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The best place to hide something is in the past...

The coins were trouble from the beginning, but twenty million dollars in West Michigan gold is a prize difficult for maritime salvager Jack Sheridan to ignore. He begins assembling pieces of a puzzle scattered 150 years ago, and embarks on a white-knuckle venture that leads him across the expanse of the Great Lakes, down desolate streets of a lost city, and into the depths of his own storied past. Each step draws him deeper into conflict with others intent on seizing the gold for their own hidden purpose. What Jack finds in the end is more than he bargained for, and the adversary he must confront will force him to question everything he knows.

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INHERIT ALL THINGS took me over two years to write. I hope the end result was worth the wait for those of you who were waiting. Since DESCENDING FROM DUTY was so well received I knew I had to make the follow up rise to the next level. After a lot of hours of researching, plotting, and finding just the right words to tell the story, I feel confident that I've met my goal.

INHERIT is a sweeping quest for treasure that unfolds across Michigan and the Great Lakes. In the spirit of DFD, I wanted to tell a big story and set it in my own back yard to showcase the beautiful vistas and unique locales found only here. This time, however, I went deeper and researched many intriguing stories from Michigan history to build a mythology for my treasure. Along the way I sought help from John McKinney, the President of the Fox Island Lighthouse Association. John's organization is renovating a historic lighthouse and keepers quarters on South Fox Island in a bid to preserve a piece of our past. I admire the work they are doing and wish them well in their efforts. On my promotional tour I will be sure to raise awareness of FILA as well as other groups intent on keeping the Great Lakes lights from disappearing forever.

Please explore the rest of this page for in-depth information on INHERIT ALL THINGS. You'll get the story behind the story, meet the characters, and see what reviewers and readers have to say about my Great Lakes treasure hunt. I hope you enjoy the inside scoop, and I hope you enjoy reading INHERIT as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Sincere Regards

J. Ryan Fenzel

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Here's what reviewers are saying about INHERIT ALL THINGS


"J. Ryan Fenzel takes familiar and twists it around with colorful characters, biting wit and surprises beyond every ebb and flow. The reader follows the hero, Jack Sheridan, around our beautiful Great Lakes from the Kalamazoo River Light, to Sleeping Bear Dunes and beyond in search of long-lost treasure. Along the way, Sheridan faces love lost and found, family, friends and foes - although the reader cannot always be sure who fits into which category. This is an enjoyable, exciting summer read."  [ Full Review ]

Nancy A. Schneider, Great Lakes Historical Society Quarterly Journal


"A fine read crossing large chunks of time and geography...Reading an adventure on Lake Michigan is not a bad way to spend a few cold, winter nights."

           - Steve Begnoche, Ludington Daily News


"Mystery and intrigue are eloquently woven into this well-written plot of lost treasure from a long-ago Great Lakes shipwreck."

- Marilyn Grinnel, Hamburg Township Library


"The past is sometimes a tough nut to crack. Inherit All Things is a novel of looking to the past and trying to decipher its mystery. Jack Sheridan must dig through a century and a half's worth of puzzles to figure out the location of an invaluable treasure buried beneath the [Great Lakes]. A thriller of history and adventure, Inherit All Things is especially recommended to readers looking for a book to keep them on the edge of their seats."

            - Midwest Book Review


"In 2006 I had good things to say about Descending from Duty, a novel from this publisher, and I can say the same for this story [Inherit All Things], a kind of treasure hunt steeped in Great Lakes history. You won’t want to put this one down until you get to the finish."

           - Alan Caruba, Bookviews.com


“A great, fast read...historical romance, mystery, lots of action, and good pacing throughout.”

           - Maria Wolf, Michigan Library Association, Cromaine District Library


“A very interesting and compelling story.”

          - Jon King, WHMI-FM 93.5 news director


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Inherit All Things was included on the list of 30 Great Summer Reads for 2010 compiled by Northren Michigan Bookstores and Traverse Magazine.


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The most rewarding part of writing is getting feedback from readers. Here are some comments that appeared in my e-mail inbox for Inherit All Things.




"I am an avid reader and thoroughly enjoyed [Inherit All Things]. It is as well written and captivating as any novel I have read on the top 10 bestseller list over the years.  I look forward to the continuing story of Jack Sheridan." 


William Duncan





“I just wanted to thank you for your current novel Inherit All Things. I enjoyed it very much and especially like all the Michigan references. I am planning a backpacking trip to South Manitou Island this summer and will look at the Manitou passage with a different eye now when I am crossing it.”

Tom Nisbet

Brighton, MI




"I stumbled across your book Inherit All Things and found it very enjoyable. I have now put Descending From Duty on my B-day/Christmas list and truly look forward to reading it...You are a writer who is able to put me right there in your story."


Bill McLamara

Grand Rapids, MI




“I just finished your second book Inherit All Things.  I wanted to let you know how much I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I actually enjoyed both of your novels very much.  I especially liked the references to all of the Michigan cities.  I moved to Virginia fifteen years ago and I miss it.  Although I do not miss having to shovel and clear the cars off of snow.  Thanks again for your effort and research on producing such great stories.”
Ken Wings





“I finished the book yesterday - wow!  I couldn't put it down.  I read over 200 pages yesterday alone…Excellent work with the twists and turns. Thanks for writing the second book.  Now don't waste any time starting number 3 if you haven't already.”

