Fr. Stoppel, please tell us a little about yourself.
I was born in Rochester, Minnesota, and after graduation from university and seminary, was eventually ordained in the Episcopal Church. I moved to Saugatuck in 1990, where I have served as the rector of All Saints’ Episcopal Church for the past 27 year. In addition to my parish work, I am a columnist for The Commercial Record newspaper, and have written a number of short stories for the church’s annual Silver Tea. My intention is to one day re-work them for publication.
Because my wife is an artist, we are often at Ox Bow School of the Arts, where, after a while I take up residence on one of the chairs or benches overlooking the meadow and lagoon. It is there where I seem to develop the ideas for the two murder mysteries set in Saugatuck.
And, of course, we want to know all about your books.
There are two murder mysteries, both set in Saugatuck in the 1920s. The Great Saugatuck Murder Mystery is a tale of the murder of the Episcopal priest, forgery, duplicity, intrigue, and twist of a love story. Death by Pallet Knife is the sequel, also in the same setting, when a visitor to Ox Bow is found on the meadow with an artist’s pallet knife in his chest. The same characters are included, with two new ones - a very strange piano teacher and a woman out of Doctor Horace Balfour’s past.
For both books, the setting was simple - Saugatuck in the 1920s, the era of the Big Pavilion, tour boats, gangsters, prohibition, and the local setting. This meant I could use places and place names that would be familiar with the readers. As for the characters, there is a mixture of real people from the area, as well as fictional characters who are composites of people I have encountered over the years.
For the second book, I intentionally chose to make both Doctor Balfour the woman from his past (Beatrix) with many traits of someone very high on the autism spectrum.
Other books or projects on the horizon?
I am currently working on a third mystery, with the same setting and many of the same characters. I may stay with the working title A Murder of Crows in Cadmium Yellow. I do know it will be a ‘gentle’ murder which means an absolute minimum of violence, bloodshed, and gore.
Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?
I still like old fashioned ‘ma and pa’ bookstores. As much as I like the wide variety and selection of the national chains, I sometimes find them too overwhelming.
How about a favorite place in Michigan?
Saugatuck and Douglas. A day away from here is wasted, to my way of thinking.
Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?
Every other Friday evening at the Ox Bow Open House, during June through August. And of all the summer benefits, the one I would truly hate to miss is the one at Ox Bow.
A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?
First, my wife Pat Dewey, an artist and partner in mischief. Another is the writer Jacqueline Carey who also lives here in Saugatuck. Our styles are very different and she is far more successful. But what a wit, smile, and a truly wonderful person. A bit further afield, the magnificent Minnesota artist, Ann Riggott, whose water scenes constantly impress me for their realism and beauty.
Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?
Come to the west coast of the state, from the Indiana border to Canada, take your time prowling through the small towns, and you will find delights where ever you go.
Last question. Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?
Both words seem somewhat awkward. I just tell people I live in Saugatuck.
That's a new column for our tally sheet! We'll add you there. Thank you so much for joining us today for