Dennis O. Cawthorne, lawyer, legislator, chairman of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission, businessman, saloonkeeper-restaurateur, chamber of commerce manager, and carriage driver, knows the famed Great Lakes destination, its people, and its idiosyncrasies like few other people. For a great part of each of the last 54 years, he has lived, worked, and played on iconic Mackinac Island.
He is also a world traveler, having visited sixty countries on six continents. He has served as an official United States delegate to international conferences of government leaders in Moscow, Beijing, and Brussels. Mr. Cawthorne is a graduate of Albion College (Phi Beta Kappa) and Harvard Law School.
Where are you from?
East Lansing and Mackinac Island.
Tell us your latest news?
My book, “Mackinac Island: Inside, Up Close, and Personal” was just released by Arbutus Press of Traverse City, Michigan.
When and why did you begin writing?
August 2012. I started because there was important history to tell and preserve.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
What inspired you to write your first book?
How did you come up with the title?
It best described the topic.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
It’s not a novel. It’s part memoir, part history, and part chronicle.
How much of the book is realistic?
It’s all true.
Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My own experiences.
What books have most influenced your life most?
Histories and biographies.
What book are you reading now?
Woodrow Wilson, The Cold War
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Many books have been written about Mackinac Island, usually focusing on its history, its scenic beauty, or its architecture. This is not one of those books. Rather, this book is a nostalgic and candid behind the scenes look at more than a century of Mackinac people and events. It’s part memoir, part history, and part chronicle. All of it is true.
Mackinac Island is very much a small town, yet each year it hosts over three quarters of a million people and is often the focal point of national and even international media coverage. It attracts celebrities of every kind as well as masses of “average Americans.” It is the summer home of Michigan’s governor, frequently a hotbed of state political activity, and a place endlessly fascinating to those who know it.
For a half century and more, beginning in 1960, I came to know and experience Mackinac intimately. I did so through the prism of the many roles I played there during those years: carriage driver, chamber of commerce manager, state legislator, saloonkeeper, attorney, legislative advocate and for over 20 years member and chairman of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission which governs 83% of the Island’s land area. Along the way, I built a home, became engaged, got married, and raised two sons there. Probably I will be buried there.
I have been an eyewitness to- and too often involved in- a host of events that one does not normally associate with Mackinac: murder, political intrigue, a disastrous fire, scandal controversy, hilarity, and high jinks of all kinds, made all the more fascinating by the very fact they happened on Mackinac.
Through it all, I came to know intimately and appreciate Mackinac’s rich stew of colorful characters and events, its multiple layers unseen and unknown to casual visitors. But I have not been a passive observer of Mackinac. I like to think I also played a role in shaping and impacting the Mackinac Island of today, I hope for the better.
Designed for those who really want to “know” Mackinac from the inside, this is the story of an amazing half century of life and times on an incredible island.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Who designed the covers?
Susan Bays of Arbutus Press
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The final editing process.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
If you like Michigan and Mackinac Island, I think you will find this a good read!
Name of Author
Dennis O. Cawthorne
Mackinac Island: Inside, Up Close, and Personal