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