Rosellen Brown is the Next Featured Author at Max and Benny’s

The next Max and Benny’s author event on Monday evening, April 29 at 7:00 p.m. features Rosellen Brown, the distinguished author whose novels include Tender Mercies, Before and After and Civil Wars. Her stories have appeared in numerous literary publications including Best American Short Stories, Best Short Stories of the Century and the O. Henry Prize Stories.
She will discuss her most recent novel, The Lake on Fire, which superbly depicts the class and cultural tensions that were pervasive in Chicago just before, during and slightly after the Columbian Exposition of 1893. Worker discontent in the city was still simmering in the aftermath of the deadly clashes of the Battle of the Viaduct in 1877 and the Haymarket Affair of 1886. Economic conditions and labor strife were worsening because of the Panic of 1893, which soon led to a depression.
Ms. Brown embodies these tensions magnificently in the characters of Chaya-Libbe Shaderowsky and her younger brother Asher, and Gregory Stillman and his brother Ned. Chaya and Asher are Jews whose poor family had left Eastern Europe for a better life in America. Gregory and Ned are born with “a silver spoon in their mouths” and are part of Chicago’s economic and cultural elite. Yet the author brilliantly weaves a narrative spiced with romance, idealism, greed and violence where these four characters’ lives are inextricably connected with each other.
The teeming Maxwell Street Market surrounded by tenements and sweat shops come alive in this book. Asher’s gutsy escapades on the Midway during the Exposition keep the reader amazed and surprised. The inclusion of historical personages in the story, especially Jane Addams, is truly a delight. The Lake on Fire is a must read for any lover of Chicago historical fiction.
Please go to the Max and Benny’s website homepage and click “Upcoming Events” to register for the event.


Society of Midland Authors Announces Award Winners

The Society of Midland Authors has announced the winners of its annual competition of best books published in 2018 by authors with Midwest connections. My friend Marlene Targ Brill did a splendid job in coordinating this contest, and I thank her for asking me to be one of the judges in the Adult Fiction category. The winners are:
ADULT FICTION: Kelly O’Connor McNees, “Undiscovered Country”
ADULT NONFICTION: Shane Bauer, “American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment”
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR: Will McGrath, “Everything Lost is Found Again: Four Seasons in Lesotho.”
CHILDREN’S FICTION: Samira Ahmed, “Love, Hate & Other Filters”
CHILDREN’S NONFICTION: Patricia Hruby Powell: “Struttin’ With Some Barbeque: Lil Hardin Armstrong Becomes the First Lady of Jazz”
POETRY: Claire Wahmanholm: “Wilder”
The annual awards dinner will be at the historic Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan, 22nd Floor, Chicago, Tuesday evening May 14. Tickets are $75 each. Reservations can be made by PayPal or check at

Story & Song Blissfully Radiates in the Sunshine State

If you are traveling in northern Florida, please make a point to visit the wondrous Story & Song in Fernandina Beach. Owners Mark and Donna Paz Kaufman recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of what they call their “neighborhood bookstore bistro’’ which offers “books, light bites, coffee, wine, music, art and conversation.” As you can see by the blissful look on their faces in the photo, the business is truly a labor of love for them.
I loved the place and you will too. Besides marvelous books and scrumptious food, the programming schedule is amazing. For example, this coming April 17, at 7:30 in the evening, operatic soprano Robyn Marie Lamp will be in concert there singing “Songs from the Jewish Heart.” Check out the website for more details of the fabulous happenings there.

Max and Benny’s Jewish Author Series Begins Its Ninth Year

People are often surprised when they learn that the longest continuous Jewish Author Series in the Chicago area is not at a synagogue or a Jewish Community Center, but at Max and Benny’s Restaurant and Deli in Northbrook. The Max and Benny’s series began in March 2011 and is now going into its ninth year. Since 2014, the series has been running on a monthly basis. There have been about eighty author presentations so far and around 5500 people have attended these. There have been several non-Jewish authors featured as well, but these authors have each had a significant connection to the Jewish community.
The next featured author will be Nina Barrett, who will be discussing her book, The Leopold and Loeb Files, on March 25. The presentation begins at 7:00 in the evening, but most people arrive early enough to enjoy a delicious meal beforehand. Reservations are required and can be made by going to “Upcoming Events” on the homepage at

What’s on Your Bookshelf?

We all seem to have various special and unique book collections tucked away on our bookshelves. Among my collections are the biographies and memoirs of American Presidents. I also have some nice collections of Chicago authors such as Saul Bellow and Studs Terkel. How about you? I would love you to share your special collection (s) with us. Maybe even include a photo or two.

Bob Boone Selected Featured Illinois Writer for 2019 by Willow Review

Congratulations to my friend and literary mentor Bob Boone, who has recently been selected as Featured Illinois Author for 2019 by the prestigious literary publication Willow Review.  There will be a reception and a reading featuring Bob on Thursday, April 11 at 7:00 p.m. at the Grayslake campus of the College of Lake County in Room A013.

Bob founded Young Chicago Authors (YCA) in 1991 with the purpose of involving teenagers in creative writing. Thousands of Chicago area youth have benefited from the program which is still going strong today. In 2009, Bob accepted an award at the White House for his work at YCA.

Bob’s own writing include two collections of short stories: Forest High and Back to Forest High; a memoir: Inside Job: A Life of Teaching; a sports biography: Hack: The Meteoric Life of One of Baseball’s First Superstars: Hack Wilson. Bob has also written four textbooks and has co-authored three creative writing books with Mark Henry LarsonBob continues to teach creative writing classes in the Chicago Public Schools and Oakton Community College, as well as moderating the Open Mic at the Glencoe Public Library.










Celebrating the Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy

Bob Riesman, the author of I Feel So Good: The Life and Times of Big Bill Broonzy, will discuss his book and show the BBC documentary film: Big Bill Broonzy: The Man Who Brought the Blues to Britain, in which he served as the consultant, at Emanuel Congregation, 5959 N. Sheridan, on the morning of Sunday, February 24 starting at 10:30.
Both the book and film explore Big Bill’s career from his rise as a nationally prominent blues star in the 1930s, to his influential role in the post-World War Two folk revival. Big Bill’s overseas tour in the 1950s had a great influence on Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton and helped ignite the British blues-rock explosion of the 1960s.
Both Bob and his book were inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis last year.
The program is free and open to the public. RSVP at