Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Wolf Man of Ely by Michael Allan Mallory, Guest Blogger

I first learned about Michael after our first mysteries were published in 2007 by Five Star/Gale. Not long after, I had the pleasure of meeting Michael and his wife, as well as his co-author Marilyn Victor, at a mystery convention.

You won't find nicer folks in all of mystery bookdom, and that's saying a lot because the world of mystery is full of warm, friendly, and helpful writers (and spouses) you'd all like to have living next door...yes, even if we do write about murder and mayhem.


A lot of research was needed to create this mystery series. Today Michael tells us about his experiences at a wolf center for the newest release, Killer Instinct.

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The Wolf Man of Ely by Michael Allan Mallory, Guest Blogger


Don’t let the wolves grab you; they’re strong and they’re hungry.

Those words flashed through my head as the blood dripped down my forehead onto my sweatshirt while fifteen feet away three gray wolves watched me with interest.

I wasn’t in danger. A tall chain-link fence separated me from the animals, but with the scent of my blood in the air, I had a moment’s doubt. Even without the fence, I probably wouldn’t have been attacked. Mocked, perhaps, the object of bemused wolf laughter at the clumsy human in their midst, but not physically harmed.

I was at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota, one of a dozen volunteers that weekend helping to enrich the lives of the animals at this respected learning center in Superior National Forest near the Canadian border. It was Friday evening of the first day and I’d messed up. My work detail was extending the height of the holding area fence, and I’d been the guy on top of the ladder. When I moved the ladder the socket wrench I’d left on the top step tumbled down onto my skull. My palm was red after I’d touched my forehead, the blood soon dripping freely into view. Physically intact, the accident left me mortified. It’d happened in front of everyone.

I’d wanted to impress Lori Schmidt, the wolf curator, with my hard work that weekend so she’d be amenable to answering my questions later. I was at the wolf center, in part, to research my next book. Now I felt like the Mayor of Doofusville being the first “casualty” of the weekend. Ushered into the wolf lab, I was tended to by another volunteer who staunched the wound, no stitches required, much to my relief. Lori even came to check in on me and chatted for a bit. I rejoined the work detail shortly thereafter with no further mishaps. And, no worries. When I later told her about my book project, Lori was quite happy to answer all my questions about her favorite animal.

There was a lot to learn about this iconic animal of the wilderness and I wanted to get my facts straight, as well as get some great behind-the-scenes details at the wolf center. I wanted to do right by the wolves. Over the centuries, they’ve gotten a lot of bad press in the West, nearly all of it undeserved. Vilified as vicious, bloodthirsty killers, wolves are neither. They are apex predators, tireless runners, many times smarter than the smartest dog, loving parents. They’re also fundamental players in the health of their ecosystems, a fact that didn’t prevent most countries from exterminating their wolf populations.

Minnesota has the distinction of being the only state in the contiguous forty-eight United States that never exterminated its wolves. At this time nearly three thousand gray wolves thrive in Superior National Forest. This is the background for Killer Instinct in which zoologist Lavender “Snake” Jones goes to the North Woods of Minnesota to help investigate the shooting of four wild wolves, a tense situation that escalates into the murder of two suspects.

Working with the wolves was the most enjoyable aspect of researching this project. The fence mishap occurred a few summer’s ago. Last year I returned to the wolf center as a volunteer. Over the weekend we put up new privacy fencing in the retirement pack area. No accidents this time, I emerged from the weekend unscathed. Lori joked about it later.

Looking back, I realize that getting conked on the head turned out to be blessing in disguise, as it made me memorable and prompted the wolf curator to seek me out. It certainly broke the ice between us, the ice and my scalp! The accident provided the opportunity I’d been looking for to talk with her. Though I didn’t think so at the time, spilling a little blood in pursuit of my goal turned out to be a good thing.

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Thanks so much, Michael, for being my guest today. I wish you the greatest luck with Killer Instinct and with the Snake Jones series.

Michael works with assorted computer technologies for an architectural and engineering firm in Minneapolis. In his spare time, he has studied and taught Wing Chun kung fu.

To learn more about Michael Allan Mallory and Marilyn Victor and the zookeeper series, visit the Snake Jones Zoo Mysteries website. The first book in the series, Death Roll, is available as an e-book as well as an audiobook. Killer Instinct is available in hardcover at online booksellers or may be ordered through your local chain or independent bookstore.

27 comments:

Michael Allan Mallory said...

Thank's to you, Pat, for inviting me to the party!

MJ said...

I really wish I'd been there : ) Great blog!

Marilyn Victor said...

Good Morning! Great Blog, Michael, and great photos.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patricia - Thanks so much for hosting Michael.


Michael - I'm especially interested in the research you did for your writing because that's what gives a novel, I think, a real sense of authenticity. I'm intrigued by wolves, too, and I'd have loved to see this place...

