Remembering Jim Harrison

Jim Harrison

Jim Harrison, photo by David Brigham

I’m actually forced to write about Michigan because as a native of that state it’s the place I know best.
~Jim Harrison

I found out last night that Jim Harrison passed away. In addition to being a noted Michigan author, Jim was one of my father’s best friends and a frequent (often late-night) visitor to my house.

If you’d like to read more about Jim, I encourage you to read this fairly recent feature on Jim by Jerry Dennis on MyNorth and also this excellent feature from the New York Times.

The photo is (I’m pretty sure) by another family friend, David Brigham from the original jacket Jim’s book Dalva.

On the Hunt … Interview with Jim Harrison by Jerry Dennis

On the Hunt

On the Hunt, photo by

The Cheyenne had a saying, and the Lakota, too: “When your life is tepid and you’re bored just follow your dog and act like your dog all day.” That’s been known to perk you up.
~Author Jim Harrison

One of my favorite Michigan authors, Jerry Dennis,  interviewed Michigan literary icon Jim Harrison in Traverse Magazine. Jerry is a noted outdoor writer, and I think his interview of Harrison is one of the best. A little taste:

JD: You often describe yourself as an “outdoorsman and a man of letters.” Why is being outdoors so important to you?

JH: Very early my dad would take me trout fishing because you know I’d had my eye put out and I needed extra attention. I remember asking him the difference between animals and us and he said, “Nothing. They just live outside and we live inside.” Which struck me very hard at the time, because I could look at animals and say, “I’m one of you.” The real schizophrenia of the nature movement, if you ask me, was to think you could separate yourself from nature. Even Shakespeare says “we are nature, too.” So there’s this sense of schizophrenia to think you’re different or more important than a bird.

JD: In your writing you’ve mentioned the “mythical underpinnings” that connect us with animals. Is that something you can elaborate on?

JH: Oden, that Scandinavian god, always had ravens standing on his shoulders. Myths, of course, are full of our other creatures. I would see bears almost daily in the U.P. They would wander around my cabin, hog my sunflower seeds, and I got to know a couple of them real well. I’d come home from the bar and a bear would be standing by the side of my driveway and I’d open my window and he’d put his chin on my door sill and I’d scratch his ears. They get used to it. But I’d never feed them near the cabin, that’s where you make a mistake. I’d put a fish on a stump about a hundred yards from the cabin.

There’s lots more,  I really encourage you to read it!

View Michael’s English pointer photo bigger and see more in his slideshow.

More books & authors on Michigan in Pictures.

Remembering Michigan author Elmore Leonard


Elmore Leonard, The Dickens of Detroit, photo courtesy Archives of Michigan

“After 58 years you’d think writing would get easier. It doesn’t. If you’re lucky, you become harder to please. That’s all right, it’s still a pleasure.”
~Elmore Leonard

Legendary Michigan author Elmore “Dutch” Leonard passed away Tuesday at the age of 87. Leonard was the author of many best-selling crime novels including Get Shorty, Freaky Deaky and Killshot. Another great Michigan author, Jim Harrison, wrote:

“Elmore was the opposite of the loudmouthed, big shot novelist. He was graceful, fairly quiet and poignantly intelligent. We have lost our best. No one wrote better dialogue in America.”

The photo above appeared in The Dickens of Detroit from Seeking Michigan on Leonard’s birthday (October 11, 2011). They do a nice job of hitting the highlights of an illustrious career:

Leonard was born in New Orleans in 1925. He has made the Detroit area his home since 1934, when his family moved there. The city of Detroit often serves as the main character in his novels. As a result, fans often refer to Elmore Leonard as the ‘Dickens of Detroit.”

Leonard graduated from University of Detroit Jesuit High School in 1943. He then immediately joined the Navy, where he served with the Seabees. After his service, he enrolled at the University of Detroit and graduated in 1950 with a degree in English and Philosophy. Leonard started his writing career as a copywriter at the Campbell-Ewald Advertising Agency. Writing on the side, he was able to publish his first novel, The Bounty Hunters in 1953. In his early career, he focused on writing pulp Westerns, because that was what was selling at the time. Leonard eventually moved on to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers. A large number of his books have been turned into movies or television programs.

Critics praise Leonard for his effective use of dialogue and the gritty realism in his books. His unique ear for dialogue and the ability to capture it on the page is rarely matched. Concise and plot driven, his stories are stuffed with colorful characters and tricky, often humorous plot twists.

Read on for more. Here are a few of the best features I found – please feel free to post more in the comments: