‘Sierra Joe 9’

MARQUETTE – There’s a reason Alan Robertson’s books sometimes have action taking place in the Upper Peninsula.

The author who now lives in Fresno, Calif., spent 30 years living in Marquette, graduating from Marquette Senior High School and Northern Michigan University.

“The Upper Peninsula is unique and impossible to forget,” Robertson said in an email interview. “The weather can be brutal, but the people are resilient and extremely decent. It can be a stark and moody place as well. That’s the part that leads to good stories.”

His latest story is “Sierra Joe 9,” a thriller which has its conclusion set in Marquette County.

“‘Sierra Joe 9’ is a stand-alone story but there’s money involved, and that money came from a robbery in Marquette chronicled in ‘The Money Belt,'” Robertson said, citing one of his earlier novels. “The money is still there, so the action had to move to the U.P.”

Born in Detroit, Robertson spent some of his childhood years in Miami.

“But from junior high through age 40, I was a proud resident of Marquette County,” he said. “Our last house was on Lakewood Lane. Loved it! There’s nothing to compare with watching a thunderstorm roll in over Lake Superior.”

Robertson and his wife, Whitley, moved to northern California and he began a series of careers.

“I did electronics work a while and then picked up a flight instructor’s license and taught flying. It was one of those and-they-pay-me-for-doing-this kind of jobs. I was teaching ground schools at Humboldt State and flying out of Eureka over Humboldt Bay, the Pacific, and the magnificent Coastal Range every day,” Robertson said.

“A year later I was teaching aerobatics in the Bay Area when a vision problem put an end to my flying. I was bummed, so I indulged myself by putting together a recording studio and writing, playing and recording a CD’s worth of mediocre songs,” he said. “After that I drifted back to electronics and then spent a year as a day trader and another as an instructor at a junior college. I’d already been a musician, plumber, salesman, businessman, teacher, pilot and recording studio owner and I was running out of occupations.”

About eight years ago, Robertson developed a back problem which led him to his new career.

“Moving anything other than my fingers was painful. So, with nothing better to do, I wrote a novel. I’d always wanted to write one and it seemed like a good time. My back improved but the story wasn’t done, so I kept writing,” he said. “A few months later I finished the first draft of a story called ‘The Money Belt.’ I kept doing rewrites, perhaps 30 in all, until diminishing returns set in. At that point, I brushed aside reservations and published it. Then I wrote another novel. Then another. Nine so far. ‘Sierra Joe 9’ is the third published.”

Most creative people have unique methods of producing work and Robertson is no exception.

“Characters appear in front of me and say things and do things and I write them down. Yes, it’s just as weird as it seems,” he said.

With some aunts and cousins in the area – “wonderful people,” he said – Robertson still returns to the area.

“I get back from time to time,” he said. “Like every expatriate, the first thing I do is go to Picnic Rocks or the Island and pay homage to Lake Superior. While still living there, in the wintertime Whitley and I would pack a lunch and go snowshoeing up frozen streams. In the summer, there’s nothing better than a canoe trip on the Escanaba River. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.

“Nights might find me bending an elbow at The Landmark or L’Attitude.”

Robertson’s books are available at amazon.com. Search for his name, but note, he’s not the Alan Robertson who has written about “Duck Dynasty.”

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.