I am at my desk in the offices of Traverse Magazine/MyNorth.com penning this review of The Pink Pony by Charles Cutter—but very much wishing I were on Mackinac Island traipsing after the witty, cynical and slightly seedy attorney Burr Lafayette as he cracks a legal case. The book is the first for Charles McLravy, an East Lansing attorney, who writes under the name of Charles Cutter.
Reviews of the book call it a cross between Robert Traver’s Anatomy of a Murder and The Thin Man penned by the imitable Dashiell Hammett. And certainly Cutter has caught shades of both those crime classics in his mastery of legalese and courtroom drama (à la Anatomy of a Murder) and the smart but seen-better-days Lafayette who reminds of The Thin Man’s Nick Charles.
Maybe it’s because the book has me dreaming of a Mackinac Island summer day when the sails are blowing in from the Port Huron- or Chicago-to Mackinac yacht races across the blue, blue Straits on air that manages an intoxicating brew of Great Lakes’ fresh, warm fudge and steaming horse apples, but I am going to venture to push Cutter’s literary envelope further.
Stay with me here as I move from Michigan to its peninsula twin, Florida. I am thinking of John D. MacDonald’s and his Travis McGee and Randy Wayne White and his Doc Ford—both characters/books firmly set in the Florida Style (it would be blasphemy, of course, not to mention Tim Dorsey and Carl Hiaasen here, and so there you go dudes … ). Those writers lifted the crime genre from simply melodramatic to insightful—if satirical—glimpses into the psychology of the environs of a crime. In the Florida Style, it’s crazy, greedy, shady and violent, all dressed in tans, Hawaiin shirts and floating in Caribbean water.
It makes me smile to think that Elmore Leonard, whose stories spanned Detroit and Florida, is always mentioned in conjunction with the Florida Style. (Read this MyNorth interview with Elmore).
All of which brings me to The Pink Pony. It is high time someone brought this genre to Northern Michigan and its quietly dark mix of what happens when the buttoned-up wealthy of Gross Pointe, Birmingham and Bloomfield let loose in that intoxicating brew of Great Lakes fresh air and Caribbean-colored water. With his acute knowledge of the state he lives in, this is what Cutter has done in The Pink Pony. But of course, you’ll be so hooked on what is also a plain good ‘ol whodunnit that opens with a dead man strangled by Christmas lights in the Pink Pony the morning after the Port Huron to Mackinac race (enter Burr Lafayette), that you’ll hardly notice. Choose yourself a warm piece of Northern Michigan sand and dive into this first-class beach read.
Find out where to purchase it: charlescutter.com.
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