Zug Island: A Detroit Riot Novel tells a Huck Finn-meets-heavy-industry tale about a suburban white kid who gets a crash course in race relations. Set in 1967 against a backdrop of industrial blight and urban decay, the book follows Jake Malone and Theo Semple as they stumble in and out of rhythm on Detroit’s mean streets to discover that the face of racism comes in every shade of color.
After getting kicked out of college, Jake needs to find work in Detroit’s frozen rust belt. Armed with a shovel and a keen sense of self-preservation, he enters the dark reaches of Zug Island and must prove his worth, not only to himself but to everyone around him. He is befriended on the job by Theo; their friendship grows until put to the test outside the well-defined boundaries of the coke ovens. There they find that racial discrimination, enshrined behind Detroit’s segregated suburban neighborhoods for decades, is alive and well.
Then one sweltering, early Sunday morning, an aggressive Detroit police squad puts into motion a raid on a “blind pig” that ignites the heart of the city, setting old hatreds ablaze, leaving much of the town in ruins and suburbia witness to its worst fears. Hell has come to town.