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Norman

Murder Mysteries

By | Norm's Author Blog | 3 Comments

Twenty years ago in New Mexico, our family used a Murder Mystery as a way to amuse ourselves during a weekend-long celebration of the new millennium. The fictional story unfolded to reveal a prominent lawyer who had been stabbed in the kitchen at the Albuquerque Country Club. I played the role of the detective who had to expose the guilty party. Uncovering various clues was a wonderful device that encouraged multiple generations of family members to interact with each other.

From time to time I have written other Murder Mysteries. The characters and circumstances changed, but typically a plot unfolded during drinks and dinner and our big old house in Ann Arbor often became one of the characters.

   This year, however, a New Year’s Eve Murder Mystery would need to be totally online. Six of us took on roles built around the shock of the murder of Wayne Bruce, “Ace Reporter” for the fictional Metro Times, whose five-day-old dead body was surprisingly found in one of the caskets at the Luke Lexher Funeral Home. (Tip: Names of the characters were derived from Superman and Batman stories.) To simulate our meeting, the six of us each put the same photo of a funeral parlor on our Zoom virtual background screen so we all appeared to be in the same space; we agreed that it was a nice touch. The mystery revolved around, How did the body get there? And who was the guilty party? Was it the reporter’s estranged wife, his old flame, the managing director of the Metro Times, one of the newspaper’s reporters, or even possibly the funeral home owner. The plot was a fantasy diversion which served to take us from a bleak 2020 year into a hopefully more positive 2021.

Murder mysteries can be interesting, but difficult, to write. If you ever thought of echoing Agatha Christie by writing a novel-length murder mystery, I suggest trying to write such an evening’s interactive version first. Use your imagination to write colorful characters, meaningful clues, and a compelling plot line. And although not as easy as it may sound, it is definitely a lot of fun.

Keep up with us at our web site, tylertopics.com

Book review

By | Norm's Author Blog | One Comment

One of our books, Greek Revival in America: Tracing its architectural roots to ancient Athens, has received primarily 5-star reviews on Amazon. The following review by an unnamed reader describes our quest to unravel the mysteries inherent in our historic home through the narrative of our travel to England and Greece. The story of our odyssey includes many serendipitously unplanned discoveries. Available online, we feel this book would be a fine gift for someone who could vicariously appreciate the joys and drama of historic travel during this year’s stay-at-home holiday season.

The review reads:

“While Norm and Ilene Tyler’s “Greek Revival in America” may sound like a book that would appeal by title to architects and students of architecture only, the adventure this couple embarks on in their quest to uncover the architectural history of their beautiful, old house in Ann Arbor makes for a great and entertaining read for all. The book opens with what seems like an improbable tale concerning one of the 20+ foot columns that takes an unexpected tumble across the front lawn of their grand historic home (original structure built circa 1830’s). This incident sparks a unique gum-shoe trail for Ilene and Norm as they research and uncover stories about the home’s original owner (Judge Robert Wilson), subsequent home-owners (some characters are quite colorful) – and mainly – why this stately home was built in replication of a Greek temple in a former Midwestern frontier town in the first place. Ilene and Norm are not long for insignificant details that detract from their pursuit of the origin of those grand columns in front of their dream home. The reader continues to be drawn by their folksy narrative and well-documented travel-research that takes sometimes Norm and mostly both authors to New York State, England, and finally Athens, Greece. Ilene and Norm provide unique insight to the architectural uninitiated about why we should care about their passion for the old house. (For one we learn that Teddy Kennedy made a speech in their parlor during his presidential run). Historic facts aside, we ultimately care because Ilene and Norm are able to weave an intriguing story that includes a little mystery, fun, adventure and fact-finding. Not boring textbook “facts,” but unearthed stories that lead Ilene and Norm — and this reader – on a deeper mission involving adventure, overcoming obstacles and uncovering hidden historic landmarks. After finishing the book one mystery however still remains: how did Ilene and Norm – as husband and wife – manage to write such an entertaining book together – and yet remain professional partners and friends? That question is also part of the endearing appeal of a story that is perhaps best described as a travel-log adventure with a historic twist. Don’t be fooled: “Greek Revival in America” is far from a text book. Highly recommended reading for anyone interested in history, art, community, travel, and relationships!”

