Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked by Gregory A. Fournier

Publication Date: September 5, 2016

 

Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked by Gregory A. Fournier takes place between 1967 and 1969, when a number of young women between the ages of 13 and 21 disappeared from the streets in Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, Michigan, many of them co-eds at Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan. John Norman Collins was initially only charged with the murder of Karen Sue Beineman, an 18-year-old EMU student, but his links to other murders, including one in California; seemed straightforward for authorities. In Terror in Ypsilanti, Fournier dives into the crimes of Michigan serial killer, John Norman Collins. 

To be upfront, I was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan 3 months after Collins was formally sentenced for the murder of Karen Sue Beineman. Collins was the story moms used to scare children about why they should never walk alone. the local urban legend road, Denton Road, was known as a place that Collins’ dumped the body of Jane Louise Mixer, a 23-year-old University of Michigan law student (she was later found not to be a Collins’ victim when DNA matched Gary Leiterman to the crime in 2004). The spot where the body was left was included by friends in my surprise 15th birthday party which my mother did not allow me to attend. My friends went anyway and, as teens do, other teens jumped out and scared them. Sounds like it was a great time if, looking back, perhaps quite disrespectful for a final resting place. 

Like Fournier and some of the victims, I’m was a student at and am a graduate of Eastern Michigan University. 

Fournier makes the same mistake in Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked that many true crime authors do—his book is all about the killer. Not only is the book all about the killer but it is very light on new information or indeed; interviews 40 years on with families of the victims and investigators on the case. The murders themselves are the background to the legal procedural/investigative nature of the narrative. The book seems to have been written solely from publicly available documents. The leg up that this book has on Keyes’s The Michigan Murders is that real names are used but was written nearly half a decade after its predecessor which Keyes wrote in the wake of the disappearances of the women and likely while Collins’ was still appealing his conviction. I’m sure the families of his alleged victims appreciated the discretion. 

There are quite a large number of errors in Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked that could have been resolved with a good editor. The feeling of the nature of the errors (duplicate pages, procedural errors, etc.) is that perhaps there was a rush to publish. Out of curiosity, I looked up to see if something was going on with Collins in 2016 but the only articles that I found were about the release of Fournier’s take on the story. 

So, you may ask, this book was released in 2016 and you’re from Ypsilanti. Why didn’t you review it until now? I bought the book when it was released and had followed Fournier’s progress with interest on his blog (click here for his blog).  My Dad, who moved to Ypsilanti around the time of the murders to work at the Willow Run Plant, had read it and really enjoyed a look back at what had been all over the news at the time. He’d been worried for his sister, who had moved to Ypsilanti for the same reason, before him. He appreciated the rehashing of the case and not the murders. 

Talking with my Dad, I had the sense that if you already have a good background on the case, you will really enjoy Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked. I have a good background but found the book a bit of a slog so put it down and didn’t pick it back up until hearing Fournier on the Most Notorious podcast talking about the case. Am I happy to have picked it up? No. Do I feel better informed? No. I also wonder how many things in the book are wrong just based on what I know to be wrong.

Fournier does go into what happened with Collins’s after he was tried which is interesting but just filler. I’m not going to recommend that my non-Ypsilanti followers buy this book. If you want to know about the case, The Michigan Murders is a better read. The names have been changed and some of the facts of the murders are altered to protect the families of the victims facts about the actual case are easy to find online – or if you’d like what you can find online in one place, buy Fournier’s Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked.

 

Read an excerpt and buy Terror in Ypsilanti: John Norman Collins Unmasked by Gregory Fournier on

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The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Laura Lyons is a housewife in 1913 living with her family in an apartment in the New York Public Library where her husband is the superintendent. She enrolls in Columbia Journalism School and finds a new world outside of the library walls and her where women have their own identiy. When someone starts stealing rare books and her lifestyle is at risk, she has to make a choice.

Eighty years later, Laura’s granddaughter, Sadie, is hired as a curator at the New York Public Library. When rare books from an exhibit Sadie is setting up starts to go missing, Sadie starts to dig into the past and may not like what she finds.

