THE INSPIRATION BEHIND THE BOOK
Rum Run is more than a fiction story to me; it is homage to the Great Lake Erie that has fascinated and affected me since childhood. She is all beauty, awe and anger. Her storms are fast and furious. She is loved and cursed. Like my character Uncle Fritz says, “She (Erie) is as fickle as a flapper.” When I wrote this, I wanted to capture the reverence sailors like Rusty have for the lake.
Rum Run had a number of inspirations. First and foremost was my Grandfather on my mother’s side. He worked on Lake Erie for the first half of his life, first on tugboats, and then on a large lake cruise ship called Goodtime during the 1920’s. He told my father about what he had seen and experienced on the lake during Prohibition and my father, in turn, told me and sparked this future author’s imagination.
Fascination with the Great Lake Erie grew deeper with a coin my father’s cousin had framed and hung on her dining room wall. It was a penny given by my great- great-grandfather (an Erie sailor) to my great-grandmother when she was a child on a Lake Erie dock before he set sail on a freight steamer. It would be the last time she saw her father as one of Erie’s notorious storms wrecked his ship, drowning all men aboard including my great-great-grandfather. The penny became precious and handed down through the family.
Being so close to the lake, afforded me many opportunities to experience her beauty and wrath. From the deck of my friend’s sailboat on an agitated, choppy lake, to exhilarating rides on small caps in my future husband’s powerboat, to lazy rides on island ferries on glass-like water, Lake Erie has always fascinated me. I have seen glorious sunsets and angry waterspouts. I have watched ice breakers bust ice in her channels and huge ore freighters traversing her horizon. She is as beautiful as she is deadly and I have known more than I care to know that have drowned in her. I am a victim of her lake effect- heavier snows, cloudier days and biting spring winds, but she gives back long, warm fall days and extra rain for the crops.
Lakers, tugboats and the bustle at industrial docks that do business on Erie’s southern shore have also fascinated me. When I was a child, many weekend family rides included stops overlooking the American Shipbuilding docks where constructing a cutter or laker was in progress. Another stop nearby included watching the hopper (railroad) cars rise and dump ore while the giant jaws of the Hullet unloader gulped the ore up for the blast furnaces at the steel mill. Dad explained the processes at both places and I gobbled up every word.
So when a few decades ago I read about Lake Erie’s role in rum running, my imagination was off and running. I wrote the first chapter of this book in 1986 and never started chapter two until three decades later. I had a house to build and my art business was booming. When my father passed away, I began feverishly to write this story. He always believed I could write a book, and I needed to distract my mind from the pain of losing him. Rum Run was off and running. I could not have written it in 1986- I needed the life experiences…the cards life deals you… the pain, the frustrations, the anger, the wonders and the joys. I needed the full deck to complete it.
Rum Run is dedicated to my Grandpa