My Books

To buy an autographed copy of one of my books online, I’d normally said “Click here.”

But since the recent Reedy Press fire, none are available except for
The Lighthouse on Devils Island.

Here’s details about my books. I’ll let you know when they’re available

Final Colorful Characters front cover

Release Date: September 15, 2016

To sell more furniture for Schweig Engel, Mike Stein made crazy TV commercials. To protest racial inequality in the construction of the Gateway Arch, Percy Green and a friend climbed a ladder 125 feet up the side of the unfinished monument. When a German immigrant bought a local baseball team, he used a scantily clad band and a Wild West Show to draw fans. Welcome to a world of mavericks, outcasts, innovators, eccentrics, and other unforgettables who defy convention. This book highlights the people who’ve worked overtime to make sure that St. Louis could never be boring. Assembled and brought to life by master storyteller Jim Merkel, the cast includes a rich and endless assortment.


Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch:

St. Louis’s South Side, Second Edition

Published by Reedy Press

In the South Side, there lived a tactless TV guy who had a way of getting tossed out of everything on camera, from the old VP Fair to Bill Clinton’s 1996 local re-election victory party. On the South Side, there dwelt a collector of ancient vacuum cleaners, none of which worked when he demonstrated them before millions of guffawing viewers watching on national television. And on the South Side, a beer baron tried to fight off Prohibition with a high-class, three-sided beer hall. It’s all in the second edition of Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side. The first edition captured the essence of the South St. Louis, with its tales of women scrubbing steps ever Saturday, the yummy brain sandwich, and a nationally known gospel performer who ran a furniture store in the Cherokee neighborhood. These stories, along with the new ones that fill the second edition, convey what gives a truly unique place its rough but charming personality. The result – Holy Hoosiers! – is an edition that’s even better than the first!

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Beer, Brats and Baseball:

German-Americans in St. Louis, Second Edition

Published by Reedy Press

St. Louis is, as much as anything, a German city. Beer, Brats, and Baseball: St. Louis Germans examines the often-serious, sometimes funny, and truly amazing story of Germans in the Gateway City from the arrival of the first German priest right after the city’s founding to the present.Hoping for freedom and a better life, Germans started coming en masse in the 1830s and put their stamp on the frontier outpost. By 1860, native-born Germans amounted to more than a quarter of the city’s population, with their own newspapers, theaters, clubs, and churches.Less than a month after Confederates attacked Fort Sumter, thousands of German volunteers provided the troops for the assault that guaranteed Missouri would stay in the Union. After the Civil War ended, Germans brewed the beer, named the streets, ran the local baseball team, and were a force in city politics. In their drive for success, which some might call Teutonic stubbornness, Germans formed industries, communities, and institutions that remain vibrant today. The author,  journalist Jim Merkel, is the great-great grandson of a German who came to St. Louis before the Civil War and started a piano factory. His first book, Hoosiers and Scrubby Dutch: St. Louis’s South Side, won the Saint Louis Book Award from the Historical Society of St. Louis County.



The Making of an Icon:

The Dreamers, the Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch

Published by Reedy Press

The Gateway Arch is one of America’s most distinctive and beloved national monuments. Much has been written about the Arch, but no book has captured the legend, lore, and spirit behind its conception and construction, until now. The Making of an Icon: The Dreamers, the Schemers, and the Hard Hats Who Built the Gateway Arch compiles well-known, and rare, stories about the visionaries, finaglers, protesters, and fearless-but-skilled hands involved in an incredible undertaking that courted as much controversy as it did enthusiasm. The dreamers included Luther Ely Smith, the St. Louis mover and shaker who conceived a riverfront memorial for Thomas Jefferson. Topping the list of schemers was Democratic Mayor Bernard Dickmann, who threatened to throw Missouri to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Republican opponent if the president wouldn’t provide money for Smith’s memorial. The biggest of all the dreamers, the architect Eero Saarinen, spent fourteen years tweaking his design for a Gateway Arch but never lived to see it built. That was left to intrepid workers who walked without lanyards hundreds of feet above the ground. Today, 2.5 million visit the Gateway Arch every year, and more than 100,000 motorists view the 63-story monument daily from miles away and up close. Many already comprehend its symbolic meaning and physical beauty. The Making of An Icon helps us appreciate the relentless pursuit, innovation, and toil that made the Arch happen.

Devils Lighthouse

The Lighthouse on Devils Island

Self-Published by Author

One miserable spring night, a tired, bitter, despairing old lighthouse keeper prepares to jump off the top of Lake Superior’s Devils Island Lighthouse. It seems the end for Owen McClatchy, but it’s the beginning, during a wondrous summer of 1928.

So begins The Lighthouse on Devils Island, a novel I’m releasing in the middle of July. I basically finished it in 2003 and put it aside on a pile marked “unpublished.” Now, after writing three books about St. Louis published by Reedy Press, I’ve tweaked it and brought it out. If you like lighthouses, if you like heartwarming yarns with happy/sad endings, The Lighthouse on Devils Island is for you.

Here’s a bit more about the book. No spoilers. Promise. The instrument of McClatchy’s redemption is most unexpected: new first assistant keeper Sam Brown and his family, just up from St. Louis. McClatchy sees Brown as incompetent, his wife as impertinent and his two kids as the devil underfoot. But by summer’s end, the Browns help McClatchy realize he hasn’t wasted his life on a lighthouse and enable him to jump into whatever life has for him.

Based on the real Devils Island Lighthouse in Lake Superior’s Apostle Islands archipelago, The Lighthouse on Devils Island is full of carefully-researched details about the drudgery, loneliness, beauty and heroism of a time and place when everything depended on keeping the light burning. The cover artwork is by Austin Miller, a terrific artist who lives in the Apostle Islands. It’s about a wonderful vacation spot, which my wife and I have visited for the last two decades.