Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel by Gregory A. Fournier
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is a coming-of-age book about an 18-year-old boy who gets kicked out of college his first semester because of a misplaced sense of honor, and who spends the next 10 months working in a coke plant. The book feels autobiographical, and the author apparently spent a summer working in the labor pool in a coke oven plant on Zug Island, just like the narrator of the book.
I really wish I could rate this book higher than average. The story is interesting. It is set in Detroit in 1967, a year in which I was living just up the road in Flint, and where I spent several years in the early 1970s. It always is fun to read about a book where you have some familiarity to the places and events described.
I have reviewed the author's website and he seems like a nice guy. As someone with a master's degree and who has taught "English language arts" for 30 years, part of the time as an adjunct professor at a community college in California, one would expect him to be a very proficient writer. However, some of the writing is clumsy, particularly where there are shifts in time from the scenes being described to the future.
I think the problem with the book is that it is self-published, and therefore did not go through the editing process to which a conventionally published book would have been subjected. The book is subtitled: "A Detroit Riot Novel," which is not really accurate. The Detroit riots are not even mentioned until page 199 of a 230-page book. The riots are really incidental to the main thrust of the story. The narrator's involvement consists of driving through an area affected by the riot and having a friend beaten up by the police. The book would be more accurately subtitled: "An Education In A Coke Plant Novel."