It's been many years since retiree Robert Reynolds of Midlothian, Texas, resided in Michigan, but he's never forgotten the state where he grew up.
A Vietnam vet who spent 30 years working in retail loss prevention in Oklahoma and Texas, Reynolds recently returned home to his roots via his pen. Already the author of six other books, Reynolds chose to set his most recent book in Michigan and more specifically, in Thunder Bay.
"I've always had an interest in Thunder Bay. Just the sound of the name alone," said Reynolds, a native of Gladwin. "I had the title for this book long before I had the story. I knew I wanted to set something on Thunder Bay."
Considered a mystery-thriller with a bit of romance tossed in, "Thunder Bay" revolves around a small fishing boat that sinks in Lake Huron on its way from Canada. No one sees it go down during a storm. In hindsight, the boat's operator had taken on a trio of shady characters, who he had begun to suspect of ill harm just before the boat sank.
The mystery continues to build when a retired chemical warfare expert and his former high school sweetheart, who have recently rekindled their romance, discover a body from the boat floating near the shore. Found on the body is a small canister containing sarin gas. This discovery leads to more intrigue, a cell of terrorists based in Ontario and an investigation into shady dealings in the Upper Peninsula.
"Alpena is mentioned somewhat prominently," said Reynolds. "There is lots of mention of towns and cities and locations from the upper northern part of Michigan and the eastern U.P."
Four of the previous books written by Reynolds relate back to his experiences in Vietnam. He was drafted into the U.S. Army, but then extended his tour of duty a couple times. He ultimately went back to Vietnam as a civilian working in safety and security at the U.S. Army/Navy exchange service store on base.
"The four books were all written in a fictional format," Reynolds said. "After so many years, getting the names and dates and times and sequence of events right was difficult. It was just easier to go with fact-based fiction."
Another of his earlier books, titled "Settler," takes place in Indiana in the late 1800s, but with many turn-of-the century references to Michigan. His sixth one was inspired by his father, who came to Michigan with the Civilian Conservation Corps, met his future wife in Gladwin and stayed on there.
"That book is all centered around the CCC Camp," he said. "I put together a plot there and used some of the old family stories and how the area used to look."
Reynolds took up writing books about seven or eight years ago. Prior to that, his profession often entailed a fair amount of technical writing, including congressional reports, training programs and investigative reports.
"It's been kind of a joy to get away from that kind of writing and do fiction," he said.
Though he has lived in Texas for many years now, Reynolds makes return trips every few year to Gladwin, which most of his family still calls home.
"I may have been gone from Michigan for a long time, but that's always been home and will always be home," he said. "I loved it growing up in Michigan."
During his most recent visit back about a year and a half ago, Reynolds took a Sunday drive to Alpena. That short trip, he said, helped him in designing the cover for "Thunder Bay."
Copies of "Thunder Bay" are available online at all major booksellers, including Amazon, Books-a-Million and Barnes and Noble, as well as through his publisher, Black Rose Writing. The book sells for $15.95 in softcover edition and $7.99 in kindle edition.