This article is from the January 2019 Grand Rapids Magazine. Available on newsstands now or via subscription.
For author Tom Carr, writing about the crimes of Michigan’s past allows him to travel through time and witness some of the most interesting and sordid events in history.
“I love the seamy, gritty history,” said Carr, a Grand Rapids native who moved to Northville as a child and currently resides in the Traverse City area. “I don’t like looking at history through rose-colored glasses.”
Carr, who studied journalism at Michigan State University, began his career bouncing around Michigan writing for daily newspapers, including the Traverse City Record-Eagle and the Sault Ste. Marie Evening News.
But he said he always knew journalism wasn’t supposed to be the last stop of his career. So, when a couple of friends started Mission Point Press and suggested he submit a book proposal, Carr agreed.
Editor Heather Shaw gave him some ideas to work with, and when she mentioned chronicling the murders that have happened in different areas of Michigan, Carr recalled, “That was the one that kind of rang my bell.”
“We all love human stories, and what’s more human than a murder story?” he said. “There’s murder and there’s love. Those are the two great human stories.”
Giving accurate accounts of Michigan’s criminal history has been a daunting task, though, requiring a great deal of research and some occasional guesswork.
“I do want to tell a compelling story, and I don’t want to tell it falsely,” Carr said. “You’re trying to be as honest as you can, but you have to fill in some blanks to take us there.”
Carr’s debut book, “Blood on the Mitten: Infamous Michigan Murders, 1700s to Present,” is a collection of murder stories, running the gamut from serial killers to pirates and everything in between.
After the release of his first book in 2016, Carr decided to continue his Great Lakes crime series with an account of some of the most sensational cases in Michigan’s history. “MI Bad: Robbers, Cutthroats & Thieves in Michigan’s Past & Present” covers stagecoach holdups, train robberies, prison breakouts, brothels, shootouts, bank stickups and more.
Keeping up a pace of writing 500 words a day, even when traveling for appearances, fans can expect more works from Carr to hit the shelves in the near future.
In his next book, Carr promised to stick to the theme of crimes in Michigan’s history but said he plans to take a new twist on the topic, such as “the dark side of some of the industrial titans of the state.”
Photo of Tom Carr by Johnny Quirin