Ron Berry

Brighton MI




“I finished the book over the weekend and I really enjoyed it.   My brother and I both thought it was awesome how you referenced your first book in this one.  I came across one line in your book that my English Professor would have enjoyed, but I cannot remember if it was ‘Not with Standing’ or ‘Nevertheless.’ Anyway, the Professor would give extra points if we were able to use it correctly in our writing, because most of the time it was used incorrectly. Thanks again for a great book.”

Eric Spitzley

Farmington Hills, MI




“My wife Linda gave me a copy of your book Inherit All Things for my birthday. She even had you autograph it. I just want to tell you how much I enjoyed it.  I loved it. Couldn't put it down. We've spent a lot of time vacationing and exploring Michigan cities. We've spent many weeks in the Saugatuck area over the years. I really enjoyed the events and sequences you wrote about taking place there. Thanks for writing this wonderful story. I truly enjoyed it.”

Doug Smith  
Wixom, MI




Inherit All Things was a fascinating read. It has a great fictional mystery embedded in authentic description of Michigan geography and history. The book has a quick pace and a surprising ending!”


Jeffrey W. Sipes

Indianapolis, IN




"I had to let you know (finally) how much I enjoyed Inherit All Things. I have also read Descending From Duty. I enjoyed both books immensely. Inherit All Things is my favorite that you have written so far. I was on the edge of my seat while reading it...I love the characters and hope to see them again in future novels."


Jennifer Broom

Howell, MI


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After I'd settled on telling a treasure hunt tale I needed to populate the story with a cast of characters. I knew the characters from Descending from Duty would not fit, so I had to start from scratch. Or did I? The more I thought on it the more convinced I became that I had the characters I needed locked away in a three-ring binder on my closet shelf.

Before writing DFD I had also penned two other novels. These books served as a great training ground for plotting, story structure, and characterization. In the end neither got to the point of publication, but there were some great ideas there, and even greater characters. One is a story titled Circling Jericho, with an everyman character named Jack Sheridan as the hero.

Jack Sheridan works for an undersea salvage and research company named Neptune's Reach. He leads salvage operations for them in the world's oceans and in the Great Lakes. In Circling Jericho, a mysterious man named Rafferty contracts Neptune's Reach to recover a sunken relic from the Cold War era. It turns out Rafferty is a mercenary intent on stealing a sensitive piece of military hardware using Neptune's resources. He seizes the salvage vessel and threatens the lives of the crew to force Jack's cooperation. Jack's son Connor is among the captured.

To rescue his son and prevent Rafferty from securing the military hardware, Jack rises to resist. He rallies the crew, overpowers the mercenary team, and saves Connor from certain death. Throughout the book Jack and Rafferty clash, trade barbs, challenge each others beliefs, one-up each others strategies, and forge a deadly rivalry. The story ends with Jack returning home to patch things up with his estranged wife Lauren. In the final pages he receives one last message from a presumed-dead Rafferty, setting an ominous tone for Jack's future.

The characters in Circling Jericho play off each other so well, and the world they live in matched up with the world I planned to set my new story idea in so close I knew I had my cast. Jack Sheridan would return to action, and he'd have with him feisty wife Lauren, headstrong son Connor, and impulsive friend Markus. Other alumni from Jericho show up in Inherit All Things too, including Jack's self-absorbed former boss Lloyd Faulkner and military-minded friend Joshua Rezner. But new characters were needed to tell the story too. Jack's old flame Bobbie Weller is introduced, and plays a pivotal role in regards to plot and conflict with Lauren. Bobbie's daughter Alyson mixes things up between Connor and Markus.

Of course I needed a worthy opponent for Jack to bump heads with on his way to the coins. I found my foil in Benjamin Higgs, a man of imposing stature and long term ambition. He's just as likely to bust teeth as exchange friendly banter with someone he's leveraging for his ultimate end game. Higgs enjoys competition, and when Jack appears on the scene it invigorates his efforts. He looks forward to besting his new nemesis, and after each encounter his resolve grows more and more lethal. To aid his efforts, he has Nate Kisko to lean on. A second rate thug with no compunction to murder, Kisko does what he is told and asks very few questions. There are other antagonists, and a surprise or two down the road, but I don't want to give anything away.

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 I’d settled on a treasure hunt story. I had the major components of the plot. It was time to dig into the details. I knew I didn’t want the typical treasure map with the X at the end. I wanted the treasure to be concealed by an intriguing puzzle, and that puzzle had to be cut from Michigan history.

 After having visited some nice harbor towns and a lighthouse or two in West Michigan during one of our family vacations, I began to research the history of the area. I quickly uncovered a number of very intriguing events centered around Allegan County. One stand out that captured my imagination was an 1842 account of a group of shivering shipwreck survivors fleeing to the Kalamazoo River lighthouse for shelter after making their way to shore. The worst blizzard in a generation had hit that night, yet this one ship had left a small milling village port that she’d been taking on cargo from all day. I began to wonder what could have been the reason for them to ship out at the onset of the storm.

 Digging deeper into the history of the milling village, I discovered a fascinating turn of events that reverberated across Michigan in the early 1800s. I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll give you a hint: The congressmen of our time are not the first to royally screw up the banking system. With these elements, and few more dashes of Great Lakes heritage, I had the makings of an intriguing mythology for the treasure in my story.


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  Story details to come...Visit this page again for more behind the book information.


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