes an encyclopedic look, covering a vast array of topics: art, entertainment, festivals, food, geography, history, holidays, industry, institutions, media, music, people, philanthropy, religion, and sports. This reference book will answer household debates and spur inspiration for in-state travel. The more than 1,200 entries include a share of trivia. An example: Kalkaska Sand is the state’s official soil. One of more than 500 soils in Michigan, Kalkaska Sand is found in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula. Of course, attempts at exhaustive coverage inevitably invite comments about missing entries. We wondered why Chelsea-based novelist Laura Kasischke was omitted among Michigan writers. We also noted that birthdates for TV news anchors were not listed (a bow to vanity?). That said, this is a Companion that all Michigan residents with any curiosity at all should keep at hand.
5. The Light Between, by Terry Blackhawk (Wayne State University Press, $15.95). In her sixth volume of poetry, Blackhawk exposes the wounds, recriminations, anger, and the stupefying sense of loss a divorce brings. In “Medea, Garland of Fire,” the Detroit poet uses the myth of Jason and Medea as a springboard for her feelings, but she more compactly distills her emotions in “Belle Isle Solitary: New Year’s Eve.” Too much sadness and resentment could easily drag the book down, but Blackhawk takes solace in the salve of nature. In the end, it’s a tonic, a triumph of the individual spirit, as she concludes in “Meditation in Green”: “Beyond the margin of trees, clouds carry our names. Light on the high wire — brightening silence.”
6. The Flying Firsts of Walter Hinton: From the 1919 Transatlantic Flight to the Arctic and the Amazon, by Benjamin J. Burns (McFarland & Co., $40). Ben Burns, a professor and director of journalism at Wayne State University and former executive editor of The Detroit News, based this slim book on 40 hours of personal interviews with Walter Hinton, an American adventurer. In May 1919, Hinton piloted the first plane to cross the Atlantic (eight years before Detroit-born aviator Charles Lindbergh completed the feat solo). Hinton’s story, described as a lost chapter in the history of American flight, details his many aviation adventures in an era when airplanes began capturing the imagination of the public.