‘Summer on Fire’ – Peter Werbe publishes debut novel about the 1967 Detroit uprising


Peter Werbe, who has been an integral part of the Detroit media for more than 50 years, moderated “Nightcall” on WRIF-FM from 1971 to 2016 and contributed countless articles to the counterculture tabloid “Fifth Estate”, insists that not the case is the character Paul in his debut novel “Summer on Fire: A Detroit Novel”.

“Paul is not me,” said Werbe, who lives in Oak Park with Marilyn, his 58-year-old wife.

“Summer on Fire” (Black & Red $ 15.95) is a fictional account of the 1967 Detroit uprising that Advertising went through. Publisher and Founder of Advertising and Fifth Estate, Harvey Ovshinsky, author of “Scratching the Surface: Adventure Storytelling” (Wayne State University Press, US $ 27.99), will be on Facebook on Tuesday, March 16 at 7:00 pm on Facebook have a virtual conversation about their respective books. Registration is required for this event, sponsored by Book Beat in Oak Park.

“I’m asked, ‘You’re Paul, right? I didn’t know you did that. ‘I never did that. It’s fiction. I invented it, “said Werbe.” You look disappointed. It’s a novel, it’s not my memory. But it’s close enough. Since the main characters are Paul and Michelle, someone said, “If you didn’t want people to believe it was you and Marilyn, you could have thought of characters with names that start with different letters.” Paul and Michelle are admirable characters. If people connect us to them, that’s fine. ”

The riot began on July 23, 1967 when Detroit police raided a blind pig – an unlicensed out of hours bar – on 12th Street and arrested more than 80 black patrons. This drew a crowd of onlookers, one of whom threw a bottle at a police officer and lit the flames of the riot that lasted five days. The Michigan Army National Guard and Michigan State Police have been called in to contain the violence.

Perhaps the most notorious incident during those five days was the murders at the Algiers Motel, in which three civilians were killed and nine others brutalized by a task force made up of Detroit Police, MSP and National Guard on the evening of July 25-26, 1967 .

Werbe, who “was born and raised in Detroit in hell,” remembers those five days vividly almost 52 years later. He and Marilyn lived on 3rd Avenue and in Delaware – which they called “3D” – and were four blocks from Algiers. They went to bed every night to hear gunshots and police sirens. They covered the uprising for the fifth estate.

“Everything in my life is an accident in the sense of being in the right place at the right time,” he said. When I was involved in the civil rights and anti-war movement here in Detroit, I was in a meeting in late 1965. (Ovshinsky) was at this anti-war meeting – “I need help with my (news) paper. Can someone help me?’ And nobody raised their hand. I said, “I will.”

“I may have created the fifth booth, but when he got on board, Peter saved it,” said Ovshinsky, an award-winning filmmaker. “We started out as Detroit’s New Progressive Bi-Weekly Newspaper, but Peter was the driver who helped turn the Fifth Estate into something more powerful, more compelling and, ultimately, more loud and radical than I ever had can imagine. Or, as I later said to Peter: “We were like the Beatles, only I was Paul (McCartney) and you were John (Lennon).”

The writing of the chapter on the Algiers incident had a profound effect on advertising.

“It made me feel so depressed. It made me sad and miserable, “he said.” I haven’t written in three weeks and thought, ‘Maybe I don’t want to do this.’ ”

However, Werbe gutted it and finished the book.

“It relies a lot on newspaper reports. Much of it is how we as whites essentially dealt with a black event, “Werbe said.” White people talk about the riots … as something very meaningful to them. We said then. “We have to move out” or “That was five days in which we lived dangerously.” “Most of what has been written about the unrest in novels comes from the ‘white look’ and the impact it has had on us. The most dramatic impact was on the black community and the disaster that struck it. “

So far, Werbe has been impressed by the response “Summer on Fire” has received. When he announced it on his Facebook page, it immediately got more than 300 likes. People who heard “Nightcall” told him they were going to buy the book.

“How often are you commended for a good article you wrote?” he said. “Not many … I really hit a streak because I’m telling our story – our story is that of the city … Even if you weren’t even alive at the time, you still do.” Check out last summer with Black Lives Matter. “

“Summer on fire”

by Peter Werbe

(Black & Red $ 15.95)

To register for a livestream event, visit:

(, the Facebook page of Werbe ( and the Facebook page of Ovshinsky ( /harvey.ovshinsky). If you have any questions or need more information, contact the Book Beat at (248) 968-1190 or [email protected]

Visit Werbe at


Dusty Kennedy