Keep up with us at our web site at: http://tylertopics.com

Book gifts

By | Norm's Author Blog | One Comment

If you are like us, you may be considering special gifts for the holidays. Many of you may be interested in the book Norm published last year, 15 Generations of American Stories: Notable Descendants of Immigrant Job Tyler. You do not need to be a Tyler to enjoy the biographies taken from five eras of American history. The stories include Caribbean pirates, Salem witches, Civil War generals of various repute, a very distinguished academic, and three U. S. presidents.

You can buy a copy(ies) on Amazon for $7.99, and with Amazon Prime you get free and quick delivery. When looking at Amazon, also check out our other books under the name of Norman Tyler. Another book of general interest published in color, Greek Revival in America: Tracing its roots to ancient Athens, depicts our personal odyssey of discovering the roots of our historic house.

We hope you will continue to keep in touch with us through email and wish you all the best for this holiday season.

Check out our web site: http://tylertopics.com

Coming Up for Air

By | Norm's Author Blog | 3 Comments

The creative process we discuss in these Blog postings can take many forms, including assisting others in their creative process. We are pleased to have been able to support our friend, Roger Rapoport, in the filming and production of a full-length movie titled “Coming Up for Air.”


Filmed in Michigan, it is the story of a collegiate diver whose incredibly stressful life as a nationally-recognized student/athlete is leading to his mental breakdown. The story revolves around his mother and how she must learn to cope with the worsening situation of her only son.

We feel it is a gripping movie. It has been recognized with a number of awards and has been an official selection at 22 film festivals at home and abroad and four best picture awards. We are proud to have had two roles in its development—as minor actors and also as an executive producer. In this period with our focus almost exclusively on COVID, this movie, completed before the pandemic outbreak, reminds us we need to recognize there are other significant social issues still with us. We feel it is a film well worth viewing and encourage you to watch it. “Coming Up for Air” is now available for streaming on Vimeo at: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/comingupforair2.

Finding Clues

By | Norm's Author Blog | 6 Comments

It is always interesting when your writing can be based on personal experience. Recently Ilene and I discovered an intriguing story in this way.

Because of COVID, we sometimes do our daily walk safely in Forest Hills Cemetery, located a few blocks from home. Because of my long interest in the Tyler family’s genealogy and history, I recently checked with the cemetery office to see if there were any Tylers buried there. They took out a map and indicated four Tyler gravesite locations, not counting our own. One site we knew about; the other three were harder to find.

One of the sites was located in Block 56, Lots 7 & 8. We strolled to this location and looked at every stone in the block. Not finding anything, we wondered if they had given us the wrong information. Fortunately, I was stubborn enough to kick some dirt away from a small area of a mostly-buried flat stone and exposed what was obviously a gravestone. Kicking away a little more dirt, we began to see lettering, and eventually were able to decipher the name, David Tyler. This photo shows what it looks like at this point, before we go back with brushes to clean it off properly.

Returning home, I looked through our three volumes of Tyler Genealogy and found a Doctor David Tyler who in 1830 moved from “Tyler Hollow” in Marcellus, New York, to Ann Arbor. Wow! I had found one of my relatives through this unique circumstance. I found information on him in Washtenaw County’s online history and on the genealogy web site, WikiTree.

Doctor David Tyler turned out to be an upright Ann Arbor citizen and an officer in the local Masonic Lodge. His brother was Comfort Tyler, also from Marcellus, a notable who had many distinctions as one of upstate New York’s early settlers. My special interest in Comfort had been established earlier when I wrote about him in my Tyler history book titled, 15 Generations of American Stories: Notable Descendants of Immigrant Job Tyler. It seems Comfort had foolishly become right-hand man for Aaron Burr when Burr tried to establish a new nation in the Louisiana Purchase with himself as head of this new government. When their small band of rebels was caught, both Burr and Comfort Tyler were put on trial before Chief Justice John Marshall of the Supreme Court. The historic Burr Conspiracy, written about in many books, resulted in both men being freed simply because their “actions” had never been realized. Comfort returned home, but with a sense of disgrace.

So I was connected with an interesting family and some fascinating history. Ilene pointed out that David Tyler was a contemporary of Robert S. Wilson, who built our own historic Greek Revival style house. The supreme irony would be to discover that David and Robert knew each other back in mid-19th century in Ann Arbor.

All in all, it was a wonderful example of how stories can come from anywhere. As writers, we should be able to find drama in the most innocent of instances; maybe even from brushing a little dirt from a stone.

