I just finished the last of Steve Hamilton’s acclaimed ten-book Alex McNight series about former minor league baseball player and scarred ex-Detroit cop-turned [almost] hermit, struggling to survive the drama and disasters life throws at him. I discovered this author through an article in the Wall Street Journal chronicling his break-up with long-time publisher St. Martin’s over their lackluster marketing plan for his books.
The series revolves around the city of Paradise, located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (UP to natives) and its dramatic weather. Every plot point is colored by the frigid winters, brief beautiful summers, and how the hardy population attempts to survive:
“There’s a cold wind that gathers from the north and picks up weight as it builds its way across two hundred miles of open water, and then, on a later afternoon in August–hell, sometimes in July–that wind hits you square in the face and makes its intention quite clear, no matter how much you might not like the message. Summer … is mortally gut-shot, and it’s only a matter of days until it’s gone.”
And this from Alex’s long-time bartender friend as he explains why he wants to move to Arizona:
“It’s cold as hell [up here], it snows every day, and it lasts forever. What’s not to like?”
After reading the entire series, I feel like I’ve lived in this most un-California biome (I call California home).
The other characteristic that is woven throughout all the books is Alex McNight’s backstory–what made him the man we meet: independent, moral, tenacious to a fault, lonely, and the most loyal of friends to a very small circle of people. We meet him long after the death of his Detroit PD partner nearly destroyed him, after being shot three times–one bullet still lodged too close to his heart to be removed, after he moves into a string of six cabins his Dad built in the dastardly climes of the UP with the intention of selling them. Fifteen years later, he’s still there and the first book begins.
The series spans fifteen more years and counting. We spend the entire time traveling with McNight, thumping our foreheads as he gets into yet another scrape, begging him to just let some injustice go–just this once (which he can’t), and then having a drink with him at his favorite bar as he again recovers both physically and mentally from his latest escapade. We’re as exhausted as he is, ready to sit back and read a travelogue for a while–anything that doesn’t involve death, destruction, mayhem, and madness.
That only lasts until the next book. Then we his loyal readers are ready to follow him again.
Oh–yes, a month to read all ten books. Lots of other activities suffered.
More eclectic main characters:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.