by Tyler Tichelaar
Books look at police, mental health
Paths Crossed: Villains, Victims, Victors. Lessons Learned in the Line of Duty
by Detective Lt. Clif Edwards
In Paths Crossed, Clif Edwards, a retired Michigan State Police trooper, details the first half of his twenty-seven year career from his recruitment at age eighteen, through his training, evolution from rookie to seasoned trooper, being a dog handler and a sergeant. The book is divided into phases of his career with each chapter being a short story that often includes various lessons learned.
The book’s title reflects the strange coincidences that occurred when Edwards’ life crossed with those of criminals. For example, on the back cover, Edwards states: “When I was only fifteen, a thirty-five year old Deputy Sheriff, married and the father of three daughters, was transporting inmates to a dentist when he was overpowered and killed by a prisoner, who then escaped. Thirteen years later, that murderer and my paths crossed.”
Readers will find a variety of stories here that will both entertain them and leave them in awe of what a police officer must face daily. At times, the incidents are downright hilarious, such as when Edwards is called upon to assist a farmer whose truck has overturned and he must help him round up all his pigs now running about the freeway. Other times, the stories are terrifying and I could feel my heart pounding as I read how Edwards stalked a killer or was in a gunfight.
Throughout his career, Edwards had to deal with some truly difficult characters, not always real criminals but simply obnoxious members of the public. Edwards’ experiences range from chasing down gangsters to arresting child molesters, and heart-wrenching moments such as when he saves the life of a criminal who only goes out to kill again.
The stress of a police officer’s job is fully clear in this book. Edwards did not seek counseling after many traumatic events, but in the period the book covers in the 1970s and 1980s, PTSD was just beginning to be understood. He witnessed the demise of not only his first, but his second marriage because of the late night calls, danger, and other strains his career placed upon him. And he had to deal with the pain of his fellow officers sometimes falling in the line of duty.
The result is an eye-opening book about the life of a police officer and how those experiences affect his very soul, yet he retains his desire to protect the citizens of Michigan.
In writing Paths Crossed, Edwards hopes not only to entertain readers, but to offer an educational look at the job for those considering a law enforcement career. His stories allow readers to understand the rewards of such work, but perhaps more importantly, the incredible sacrifices they make to maintain a free society and protect its citizens. After reading Paths Crossed, I have a new respect for our police force and I thank them for their service.
Today, Edwards is retired from the Michigan State Police and has started a new career as a protection ranger for the National Park Service, including at Isle Royale National Park, Everglades National Park, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.
Edwards currently is working on the second volume, Paths Crossed II, which is about the second half of his career, during which time he was a detective. Paths Crossed is available at Amazon.
Who Is Ellen Roquefort?
by A.J. Hutchison
Although written as fiction, Who Is Ellen Roquefort? offers a look into the life of a real person, now deceased, who struggled with paranoia schizophrenia, yet tried to live a normal life.
The main character, Marlene, occasionally has lapses into claiming she is not Marlene but Ellen Roquefort, who declares Marlene is the “stupid one.” Despite these lapses, Marlene was very capable and self-supporting much of her life. She attended college and went on to teach English and journalism, she wrote poetry, painted and raised a child. However, whenever things seemed to be going right for her, she would start to hear the voices in her head or do something to sabotage herself.
Marlene first began to hear voices while in college. Whenever the voices speak, their words are italicized in the book so readers are clear they are in Marlene’s head. Marlene is aware of them and tries to control them, constantly telling them to shut up, especially when they tell her she is stupid or try to convince her to kill herself.
In her early years, Marlene is very moral and career-oriented, but about the same time her schizophrenia sets in, she becomes involved with men––and they usually are the wrong kind of men, married or unavailable. It’s not always clear to what extent Marlene’s illness affects her relationships, but often she is illogical or angry as a result of how the men in her life treat her. Despite these issues, she manages to raise a daughter she dearly loves, hold various jobs and maintain somewhat strained relationships with friends and family.
Family is at the center of Marlene’s life. She and her mother often butt heads, although she helps to care for her mother at the end. Marlene remains especially close to her sister Jean, whose story almost fills as many pages as Marlene’s since Jean often is the one looking out for her.
The book encompasses Marlene’s entire life, telling things like they were without any added sensationalism. In places, the writing feels unwieldy and more details are included than I felt necessary, but other times, I read on, wanting to know what would happen to Marlene next. I especially found her situation to be scary when she believed Satan was her lover, when she was convinced her sister was out to kill her, and when she fell asleep on a stranger’s porch and was awakened by the police––to whom she first identified herself as Ellen Roquefort.
Hutchison doesn’t go into great detail about analyzing mental illness itself but rather tries to depict the effects it has on a person. Marlene goes from moments of rage to confusion; at times, she is institutionalized and unable to care for herself. At other times, she is capable of writing poetry and even being a caretaker to others. Several of her poems are included at the back of the book that show she was quite a talented writer.
Ultimately, Marlene was diagnosed with having at least four different personalities. Her personality of Ellen Roquefort was the perfect one, the personality it appears that Marlene most wanted to be like. How this personality developed and where she obtained the name for it remain unknown.
I appreciate that Hutchison does not try to sentimentalize or sensationalize the portrait of a mentally ill person in these pages. The book could use editing––there are frequent typos, and some extraneous scenes and sentences make the book feel too long at 495 pages, but it does have large print and moves along quickly regardless.
Those who read Who Is Ellen Roquefort? will come away with a better of understanding of what it is to have a mental illness and what it is like to love someone with one.
Who is Ellen Roquefort? is available online and in local bookstores.
— Tyler Tichelaar
Editor’s Note: Tichelaar is the author of Spirit of the North. For book review submission guidelines, visit www.mmnow.com