750 Words

By | Norm's Author Blog | 5 Comments

During our months-long stay-at-home, many of us are thinking this might be a good time to do some writing. You may think–I always meant to begin my memoirs, or try writing a murder mystery, or wax philosophical. But there seem to be distractions and reasons not to begin.

Our son, Joseph, introduced us to an effective way to overcome such creative inertia. It is referred to as the 750-Word Exercise. There is one simple rule. Begin writing about a topic of interest to you and keep writing about it in one sitting, non-stop, for 750 words—no more, no less. If you are like most writers you will find that the first 250 to 300 words will represent your current thinking but following those initial words you should enter a freestyle writing where you don’t know what will come off your fingertips. But keep writing anyway until you reach 750 words (approximately 3 pages). Then take a break and come back to it in a day or two and see what you have. You may be surprised at where your free thinking led you, and hopefully you have something worth developing further. It might serve as a section for a coronavirus journal, or the beginning of a piece of fiction, or a more reflective piece.

We encourage you to try this 750-Word Exercise. And let us know what happens if you do. (Note this blog posting is only 233 words. Oh, well.)

A Time That Wasn’t

By | Norm's Author Blog | One Comment

Sometimes there are more engaging ways to share reflections on our common quandary. I offer my effort using verse.

A Time That Wasn’t

A COVID moment;
The rhythm of being takes pause.

An island in time,
A pact with fatalistic will.

Anxiously trusting
Our sacrifices will soon end.

A Time That Wasn’t,
Cloaking a new destiny.

The Philadelphia Story

By | Norm's Author Blog | 4 Comments

Although my book on the biographical history of the Job Tyler family (see previous blog) has now been self-published, I just came across a new biography that really needs to be shared.

The University of Michigan’s Clements Rare Books Library has a huge collection of artifacts from early American history. Recently the staff hosted an online discussion on one of their artifacts, the Scott-Montgomery family album, an excellent example of a complete and well-organized family photo album. The speaker mentioned key people in the Scott-Montgomery family, including Charlotte Hope Binney Tyler Montgomery. My ears perked up at the Tyler in the name and this encouraged me to do a bit of research. It turns out Charlotte was the mother of Colonel Robert Leaming Montgomery, whose wife was Hope Binney Tyler, a name found in our Job Tyler genealogy. Thus, through marriage our two families are connected, although it turns out it was more of a merger than a marriage.

Let me explain. Hope’s father, Sidney Frederick Tyler, was a Harvard-educated Philadelphia lawyer who organized four railroads in the late 19th century. Hope’s brother, George Frederick Tyler, was a wealthy Philadelphia banker who built one of the country’s last “great estates,” with horses, a dairy, forty employees, and a 10-car turntable garage. (His biography can be found in my book.)

Hope’s daughter was Helen Hope Montgomery Scott, who Wikipedia describes as a Main Line socialite and philanthropist and who Vanity Fair once called “the unofficial queen of Philadelphia’s WASP oligarchy.” She is most famous as the inspiration for the lead character Tracy Lord featured in the Philip Barry play, The Philadelphia Story, played by Katherine Hepburn in the film of the same name, and also featured in the musical-film High Society.

Although such family linkages are certainly intriguing to come across, I accept that such high-falutin’ ties will not make me any more societal or moneyed. I remain the same old Norm that I’ve always been; just ask Ilene.

A favorable review

By | Norm's Author Blog | Comments

For over thirty years, Ilene has been an active member of the Association for Preservation Technology, International. The most recent edition of the organization’s Bulletin includes a review of our historic preservation book. We are pleased with the reviewer’s assessment and want to share three brief excerpts with you.

Historic Preservation: An Introduction to Its History, Principles, and Practice is a foundational book written to reach every person who is exploring the depth and breadth of historic preservation. Beginning students will be inspired as they cover the extensiveness of this field and find ideas for their future careers. Storied professionals who have been practicing for years will find important details and case studies that can be applied to their own work. Norman and Ilene Tyler and Ted Ligibel have developed a concise narrative and presentation method that encourages the reader to continue exploring with each topic and chapter. . . This is the third edition of this influential book, and while this edition is 140 pages longer that the first, the added content is necessary to detail the development of the profession over the past 20 years. The Tylers and Ligibel are skilled at adding new content seamlessly to each subject. . . The Tylers, well-known in the field of preservation, along with their coauthor Ligibel, offer their long history of work in this field to entice the next generation of preservationists.” (Todd Grover, Principal, MacDonald and Mack Architects, Minneapolis)