Joseph Heywood, the author of the Grady Service series (Force of Blood, etc.), set on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, tries his hand at a historical mystery, Red Jacket.
Red Jacket reaches back to the antecedents of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources in 1913. Why that year?
1913 was a significant year for the state and the department, which by another name had been using game wardens since 1887. In 1913, the department moved to salaried civil service status, where it remains today. It was also the year in which the copper strike, coupled with Henry Ford’s $5 a day pay (in Detroit), put a big hurt on copper mining in the UP, one from which it never recovered. This was also the year when many new hunting and fishing regulations came into being.
What are the similarities and differences between your new hero, Lute Bapcat, who becomes a game warden at the instigation of Teddy Roosevelt, and modern-day Conservation Officer Grady Service?
All COs now are fully empowered, certified peace officers. Bapcat has to concern himself only with fish and game laws and regulations. What’s the same is the task of finding fish and game habitats and concentrations in order to predict hunters’ movements, so the officer can monitor or confront as circumstances dictate.
Were the copper mining companies the primary force behind the many different ethnic groups portrayed in the novel settling in Michigan?
Copper mining and later iron mining accounted for a significant influx of immigrants, primarily from Europe. One thing I wanted to get at was how difficult it would be for game wardens confronting so many foreign languages and cultural ways. I left some conversations in their original language, so the reader could experience the linguistic mishmash and confusion of such a melting pot.
In Red Jacket, mine owners are responsible for incredibly destructive actions meant to deprive miners of food sources. Were those documented practices before the 1913 strike?
These are solely from my imagination, projections based on other actions like banning strikers from company housing and stores. All DNR records were lost in a fire around that time,so I felt some authorial freedom in describing the mine owners’ actions. Let me add that the city called Red Jacket then is now called Calumet, and the National Park Service operates the Keweenaw National Historic Park from there. To people interested in the period, it’s worth a visit.
Do you plan to continue Lute Bapcat’s adventures up to the founding of the DNR in 1921?
Yes, more Bapcats are planned, assuming the first is well received. The teens of the 20th century are an interesting time, with much to look at.