Sunday, November 17, 2013

MacLeese Unleashed

It turns out that the life of Alan MacLeese is even more compelling than his much-loved columns in The Flint Journal. Roger Van Noord, the former managing editor at the Journal, has captured MacLeese's peripatetic journey in a new book entitled Unleashed: A Storyteller's Odyssey:
An unforgettable storyteller, Al MacLeese delighted in recounting his escapades in the Navy and during journalism’s hard-drinking era, when bosses fired him with astonishing regularity. He counted 47 newsroom jobs in a 15-year stretch, drifting from Miami to San Francisco to Boston. In one forced migration after falling asleep drunk at a Golden Gate Bridge tollgate, he was jailed when he instigated confrontations on a bus and a fracas in the bus station. While being questioned by police, he blurted a confession to a triple ax murder. “Unleashed: A storyteller’s odyssey” tells the history of a man under the influence. MacLeese was awash in indiscretions until his fourth wife, Connie, stabilized his life. He became an award-winning columnist, merging funny with fearless, in writing about the good, the bad and the ugly of his life and the world around him. He introduced -- and jousted with -- a gadfly named Michael Moore, years before Moore reached stardom as a moviemaker. With Connie and his column, he experienced as many “driblets of happiness” as he felt he deserved before his career foundered after an editorial dust-up, nationally publicized by Moore. When his wife died, he found a new home and a new family of friends in Hallowell, Maine, while still captivating audiences with his stories, battling his demons and continuing to seek fulfillment, as a man and as a writer. In “Unleashed,” MacLeese’s distinctive writing voice tells much of his history through excerpts from his often earthy correspondence and his “MacLeese Unleashed” columns. An extension of a columnist’s career cut too short, his correspondence provides a window into his quirky persona and his life on the edge. In his emails from Hallowell, MacLeese combined the frankness of a letter to a friend with the quality of a column -- with his own flair, his self-deprecating humor and such delightful detail as his understated description of a meeting with the “Second Christ” and his frustration in waiting for a 106-year-old great aunt to die so he can collect an inheritance.
Peter C. Cavanugh, Flint's own rock 'n roll impresario, gives the book his seal of approval: "“Unleashed” offers an extraordinary reading experience and abundant opportunity for comforting introspective reflection as one ponders the amazingly inspiring words of Alan MacLeese – gone from us now — but never to be forgotten."


  1. What was the editorial "dust up" and what exactly was Moore's role?

    1. Al and his wife were both good friends. He was a part of journalism that I have missed for years. I remember and loved the "fat cat" contest!

    2. I remember Al his wife Connie, Dick Noble and many others from the old Flint Journal. back in the time when a newspaper was newspaper. The nonsense that passes today is beyond comment.

    3. Len Hoyes used that very same typewriter when crafting his cryptic ransom notes.

  2. Just ordered the book. Looking forward to it.

  3. I met Alan MacLeese back in the 1980s. He was very nice to talk to.

    I have another idea for a biography of a news person who is also an atypical Flint Expatriate.

    That picture of the newsroom brings to mind another Flint Expatriate, who taught English, Speech, and Debate at Flint Southwestern High School from 1963 to 1970. His name was Jesse Champion, and he left Flint to return to his native Birmingham, Alabama to work in radio news. He had previously worked in radio in Birmingham, along with teaching, before being ordered to leave town by the infamous Bull Connor. The following link shows a picture of Jesse smoking his pipe while correcting a news story on a manual typewriter. His is another fascinating Flint Expatriate life story, but which begins and ends in Birmingham.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at