It was such a great pleasure to see Emily Schultz back in Windsor Wednesday night (March 22). Her roots are here. She not only studied English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Windsor, but her grandfather, Herman, was a rumrunner in Detroit during Prohibition. She can tell you stories of how at the age of 14, her grandfather started in the business to become a small-time gangster and entrepreneur. He operated out of an auto shop where he fixed up old jalopies that were guided across the ice on the Detroit River to pick up shipments of Canadian whiskey. That is why it is so appropriate for this newest novel from Schultz to begin with a man falling through the ice. A classic Prohibition story. Men Walking On Water, published by Knopf Canada ($25)
and set in 1927, opens with a Model T loaded with booze having just crashed through the icy Detroit. Alfred Moss, the driver who is carrying a bag of money, is now lost in the frozen river. It is this mystery that fuels Schultz’s book, keeps you turning the page. She is the kind of writer that knows how important it is to catch your attention, keep your gaze fixed on the words, and make you want to see this through to the end. That’s the kind of novel this is.That’s the kind of an effective writer she is. I’m better than half way through, and I seem to spend every waking moment, eager to finish this new work of fiction — it is that good!
Emily was at Biblioasis reading from Men Walking On Water to a packed house. She read from novel in a measured and effective way, and afterwords, the queue snaked up and around the bookshelves for book buyers seeking her autograph.
Now living and working in Brooklyn with a five-year-old son, this author who was named a finalist for the Trillium Book Award and selected by NPR and Kirkus for Best Books of the Year, is on a book tour to promote the novel whose subject is one that is dear to my heart, having written The Rumrunners. It is interesting what Schultz says about the influence of her family’s stories on the making of this book. She said when she was attending university here on the south shore of the Detroit River, she often gazed at the waterfront, daydreaming of its presence and its symbolic importance in her life. She said, “My father crossed the river himself, during the Vietnam War, to escape the U.S. Army. I looked at the river every day of my university years. The river could give you freedom, or money. It could also end your life. And it sits at the centre of my family’s story.
Schultz tells the story of her father coming across a pearl-handed revolver when he was 10 years old. It had belonged to his father, or Emily’s grandfather: “Its patina worn, it was already a relic by the 1950s. He took it out and held it in his hands, knowing he wasn’t supposed to have found this. Quietly he put it back and made no mention of it until he decided to collect our family’s history. By then, he knew where the gun had come from.”
Read this newest book by Emily Schultz. You will be drawn into the high-flying romantic period of the 1920s, the era of flappers and gangsters. I’m with Stephen King one hundred per cent when he remarked, “Emily Schultz is my new hero.”
Welcome home, Emily.