I had the chance to catch up with author Paul Vachon to ask him a few questions about his newest book Legendary Locals of Detroit. This book showcases the city’s history through a series of brief profiles on unique individuals and groups of Detroit’s past and present who have made a legendary impact. “This book seeks to expose and reflect on these local people –the saintly, the sinister, the popular, and the obscure,” writes Paul in his introduction. The wide appeal of this book is sure to catch the eye of history buffs and Detroit lovers alike.
1. How did your interest in Detroit first develop?
I’m from Detroit and have lived here all my life. About four years ago I made a career transition from retail into writing because of economic shifts, but I’ve always loved writing. In addition to that I always had a longtime interest in local history. I wrote my first book Forgotten Detroit in 2009 about unusual stories in Detroit’s history that are lesser known. I followed up with a “then and now” book about south Oakland County where I would take vintage photographs and pair them up with modern photos of the same location.
2. Which legends did you enjoy researching most for this book?
I’ve always had a lifelong interest in politics. The people in this book come from a variety of backgrounds such as politics, business, religion, sports and arts. So the political part interested me the most, but also the ways politics relate to other areas such as religion. I also enjoyed profiling people from arts and architecture. I really liked writing the last chapter (Demagogues, Disrupters and Dissidents). There are some people in there who represent the city’s dark side in some ways such as the Purple Gang.
3. How many Detroiters would you say people would recognize from your book, versus those who may be lesser known?
If the reader is from the Detroit area, I’d say it would be about 50/50 in terms of people in the book they are familiar with versus those they may not know much about. However, I think this book will also be of great interest to people in other parts of the country when you look at the many Detroit legends who have an impact and great recognition beyond this area.
4. Was there anything that surprised you while you were doing your research for the book?
Yes, there were some things that surprised me. I’ve been a student of local history for a long time and I’ve been organizing it in biographical form for a while. But I’d have to say I didn’t know quite the depth of the stories of some of these individuals. One example would be the depth of Charles Lindbergh‘s antisemitism.
5. What is the overall message you hope readers take away from your book?
The general overriding lesson I think is that the impact that many Detroiters have had over the last 100 years goes far beyond the city and southeast Michigan. There is this tendency to think of Detroit as just a backwater town, but in reality Detroit has been very influential in many ways outside of this area both in the past and present.
Personally, I love the book and found it both interesting and engaging. The historic images are really interesting to see, many of which come from library archives, although Paul did take some of the contemporary images himself. I catch myself saying “huh” and “wow” every few minutes as I seem to learn something new with every turn of the page. The amount of research that was put into this book can only be summarized as impressive.
Paul will be hitting the road to promote his newest book, Legendary Locals of Detroit in the coming weeks. You can catch him at the Hamtramck Library on Thursday, June 20 at 6pm, and at the Barnes & Noble in Northville on Saturday, July 20 at 2pm.
Thanks to Broderick resident Tony Bucci for connecting me with Paul for this post!
Disclaimer: A media kit with a copy of this book was provided to me. These thoughts and opinions are my own. Photo credit: Legendary Locals of Detroit. Arcadia Publishing.
Legendary Locals of Detroit, $21.99, Arcadia Publishing. Available at local retailers, online bookstores, or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com or (888) 313-2665.
When you think of Detroit Legends, who comes to mind? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
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