(Crystal A. Proxmire, Feb. 14, 2017)
Oak Park, MI – When Hubert Stokes writes, he puts on music to “help make the words come out.” His second novel, Tropical Heat, has an unofficial soundtrack, with each chapter based on a song, including a famous jazz song “Double Face.”
“It’s like the phrase two-faced, but its double face like the song,” he said.
Stokes was among a dozen authors who were part of the Oak Park Library’s “Valentine’s Day is for book Lovers Author Event” on Tuesday. The event was for book-lovers to enjoy the traditionally romantic holiday. Books were from many genres, including romance, mystery, young adult, historical fiction, memoir, poetry and young adult.
Stoke’s stories focus on characters that are learning about the past. In Skeeter Hawk an attorney goes to South Carolina to learn about his Gullah Geechee heritage. In Tropical Heat there is a “Lady in Red” who is rumored to murder the men she seduces, and at a minimum is “Too Hot to Handle.”
Stoke spent most of his life teaching mathematics, but he’d always enjoyed storytelling. “When I used to teach math, I’d tell fictional stories to get them to understand the mathematical concepts,” he said. “When I retired I only wanted to write one book, to get one story down. But then I caught the bug.” In addition to the two novels he’s already published, Stokes, who lives in Detroit, has two more in the works.
Beth Rodgers of Oak Park is in the midst of a young adult series based on a teenager named Margo who navigates the difficult times of youth – family, friends, school, interests and boys. Freshman Fourteen and Sweet Fifteen are the first books in the series.
Rodgers reviews young adult books for libraries and teaches English at Baker College.
She decided to write in a series because she herself enjoys following the same set of characters. “Sometimes you finish a book and you wonder what happens to the characters after. It’s like when Gilmore Girls came back, it was nice to see what happened to them,” she said.
The books are only slightly autobiographical. “I always felt not really popular, and that’s how she feels. She joined a school play and I did that, but most of what happens is not based on real events. In the first chapters she goes through so many things that you think, how could this poor girl stand it. Nothing bad, just all the embarrassing things we worry about happening in school.”
Freshman Fourteen took nine years for Rodgers to write, but after getting the first book done she loved it so much that she easily kept going.
Her mother-in-law Denise Rodgers is also an author. Her mystery books include “Deadly Diamonds,” “Murderous Emeralds,” and “Poison Pearls.” The novels feature the capers of super sleuth Bella Blumer and the stories take place in Royal Oak. Rodgers grew up working in the family jewelry business before starting her own advertising business to help jewelers around the county, and of course writing. But in spite of the similarities, Rodgers says the books are “in no way autobiographical.”
Willie Payne is a former policeman, reporter and a former Mayor of Pontiac who now lives in Oak Park. He’s got one book currently in print and another in progress, both of which deal with the challenging relationship between police and the public.
My Friend the Policeman is a children’s book that Payne has completed but is looking for the right illustrator for. “As a retired police officer, I understand the need for a better working relationship between the police and the public, and for police reform,” he said. “I want people to understand that police are people, just like us. This show the side of police you can’t get from watching TV, the personal side. We’re family members, we go to church, have children, go grocery shopping. This book shows that in details.”
His nonfiction book is one that he wrote in 1994 called The Todd Road Incident. It’s the story of a family from Pontiac that had gone to Montgomery Alabama in the 1984 for a funeral and ended up being charged with the murder of a plain-clothed police officer. Payne investigated the incident and helped prevent the imprisonment of those accused.
Payne appreciated the opportunity to spend Valentine’s Day sharing his passion for history and writing with other authors and guests. “The opportunity to exhibit works is good for the community itself, especially local authors,” he said. “Reading is fundamental in your life. You can grab a good book and it can carry you around the world.
Oak Park Library