BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
Michigan life from the northern woods to the suburbs in the south inspired a bookful of stories for author Gary James Erwin of Clarkston.
The stories in his book “Trail Crossing Sixteen Counties,” published by Adelaide Books of New York, include a grandmother who takes target practice with a nickel-plated .38 caliber revolver in her crowded apartment building in a Detroit suburb, an elderly man who plunges naked into a northern Michigan lake during the late fall while recalling his life, and a police officer who finds a youth murdered under a highway overpass in the wee hours of the morning just outside of the Detroit city limits.
The characters in Gary James Erwin’s collection of short stories struggle to understand the paradoxes shaping their lives as they move from the city and suburbs of Detroit to the forests and lakes of northern Michigan.
“Love of the woods, experiences with hunting, even the smell of bonfires are things some in Clarkston might relate to,” Erwin said. “Sometimes it starts with a single line that rattles around in my head for days until I finally write it down. Other times it’s an image I see – for example, a car accident, exchange between people in a store, something from the news. Or a story could develop based on an experience in my past, but the roots of it make it perfect for fictionalized material and before long, the story has moved from the actual life experience into the world of fiction.”
He and his family have lived in north Oakland County since 2001, moving from Royal Oak to Oxford.
“We came this way because at the time, I was a director of communications and faculty member at Kettering University in Flint,” Erwin said.
They moved to Clarkston in 2011. The woods around his new home remind him of growing up in Northville.
“A lot of woods, old orchards, things like that,” he said. “I wanted my kids to experience living and playing in the woods, enjoying the outdoors, the wildlife. We love living in Clarkston and just love the area in general. We’re always outside at the bonfire, working in the yard. I feel like I’m up north when I step outside. Because I work in the city, it’s a refuge for me to come home to Clarkston every night.”
He will be launching the book at University of Detroit Mercy on Oct. 2 from 5-7 p.m. in the McNichols Library, Bargman Room. On Oct. 19, he is giving a reading at the East Side Reading Series in Detroit, at The Commons, 7900 Mack Avenue, from 3-5 p.m. On Nov. 2 from 2-4 p.m., he will be giving a book talk and reading at Brilliant Books in Traverse City.
The author’s stories, essays and journalism have appeared in many journals and publications. His work has earned two Pushcart Prize nominations and has been anthologized in The PrePress Awards Volume II: Michigan Voices. He is the associate vice president of Marketing and Communications at the University of Detroit Mercy. For more information, visit “GJEfiction” on Facebook.
BY PHIL CUSTODIO