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Yes, that L. Frank Baum, but
we're not off to see the Wizard here, instead we're off to . . .Michigan! This short novel, published in 1907 by one of Baum's numerous pseudonyms, is
autobiographical, about the lake resort Macatawa Park. And though Baum clearly states that the people are fictional, in fact, they're really not.
The Wonderful Wiki of Oz
provides a bit of interesting background information, even naming the swindlers, who in real life were the chief stockholders of the town. The
attorney Basil P. Finley, dealt with them in 1906.
Baum was born in Chittenango, New York in 1856, and died at the too-young-age of 62, in Hollywood, California, 1919. He was primarily known as a writer of children's books, and wanted to keep it that way, so he published his adult novels under pseudonyms. In fact he published many non-Oz children's novels under pseudonyms, too, including "Laura Bancroft" and "Edith Van Dyne," (Aunt Jane's Nieces), another large series. He was an extremely prolific author, writing 55 novels, 83 short stories, over 200 poems, scripts and more.
This short novel is charming, humorous, and very light, easy reading. It begins as Attorney Jarrod finally finishes with the Crosby's of Oklahoma, a bunch of scoundrels whose deeds catch up with them in the end, and there's nothing even a great lawyer can do to save them but convince them to sell out and retire, which they did.
Jarrod returns to Kansas City, and decides to take a summer vacation to the Lake Michigan area, recommended by his friend, the clergyman Dr. Brush. In their conversation, Jarrod becomes intrigued with Brush's description of Wilder, and being an attorney accustomed to fighting outlaws, Wilder begins to sound like an amusing challenge.
"Who is Wilder?" Jarrod asked his friend.
"Wilder! Oh, I forgot you don't know Tamawaca," said Dr. Brush. "Therefore you don't know Wilder. Wilder is Tamawaca."
"I see," returned Jarrod nodding.
"Oh, no you don't. You think you see, I've no doubt. But there is only one Wilder upon earth, and perhaps that is fortunate. You've been with those pirate Crosbys for years. Well, Wilder is the Crosby—in other words the pirate—of Tamawaca. See now?"
When the Jarrods arrive in Tamawaca, Wilder proves to be exactly as
described. He and a "religious" man, Easton run the whole resort, and by running, I mean they basically rip off all the cottage owners and renters, and
own all the businesses—the shops, the ferry, the utilities, and the streets, upon which they have illegally built cottages that they have sold with iffy
titles, and worse yet, the two hate each other. Wilder, who owns one third, blames Easton who owns two-thirds for being a real skinflint and not spending
anything to upkeep the rotting walks and unkempt parks.
The vacationers are just a bit strange, too, and, though aware that they are being ripped off, simply want to have a good time for their escape from the city and work, so they don't seem too bothered by the extent to which they are swindled. Jarrod quietly observes, until he is ready to catch his prey, then goes off and does research on Michigan law.
It isn't so much that the cottage owners don't mind having to kowtow to Wilder and Easton, but they just have no one to organize them in order to stand up to the injustices. Jarrod, however, gets them organized, and all he needs is their backing, which he easily obtains. He chooses five in particular as he prepares a lawsuit. He approaches Wilder and Easton separately, and they both give him a wink, thinking that this might be the opportunity for one to get rid of the other, never realizing that Jarrod plans to be rid of them both.
Meanwhile, there are a bunch of snobby girls who fall for a cute guy, who turns out to not be what they thought, (in the end, he actually turns out to be much better!). Jarrod, however, knows the young man's family and background, and he, Jim, becomes a great helper as Jarrod's temporary secretary to obtain what he needs to deal with Wilder and Easton.
Of course, as expected, the good guys win, Jim falls in love, and all's well that ends well. You'll have fun reading about it, too. I plan to read much more of Baum's works in the future and recommend that you also check him out! Project Gutenberg has pages and pages of his works available to read for free.
And as for Macatawa, Michigan, it's come a long way from the days of Wilder and Easton! Here's some modern views: Pricey, I'll bet.
Lake Macatawa, Holland Harbor
Point West Macatawa Inn
Outdoor Discovery Center
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