Robert A. Lytle
I was born in 1944 and grew up with my parents and three older sisters on Mackinaw Street in Saginaw, Michigan. My father, a high school agriculture teacher, was an avid outdoorsman as well as a self-taught poet. From him I learned to fish, hunt and play a variety of sports. Also, by his example, I wrote stories and poems as a way to express my interest in those activities.
When I was five years old, our family inherited a crude but habitable cabin in the Les Cheneaux Islands of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I spent my next thirteen summers fishing, swimming, and hiking. Even rainy days were filled with indoor games, reading, and socializing.
As college approached, I knew my carefree summers were over. I had to earn my way. Mackinac Island, with all its hotels and other employment opportunities, was only a hop, skip and a boat ride from my beloved family summer cabin. I landed a job as a hotel dock porter for one summer and then three more assisting boaters on the island’s yacht dock. The dream lived on.
I took my fourth year of pharmacy school at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland where I played basketball, guitar and studied, in about that order. It was 1966-67—the very early stages of the Troubles.
I returned home for my final “Mackinac” summer at the marina and there met my future wife.
Graduation, marriage, a “real” job as pharmacist, and the beginning of our new family, which was to grow to four sons, called me away from northern Michigan for nearly twenty-five years.
During that time I bought an old-fashioned, corner drugstore in downtown Rochester, Michigan, as well as a house a few blocks away. That’s where we made our home for the next 35 years. For each of my boys I wrote songs and poems. I kept them in a folder, which became like a picture book—a way to remember their childhood days.
As a drugstore owner I wrote my own ads and was encouraged to write a self-help medical advice book. I did, but the man that prompted me to write it and would be its promoter, passed away as the book was being printed. Three thousand books sat, virtually unsalable, in the store’s basement. It was a financial flop.
I did, however, learn that I loved the whole writing process—from researching each subject to revising until it reached a polished, final form. I decided to try my hand at a novel. “Write what you know about” is the mantra authors are told to follow, so I decided to explore my northern Michigan experiences and embellish them into a story. Three years and hundreds of rejections later Mackinac Passage: A Summer Adventure was printed by a Michigan publisher. Two more Mackinac stories quickly followed. Then, by a simple extension into Rochester lore, I came to write the time-travel adventure, Three Rivers Crossing, published in 2000. A fourth Mackinac story, The Mystery at Round Island Light, followed in 2001.
In 2000 I became involved with the Rochester Grangers, a vintage baseball club. Ballists, as we are called, dress in period uniforms and compete with other clubs from around the Midwest. We play by the gentlemanly rules of the 1850s and ‘60s—no gloves, spitting, cursing or sliding. Baseball, the Civil War and life in a Northern state at that time became the subjects of my next novel, A Pitch in Time. Published in December 2002, it was runner-up for the prestigious Ben Franklin Award.
A fifth Mackinac Passage story, Pirate Party, featuring the 1812 attack by the British forces upon Fort Mackinac, was published in 2005.
Mr. Blair’s Labyrinth, a time-travel, Great Depression-era story featuring my historic home, one of its gardens and two of my grandsons, was published in 2011.
When not actively writing or working in my store, I visit schools and organizations to discuss a variety of subjects, including writing, history, music and medicine.
Where to find Robert A. Lytle online
Where to buy in print
Bulwick School “A Yankee Lad in London”
by Robert A. Lytle
Michael Hanlon loses his parents in the 9/11 attacks. Orphaned, he moves to London with his uncle, an Irish criminal. Through him, Michael learns of his father’s violent past in the IRA and his struggles to start a new life in America. His new prep school mates help Michael overcome his family’s tragic history and find peace while running from an IRA splinter group still tied to his family.
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