 

Readers of my blog will know that I love historical fiction. I full expected to be fangirling in this review when starting the books. The mystery, varied timelines, New York Public Library tie, it sounds fascinating on paper. The paper on which it is fascinating is not the pages of this book. The Lions of Fifth Avenue is not the worst book I’ve ever read. It felt self-indulgent on the part of the author. Davis wanted this setting and timeline tie but the story and characters never really seemed to come together. This is the only book I’ve read by Fiona Davis so the rest of her books might be brilliant. Am I likely to find out? No. 

Continue reading The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

Hollywood (Mini Series – 2020)

Release Date: May 1, 2021

Hollywood follows the lives of aspiring stars of various races and sexual persuasions pursuing their movie making dreams in Hollywood’s Golden Age.

 

 

 

Hollywood is piece of alternate fiction featuring 7 episodes. The miniseries follows the people involved in the making of “Peg” a reimagining of the story of Peg Entwhistle, an aspiring actress who killed herself in 1932 by jumping from the top of the “H” in the Hollywood sign, as the first major motion picture to star a black actress (Laura Harrier). Jeremy Pope plays Archie Coleman, the screenwriter of “Peg” who is both black and gay. 

There is nothing negative that can be said about the acting in Hollywood. David Corenswat as aspiring actor and desperate husband, Jack Castello, gives a heartfelt performance and develops his character drastically over the course of the episodes. Joe Mantello is outstanding as studio executive Dick Samuels who desperately fights to be a good guy in a bad industry. Continue reading Hollywood (Mini Series – 2020)

A Little Birdie Told Me by Sharley Scott

Publication Date: January 25, 2021

It’s 1988 and Belinda is working in a nursing home after having had quite the career driven fall.  Her new job is boring and a bit frustrating but the light at the end of that tunnel is her co-worker, Joe for whom she harbors a secret attraction though her insecurity stands in the way of hope. When thefts and worse start to happen at the nursing home, she turns to Joe. When she discovers something disturbing, she has to decide if she’ll go along to get along or if she’ll stand up for what is right and protect her residents.

I received this book for review from the Book Club Reviewer Facebook group.

 

A Little Birdie Told Me is a snapshot of the 80s. Scott puts great care into the narrative place in time. I graduated high school and started college in 1988. Scott winks at her readers through topical jokes that, given the popularity with young folk of the 80s, will unlikely become dated but could evade a certain audience but then the genre of women’s fiction itself can sometimes be a bit specific. Scott’s humor will have broad appeal. Despite the attention to background detail, A Little Birdie Told Me is a quick read that flows really well. Continue reading A Little Birdie Told Me by Sharley Scott

Upcoming Podcast – The Doors of Heritage by Amherstburg History

 

Hough House at Fort Malden. At varied times administration building, asylum and now museum

Do you love history? No matter where you are in the world, this podcast focused on the history of a small town in Essex County, Ontario may be for you.  Amherstburg history is Canadian/American history. 

Amherstburg, Ontario is located in southwestern Ontario on the banks of the intersection of the Detroit River and Lake Erie. The cities of Wyandotte and Monroe, Michigan can be seen from the waterfront and it’s the home of Fort Malden which was established in 1796. On the outskirts of the town is the site of the first casualties of the War of 1812 as well as the bloodiest battle of Prohibition (between a small band of Canadian farmers and the Coast Guard). Amherstburg has also long been thought to have the busiest outlet for the Underground Railroad due to the narrow and fairly calm waters (I learned this at the very informative and interesting Amherstburg Freedom Museum formerly known as the North American Black Historical Museum). Amherstburg is mentioned in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Continue reading Upcoming Podcast – The Doors of Heritage by Amherstburg History

Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous by Christopher Bonanos

Publication Date: June 5, 2018

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for the Best Biography of 2018

 

Photographer Arthur Fellig had a second sense as to where emergency services would be and arrived in such a timely fashion that he nicknamed himself “Weegee.” The Austrian immigrant had an unflinching eye for the gritty side of life. Weegee’s flare for the experimental paved the way for photographers of the future and his outlandish personality makes for a life lived on ones own terms. Bonanos shows us the manic man behind the lens. 

