Originally published October 2014
Who knew the repo man had feelings?
W. Bruce Cameron (8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter, A Dog’s Purpose) did. Maybe it’s because he was one, once.
“I lived in Grand Haven (Michigan) and was a repo man in Muskegon for awhile,” says the columnist/author/screenwriter. It was one of the myriad day jobs Cameron held to support his passion for writing. Now a California resident, the Midwest is where Cameron spent his youth and Michigan, his summer childhood home, figures prominently in his newest novel, “The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man.”
When asked what it is about the Midwest that endears itself to him, Cameron said of his current book tour, “I think it’s October … it’s so reminscent of every Halloween I had growing up. “When I go to Michigan the people are just really openhearted and friendly. They’re not maneuvering for position. You’re with people that could be family.”
And it’s the Midwest at its seasonal worst—that skunky stretch of winter where Christmas is too far away to still smile and Spring feels like it is always just out of reach that Cameron sets this mystery, in the heart of northern Michigan. Repo man Ruddy McCann (played by Armie Hammer in Cameron’s fantasy movie cast … good call, Mr. Cameron. Good call.) is taking life one day at a time, just as he always has since the tragedy that forever altered his life’s trajectory. Along with his sister Becky, he lives paycheck to paycheck while trying to keep the family bar open for business.
W. Bruce Cameron will be at Highland Park Library, 494 Laurel Ave., on Thursday, October 30 at 7 p.m., to talk about his new book and answer questions about others—or about his favorite color socks. He did say he takes all kinds of questions. You can sign up here.
But a strange dream and sudden voice in his head stirs Ruddy out of his routine, and suddenly, he finds himself embroiled in more than one mystery. Others recognize the voice as a sign of “Repo Madness”—Ruddy just recognizes it as dead real estate agent Alan Lottner. Bad enough, but the guy is also the father of the girl Ruddy would like to date.
It’s a story about love—father/daughter, sister/brother, familial, romantic … and it’s also about reconciliation and regret. Ruddy regrets the single life choice he made that ended someone else’s life. Alan regrets not being there for his daughter. Becky regrets not listening to Ruddy’s advice. There’s a big giant ball of “What if” going on in this small town and somehow each character has to move their way through it.
And of course, there’s a dog—Jake, Ruddy’s companion and 4-legged best friend. I asked Cameron what it was about the canine species that compels readers to make such strong connections with a book (C’mon, you know you cried at at least one dog book. If you didn’t weep at the sight of the red fern on Old Dan and Little Ann’s graves, I don’t want to know you.)
“About 30,000 years ago, we took over the evolutionary process for dogs,” he said. “We bred dogs for our use but in the process but we also bred them to be our friends. “(In the breed selection process) the ones that we allowed to reproduce were the ones that loved us. We groomed them to love us. There really isn’t another species out there that has evolved to adore us.”
“The Midnight Plan of the Repo Man” is one of those books that you’ll find instantly engaging and it’s also one that you’ll feel comfortable recommending to just about anyone—a tween on up through Grammy. You may even find yourself loving the slushy side of winter again. That’s just a bonus.
And because I always ask authors about the last best book they read, Cameron recommends Word of Honor, by Nelson DeMille. “I re-read it every 10 years to see if it stands up, and it does,” he said.