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Excellent blog! I feel like I really know you now. Congrats on the very good reviews for the new mystery novel.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Now that's some cool research, minus the the accident of course.

Michael Allan Mallory said...

Malik (Ma-leek) is the Arctic wolf in the bottom photo. My favorite. His brother, Shadow (top photo) was the dominant male. When I was at the wolf center last May, Malik had been retired to his own enclosure. We put up fence screening so the other wolves couldn't see him. I was sorry he was alone. But it had to be done to protect him. He did have lots of human company from care staff. Well, I recently found out that a month after my visit, Shadow was also retired and now lives with his brother. Grizzer is now top wolf.

Anonymous said...

We love all animals, dom. feral, winged... We have two cats (one a Torti!)and a Chihuahua. I suspect the Torti has some Cayote in her gene pool-LOL
Jackie Griffey

Patricia Stoltey said...

There's a wolf center not far from my town in Northern Colorado. I'm more tempted to go visit it now that I've read your post, Michael. You won't catch me up on any ladders, though.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Marilyn! If I remember the bios right, Marilyn used to volunteer at a zoo, so she also has a great background for co-authoring this series.

Joyce Yarrow said...

Thanks for sharing your research adventure, Michael - for me this kind of background increases my enjoyment of a book! As a sidenote, a friend of mine runs a wolf rescue operation here in the northwest and spends a lot of her time picking up road kill on Vashon Island to feed to her charges.

Beth Groundwater said...

I'm looking forward to your book release, Michael! This was a great article to whet our appetite for blood--the mystery murder kind. :)

Michael Allan Mallory said...

Joyce, same at the Ely wolf center. Minnesota has a surplus white tailed deer population. Lots of road kill. The wolves at the center are fed a deer once a week. In the winter, when the center is closed to the public, the frozen deer carcass thaws in the wolf curator's office until ready. That made it into the book.

The Golden Eagle said...

That's some research, and sounds like it was an interesting experience. Wolves are amazing creatures.

Michael Allan Mallory said...

Pat, those might be Mexican wolves in Colorado, unless they imported grays. Let me know if you visit.

There's this wonderful PBS Nature show that was rebroadcast two months ago: The Wolf That Changed America. It's about Lobo, a super wolf who lived in the southwest in the late 1800s. It was a battle of wits between Lobo and the man who eventually killed him. He instantly regretted it and went on to champion the national park system and wildlife conservation, as well as starting the Boy Scouts of America.

Beth wrote a lovely blurb for KILLER INSTINCT, which is on the back cover.

N. R. Williams said...

I love wild animals, including wolves. That alone would make me want to read your book, mystery being my second favorite genre. I'm glad that you survived your accident and had an opportunity to work with such amazing creatures.
Nancy
N. R. Williams, fantasy author

Patricia Stoltey said...

This is the site for Wolf Sanctuary in Northern Colorado: http://www.wolfsanctuary.net/ It looks like some of their rescue/sanctuary animals are wolf/dog mixes, too.

Michael Allan Mallory said...

Pat, looks like an interesting place. I like the Chief Seattle quote. Hadn't seen the whole thing before.

Anonymous said...

I loved Death Roll, love Ely and wolves -triple threat! I can't wait to get my hands on Killer Instinct! :)

Gina E.

Michael Allan Mallory said...

Thanks, Gina! BTW, Gina is IN Killer Instinct. I--ahem--borrowed her first name for a key character, and one or two of her physical attributes. And I must say the real Gina is a much nicer person than the character in the book.

Terry Odell said...

We've got a wolf rehab center very close to us, although I haven't been there. Our son visited and got some amazing photographs.(Those familiar with my blog know his work!). And I just bought Death Roll for my Nook last night. Looking forward to reading it.

Terry
Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Kaye George said...

This is a must read for me, Michael! I'm going to try for a free copy, but if that's not in the cards, I'll be buying it. Aren't wolves wonderful creatures?

Patricia Stoltey said...

Michael, thanks so much for being here today. You're a great guest.

Michael Allan Mallory said...

Pat, thanks for having me! And I didn't even have to shed blood to do it.

Radine Trees Nehring said...

Oh boy, do I look forward to reading this next story about Snake Jones. Best wishes for every success, and thank you to Patricia Stoltey (one of my favorite authors as well) for hosting this.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Radine -- Thanks for stopping by. I don't think we've had a good chat since GMMC two or three years ago. I hope all is well with you.

FYI to my readers, Radine is another favorite mystery author with a great series set in Arkansas. I'm going to pop over to her place and see if she'd like to do a guest post for us one of these days.

LINDA FAULKNER said...

Great post. We have a wolf sanctuary about 30 miles east of Missoula. Unfortulantely, when we visited, we didn't see any of the beautiful creatures.

Montana has swung back and forth between protecting and huntil wolves. No easy answer to that dilemma, since both sides of the issue have valid points.

Personally, I love the critters and know they seldom attack humans.

Keep up the good work!