Having spent my formative years in the town of Nelson Algren, Ernie Banks, Mike Royko and Hiz Honuh Richard Daley, I still wonder why Chicago has not produced a crime story writer that does the city justice.The burg celebrated by James T Farrell and Carl Sandberg is not lacking in all the necessary ingredients for interesting mayhem— geography, organized crime of various nationalities,powerful street gangs, political corruption, ethnic strife, wonderful eccentricities and a whole host of perpetual losers (dem Cubbies being one example)
Actually, I there was one writer who nailed both Chicago and an authentic noir atmosphere— the late, lamented Eugene Izzialso writing under the name Nick Gaitano whose mysterious death should have spawned its own narrative.
Akashic Books has published Chicago Noir edited by Neal Pollack as part of their urban noir series There are a number of notable authors in this anthology —Peter Orner,Jeffery Renard Allen, Achy Obejas,Kevin Guilfoile, Joe Meno—but while there are some skillful readable stories, none of them feels right.This is, of course, a totally subjective call but so what.This collection does a clever turn by linking each story to a specific Chicago street corner but I wonder what this could mean to a non Chicagoan.
Also. Michael Harvey has written three competent crime novels and there is a woman detective series whose author’s name I can’t’ recall(for good reason) who locate their stories in Chicago but…need I finish this thought?
Now Chicago born Charlie Newton (Calumet City) has put his birthright and all his claimed influences (Raymond Chandler, PJ O’Rourke, Hunter Thompson and Pete Dexter) together and come up with a highly charged libretto for a gloriously Chicago grand opera. Though well traveled (recently Afrika, Jamaica, Cuba, East Berlin, Scotland) Newton’s Chicago DNA is obvious as he tells it:
I’m a big fan of the blues and thoroughbred racing. Spent the Gerber years in Chicago watching the stars of Chess Records play Maxwell Street and my horses finish poorly at Arlington and Sportsman’s. Those places were filled with noir and teenage danger, but more importantly they were inclusive when the rest of the world seemed otherwise.
Start Shooting (Doubleday)has two brothers (of Mexican heritage)who are Chicago cops from the mean streets of Four Corners dealing with a 30 year old crime and current gang violence and biological warfare weapons left over from WW II Pacific theater (an improbability that Newton, to his credit, makes work) Marilyn Stasio limply opines, “The plot is a hot mess, with Newton fielding multiple story lines, dual time frames and too many conspiracies. But the voices reverberate in your ears, and the smell of gunfire lingers long after the last man is down.” But you get the idea
Here’s 2 minute clip of Charlie Newton talking about libraries that speaks volumes about him
Currently reading Pure by Andrew Miller (Europa Editions)