On Sunday evening, June 9, after the hustle and bustle of the Printers Row Lit Fest, enjoy a relaxing and fun event as Greg Bellow will read and discuss his new memoir, Saul Bellow’s Heart at the Haymarket Pub and Brewery, 737 W. Randolph. As part of the evening’s program, I will be discussing Saul Bellow’s importance in Chicago literary history. Also Steve Mosqueda and Sean Benjamin, of the Neo-Futurists, will stage a Bellow-themed dramatic reading. The program begins at 8:00 pm, although we will be gathering at the pub at 7:00 pm and staying awhile after the program. This free event is co-sponsored by the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame and the Friends of the Blackstone Library.
Chicago noir aficionados will love Dianne Gallagher’s debut novel, Too Dark to Sleep. The book’s heroine is Maggie Quinn, once the best crime detective in Chicago, before her nervous breakdown and suicide attempt, puts her out to pasture. Quinn’s expert crime solving abilities and her unorthodox approach in police work methods made her unpopular among many of the regulars in the Old Boys network of the Chicago Police Department who didn’t warm to the successes of a lady detective. Besides, Maggie’s father, Paddy, is a notorious operative for the Chicago Outfit, who, although imprisoned for life, still holds considerable political connections in the corridors of Chicago’s City Hall.
However the CPD is confronted with a serial killer, whose grisly murders are remaining unsolved, causing serious concern to the mayor who is soon to be up for reelection. Paddy arranges for the emotionally fragile, yet highly motivated Maggie, to be hired as a consultant to the Department to help solve the murders. Although beset by demons stemming from the immense personal loss of her only child, Maggie soldiers on, despite additional personal trials and tribulations, to expertly gather the evidence to ultimately identify and confront the killer.
Although the book is 381 pages, it is a fast read. I didn’t want to put it down. I was fascinated by Gallagher’s depictions of the subcultures of Chicago police detectives, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office and Stateville Penitentiary. It’s a world of clout-influenced decision making, where who you know, nine times out of ten, trumps what you know. After all, that’s the Chicago Way!
Willard Motley will be inducted into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame on December 6, 2014. Motley’s first novel, Knock on Any Door, is on the short list of the greatest Chicago novels ever written. This African-American writer brilliantly creates the story of Italian- American Nick Romano, a street thug who eventually murders. This book also has the best fictional account of life and death in Chicago’s Depression-Era Skid Row.
Motley began his career writing the Bud Billiken column for the Chicago Defender newspaper for eighteen months in the early 1920s. In the 1930s, he co-founded Hull House Magazine. From 1940-43 he worked for the WPA Federal Writers Project, where he gathered much of his material for Knock on Any Door, which was published in 1947 and achieved instant success. Although his subsequent literary achievements never measured up to his first novel, Motley remains a legendary Chicago writer.