 

 

Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous is the story of a man born in what is now Ukraine who immigrated with his family to New York and rose from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the heap. Bonanos shows us a much mythologized man (often by himself – a master self-promoter), warts and all. Often, when writing the story of this sort of character, the narrative can come off at extremes – demeaning or deifying the character. In the case of Arthur Felig, there’s a clear picture of a man who always felt at odds with his world and sought to rise above those who might look down their noses at him. The author conveys an empathy to the reader for a life not easily lived. Continue reading Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous by Christopher Bonanos

If She Dies by Erik Therme

Publication Date: February 21, 2021

The drunk driver that killed Tess’ daughter got two years in prison but why should his daughter, Eve,  live when hers had died. Tess obsessively stalks Eve and when the young girl goes missing, Tess is the obvious suspect but what if it wasn’t her? 

I received this book for review from the Book Club Reviewer Facebook group.

 

If She Dies is a study in grief. Because Tess is telling us this story, we never really know how honest she’s being with us. What the reader learns early on is that Tess avoids reality with the exception of the loss of Lily which she sees as her loss alone. Tess is wrapped in sorrow and an unfocused need for vengeance that leaps from the page. What the first person method does is create a connection to the character for a reader. Tess can be a lot but we understand, she’s lost what she saw as her purpose. She feels that her husband doesn’t feel the loss as deeply as she does but then she doesn’t ask because, frankly, she’s too lost in herself to care. A twist changes the Continue reading If She Dies by Erik Therme

Long Island’s Vanished Heiress: The Unsolved Alice Parsons Kidnapping by Steven C. Drielak

Publication Date: August 3, 2020

In 1937 Alice McDonell Parsons was allegedly picked up at her home by two people interested in seeing a property she had for rent and was never seen again. A note found on the floorboard of a car led police to think it was a kidnapping, which wasn’t so far fetched as kidnaping was a very popular crime at the time. The FBI became involved and Hoover assigned his best agents to the case. The complications that followed and secrets that were exposed complicated the case of the missing woman whose fate was never really known. Drielak takes a deep dive into declassified documents to fit the puzzle pieces of what happened to Alice McDonell Parsons.

 

Long Island’s Vanished Heiress: The Unsolved Alice Parsons Kidnapping is a fascinating read. The author spent 30 years in law enforcement and examines the historical evidence relaying it in a very readable way. There’s no whitewashing of the historical investigation. It was held up by clashes between law enforcement agencies and, in some cases, pedantic investigators. Readers start with the events of June 9, 1937 as relayed by Alice’s housekeeper/business partner, Anna Kupryanova, Continue reading Long Island’s Vanished Heiress: The Unsolved Alice Parsons Kidnapping by Steven C. Drielak

Highland Lioness: A Highland Romance of Tudor Scotland (The Highland Ballad Series Book 4) by Kristin Gleeson

Publication Date: January 15, 2021

Morag McGregor is sent to Scottish Court by her father in hopes that she will make a match or, at least, dampen her desire to get revenge on her neighbour, the Campbells. In a setting tense with religious and political strife will Morag sate her desire for revenge and return to her secret love who is waiting at home?

I received this book for review from the Book Club Reviewer Facebook group.

Highland Lioness is the fourth book in the Highland Ballad Series

 

I have not read any of the previous three books in the Highland Ballad Series and believe that this is the first book I’ve read by Kristin Gleeson and to be quite honest, I did not have high hopes for Highland Lioness in meeting Morag and she and her co-conspirators were lying in wait to sabotage the Campbell’s cattle. First impression was that she was going to be one of these borderline compulsive characters that would careen brainlessly from scrape to scrape until someone “tamed” her completely discounting the historical context of how dangerous a spirited woman might be Continue reading Highland Lioness: A Highland Romance of Tudor Scotland (The Highland Ballad Series Book 4) by Kristin Gleeson

Stage Mother (2020)

Release Date: August 21, 2020

A Texas Choir Mistress (Jacki Weaver) inherits a San Francisco drag club from her late son, Rickey, (Eldon Thiele) with whom she hadn’t been in touch since he came out.

 

 

I’m going to be 100% honest with this review and tell you that I equal parts loved and hated Stage Mother. A mother loses her only child with whom she was very close in his early years to a drug addiction. The audience sees him indulge in his drug of choice, go out on stage and pretty much drop dead. His mother, Maybelline, who is the epitome of fabulous is notified of her son’s death and is determined to attend the funeral, disregarding the objections of her husband (Hugh Thompson). Once in San Francisco she seeks to build bridges with the family she feels she has left which are her son’s partner and the people he valued in his life. Continue reading Stage Mother (2020)