Ben Hecht Redux

It was a distinct pleasure chatting with Paul Dailing at the Studs Terkel weekend celebration at the University of Chicago. Paul is in the process of creating 1001 Chicago Afternoons, a contemporary version of the great Ben Hecht’s classic stories 1001 Afternoons in Chicago. Dailing loves the intelligent and evocative writing style of Hecht. “Hecht could blend elements of fact and fiction into his 1001 Afternoon in Chicago vignettes, and he didn’t really care about the distinction as long as they made good stories.”Indeed Hecht was known to take police blotter reports of actual crimes off the wire, and craft them into beautiful and highly stylistic journalistic pieces.

Dailing’s own pieces are shorter in length and completely non-fiction, yet they evoke Hecht’s style and voice in depicting the Chicago urban landscape. In “The Bunny” he writes ‘the city had begun its nightly shift from sun to streetlamp, making the train platform a brief slice of dark for the bundled masses. Out of the warming light pouring from the train, a hop through dark, then down into the headlights and storefronts and traffic signals below.” In “Starry, Starry Night” Dailing tells the reader that “I never realized how much the Chicago skyline looks like stars at night. Little dots of light from individual windows against a sea of smooth black glass-and-steel. Thousands of specks of light, varying brightnesses and colors.”     

You can follow the progress of 1001 Chicago Afternoons at 1001chicago.com. New stories post on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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