The Cliff Dwellers Book Club Starts Our Third Year

Old Bunch

Next January marks the start of the third year of our book club at the historic Cliff Dwellers club. I have enjoyed my role as the book club facilitator during these first two years, and look forward to facilitating the discussions once again in 2016. We read a blend of contemporary and past fiction and non-fiction written by Chicago writers. Several of the contemporary authors join us each year as we discuss their books. The book club participants are thoroughly engaged, and the discussions are lively and opinionated. The sessions are informative and fun. Discussions are always on Saturdays, and we begin at 11:00 in the morning. We usually end the formal discussion at about 12:15. Participation in the book club is open to all, and the discussion is free. Many of us stay afterwards and lunch at the club. The Cliff Dwellers is located at 200 South Michigan, 22nd Floor, and the view of Chicago is magnificent. Email me at if you have any questions. Here is the reading list:

January 23- The Old Bunch by Meyer Levin
February 27-The Third Coast by Thomas Dyja
March 19-The Beach Umbrella by Cyrus Colter
April 16-Set the Night on Fire by Libby Fischer Hellmann
May 28-Boss by Mike Royko
June 25-Where I Must Go by Angela Jackson
July 23-Moon-Calf by Floyd Dell
August 27-Peel My Love Like an Onion- by Ana Castillo
September 24-A Dream of Kings by Harry Mark Petrakis
October 22-The Fabulous Clipjoint by Frederick Brown
November 26-Many Lives, One Love by Fanny Butcher

Author Libby Fischer Hellmann at Max and Benny’s on November 23rd.

incidental spy image

The Incidental Spy is another fascinating historical thriller by Libby Fischer Hellmann who is the next  featured speaker on the evening of November 23rd at the Chicago Jewish Authors Literary Series at Max and Benny’s. The event is free and the presentation starts at 7:00 pm. The Incidental Spy tells the story of young Lena Bentheim who flees Nazi Germany for Chicago in 1935, leaving her family and boyfriend behind. After learning English, she eventually meets and marries another German refugee scientist and has a child. Then tragedy strikes, and Lens is forced to spy on the nuclear fission experiments at the University of Chicago. Libby Fischer Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in Washington D.C. and moved to Chicago thirty-five years ago. She now has written twelve novels and twenty short stories, and has established herself as one of Chicago’s premier crime/mystery/espionage authors. Please contact me at if you need more information or if you wish to rsvp for the event.

A Literary Halloween with Marlon James


It was certainly worthwhile, on a rainy and dismal Halloween Day in Chicago, trekking downtown to listen to Jamaican novelist Marlon James speak about his Man Booker Prize winning novel A Brief History of Seven Killings in particular, and the writing process in general. As part of the Chicago Humanities Festival, the cavernous hall in the Fourth Presbyterian Church on Michigan Avenue wasn’t exactly the best venue for an intimate chat with James, but his interviewer, the Trinidadian poet Roger Bonair-Agard, did manage to ask some amazing questions which led to a stimulating literary discussion.
Bonair-Agard asked if James was influenced by Greek tragedy and poetry in his writing, and the answer was a definite affirmative. James mentioned that he reads the Greek classics before plotting and writing a new novel. He seeks getting insights into human frailties, and James believes that much can be learned in this area by perusing Homer, Sophocles and Aristophanes. From these writers James explores “what people do when they are in desperate situations, and what the consequences of their mistakes are.”
The context of A Brief History of Seven Killings is the failed assassination attempt of singer Bob Marley in 1976. James, who was born in 1970, remembers listening to Jamaican radio reporting on it as a young boy of six. Marley, who died of cancer in 1981, remains a mythic and revolutionary figure to James, and the author who got his information about Marley through radio and television in his childhood, writes about “Marley as in a news report with a series of ten second sound bursts.”
After the presentation, I rushed downstairs to get a good spot in the book signing queue. When it came my turn, I chatted with him briefly about my time in Jamaica in 1968, but there were at least sixty other people behind me when we shook hands and I walked away.