Mike wrote, “I came to the writing game late, after spending the greater part of my life in other pursuits. I have always had an interest in history and genealogy and especially Civil War history. I also have a great interest in the history of my little corner of the world, Adel and Dallas County, Iowa. I wrote my first book after retiring and running out of things to do quicker than I, or my dear wife, thought. I spent a cold Iowa winter at my computer researching and writing “Most Exciting Day,” the story of an actual 1895 bank robbery in my hometown of Adel, Iowa. After getting away with that (and actually receiving some accolades), I wrote “A Soldier’s Bounty” a historical fiction novel. The book was well received by those that read it (mostly family and friends and friends of friends) but several readers asked “But what happened to…?” In order to answer that question for these people who had been kind enough to read my work and comment on it, I wrote “The Silent Cannons.” Since writing these three works, without any member of my family trying to have me declared mentally unstable, I am now working on another story that continues with the family of my first two stories. This next story takes them into the period of 1917/1918 and world war 1. It delves into the war and the great Spanish Flu outbreak that accompanied it. True, it was a sad and tragic time, but, as with my other projects, I have “snuck a little humor into the story.” I hope to continue writing as long as I have readers. After all, we have the Great Depression, WW2, the 50’s, the 60’s and etc. to explore. I just have to keep taking my Geritol so I can live long enough to write it.”
Most Exciting Day
Mike’s note: The story of the bungling daylight bank robbery in a small town in Iowa that occurred in 1895. There is a shootout on the streets before the robbers lead a hastily formed posse on a wild chase through the countryside. One robber is killed and one is captured. The sheriff must work fast to avoid a hanging by angry mobs that gather in the streets. It is a fascinating tale of the people involved and what happened to them afterwards. It includes the actual indictments and witness testimonies.
My review: Not only does the author give details of the 1895 Adel bank robbery, he begins with the dawning of central Dallas County, Iowa, and gangs of that era who made their way through the area. He introduces you to the robbers, the people in the bank, and townspeople involved. At the end you meet a couple of descendants of men affected by Adel’s “most exciting day,” including James Leach (great grandson of one) and Nike Kinnick (grandson of another). I was interested to learn about “Potter’s Corner” in the town’s cemetery, and that the shotgun used in the robbery and the teller cage were donated by the sheriff’s family to the Adel Historical Museum.
A Soldier’s Bounty
Mike’s note: A Civil War soldier’s story of his enlistment, enticed by a bounty of $200, into the 77th. Indiana Volunteer Infantry. After fighting in several battles and an emotional furlough spent with the girl he loves, he is sent to Atlanta with Sherman and is captured and sent to Andersonville prison. As the war is ending he is finally going home aboard the Mississippi riverboat Sultana. An explosion and an encounter with a rich widow leads to unexpected bounty in the new and rich farmlands of Iowa.
My review: A Civil War story that takes the reader through battles as a soldier (William) in the 77th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, hoping to return home to the girl he loves, only to get captured and sent to Andersonville prison. William meets soldiers from Iowa. One said if he got killed, he wanted to be buried back in Iowa, surrounded by corn and oats. William survives the war, the gruesome prison, and an explosion on the riverboat he’s taking towards home. An surprising rescue leads to an offer to run a farm–in Iowa.
The Silent Cannons
Mike’s note: Robert Chambers is a man without a past. Suffering from amnesia after surviving the Confederate prison at Andersonville, he spends years in an asylum in Georgia. He is finally released from the asylum but has not recovered from the amnesia and spends the next years searching for his past. Meanwhile, his younger brother, Christopher, takes a different path in life and finds himself in the wild Kansas frontier. In this follow-up to “A Soldier’s Bounty” the story of the Chambers brothers is continued through the turbulent post Civil War period.
My review: The author follows many of the same characters from “A Soldier’s Bounty,” after the Civil War, learning what became of them–especially Robert, who survived Andersonville but suffered a leg amputation and was sent to an asylum because of amnesia. You learn a little about medicine back then, early invention of an artificial leg, the only person executed for war crimes after the Civil War, the Chicago fire, gangs, and the Kansas State Penitentiary–while Robert falls in love and eventually learns about his past and reunites with family.
The Threshing Crew
Mike’s note: The years 1917 and 1918 were some of the most difficult years in the history of America. War was raging in Europe and America was now being drug into the conflict. A draft was instituted to supply troops to the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Military training bases like Camp Dodge, Iowa were being hastily built to train and house the 4.8 million men that would eventually serve. All of this turmoil and movement of troops and people caused a killer much worse than all the guns, bombs and poisonous gas to be unleashed on a population that was ill prepared for such a catastrophe. The events of the time would forever change the lives of the Chambers family.
My review: I was interested in this story because I have relatives who were drafted in WWI, were at Camp Dodge when a Black man was hanged for rape (although I believe they were in quarantine and may not have been forced to watch, as other soldiers were), and sent to France. Other relatives suffered with the virulent influenza. This book includes all of these subjects and more, starting and ending in Dallas County, Iowa. A fascinating but difficult era in our history.
Hard Times and the Raccoon’s Tale
Mike’s note: A mysterious discovery along the Raccoon River leads a deputy sheriff and a Des Moines TV reporter on a quest for answers. A visit by a mysterious older man, whose story of hard times and lawless men, keeps them guessing right up to it’s strange end. For most Americans, the Great Depression started with the stock market crash of 1929. But for America’s farmers, it started long before that. Throughout the 20’s, overproduction and falling demand led to low prices for farm commodities. Add to that the dust bowl and extreme weather of the 30’s and you have a disaster for rural America. Iowa farmers, Gus Chambers and his French wife Lorain, were fortunate to have found a farmhand who would work for what little wages they could offer in those hard times. But this man, who called himself John Deere, or simply JD, had many secrets. Secrets that are revealed as the old man’s story is told.
My review: In the latest Mike Flinn story, the mystery of an old skull found hidden along Iowa’s Raccoon River is woven through the hard times of the Great Depression–including dust storms, a tornado, a blizzard, penny auctions, good neighbors, two trips overseas, and big city gangsters. It also includes a “character” or two, a love story or two, is told with a great sense of humor, and a surprise ending.