Two recent books by local authors offer fascinating insights into historic eras. One focuses on contemporary times while the other delves deep into Michigan's historic past.
"Dreams Gone Wrong" by Mason author Lingg Brewer (Brewer, $14.95) is a well-designed trade paperback that's subtitled:" Peace, War, and Murder at Michigan State University."
It deals with an intriguing topic that's likely to capture considerable local interest, analyzing MSU's involvement with the Vietnam War.
The 310-page book also explores the circumstances that led to the tragic deadly violence at an East Lansing house in January 1975.
Brewer relates a vivid picture of life in Lansing and East Lansing, as the towns developed, grew and prospered. Many local landmarks and personalities are colorfully depicted. He also provides insights into the background of assorted East Lansing gamblers and traces the career of a out-of-control killer.
MSU's involvement in the early part of the Vietnam War is examined in detail, particularly the positions of MSU President John Hannah and Professor Wesley Fishel.
Ngo Dinh Diem, who'd been installed as President of South Vietnam in 1954, also plays a major part in MSU's controversial later involvement, which provided cover for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Brewer, an MSU graduate, former member of the Michigan Legislature and a small real estate developer, offers a highly entertaining exploration of historical events.
"Beyond Pontiac's Shadow" by East Lansing author Keith R. Widder (MSU Press, $49.95) is a deluxe, heavy, oversized volume that includes many color maps, photos and drawings.
Subtitled "Michilimackinac and the Anglo-Indian War of 1763", the book deals with the capture of Fort Michilimackinac by Objiwe Indians from an unsuspecting British garrison on June 2, 1763.
Warriors were playing a game of baggitiway (early lacrosse), but broke off and stormed the fort. The Ojibwes wanted to kick the British out of the Northern Territory; fur trade was effectively stopped until the fort was later taken back.
Widder's scholarly book explores the context of the Ojibwe behavior, providing insights into Indian mindset as well as those of the Canadians and Europeans.
It includes many detailed footnotes, a 13-page bibliography and an index, making it ideal for dedicated readers who want to know more about Michigan's fascinating past.
The author has served as curator of history for the Mackinac State Historic Parks for over 25 years.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books since 1987.
This review was published by the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, December 8, 2013.