Remembering Chicago’s Literary History

Kudos to the good folks at the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame for all their important work in preserving Chicago’s great literary history. This year six writers with significant Chicago connections are being inducted into the CLHOF. They are: Jane Addams, Sherwood Anderson, James T. Farrell, Ernest Hemingway, Langston Hughes and Carolyn Rodgers. The induction ceremony is at the Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater on November 30, 2012 at 7:00pm. You can find out more about the event and the organization by going to http://www.chicagoliteraryhof.org.

Chicago literary enthusiasts might also want to check out the commemorative plaques of  Chicago writers that the city has placed on buildings. These are:

Nelson Algren at 1958 W. Evergreen Street; L. Frank Baum at 1667 N. Humboldt Boulevard., James T. Farrell at 2023 E. 72nd Street; Edna Ferber at 1642 E. 56th Street; Lorraine Hansberry at 5936 S. King Drive; Ben Hecht at 5210 S. Kenwood Avenue; Carl Sandburg at 4646 N. Hermitage Avenue; and Richard Wright at 3743 S. Indiana Avenue.

A plaque for Saul Bellow, the only Chicago writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, is notably missing. I recommend that one be placed at his boyhood home at 2629 W. Augusta Boulevard.

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NOIR (ish): A Review

As an homage to Noir, Evan Guilford-Blake’s new mystery, NOIR(ish), is absolutely ingenious. The author must have assiduously read the entire oeuvre of both Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett to create just the right genre phrasing and ambience in the book. Los Angeles in the summer of 1947 is the perfect setting for NOIR(ish).

The mystery’s gumshoe hero is Robert Grahame, an Indiana native and Word War Two veteran who moved out West, first to Frisco where he apprenticed for Sam Spade, before setting up a PI shop of his own in downtown LA. We first meet him about a year after he has broken up with the love of his life, and he’s hitting the bourbon a little bit too hard.

The plot centers on characters that may or may not have been involved with the murder of the notorious gangster, Bugsy Siegel. Every stock noir type character appears in the story, each depicted brilliantly by Guilford-Blake. All characters have names with noir references. For example, the manager of the all-night diner is Ed Hopper. The woman police lieutenant is Lauren Stanwyck. Even our hero’s cat has is called Greenstreet. Every noir devotee will enjoy this conjuring up of the genre’s icons.

What Guilford-Blake has not learned from Hammett and Chandler in NOIR(ish) is how to guide a mystery to a satisfying conclusion through subtlety and consistency. The plot disassembles in the end, as the author makes a disappointing choice of weaving sci-fi elements within what had been a pure noir context. In this particular situation, the mixing of genres just doesn’t work at all.