By Kevin Guilfoile
"What do you want me to do, hire my enemies?"
That's a probably apocryphal quote that's been attributed over the years to just about every machine politician in American history, from Boss Tweed to Richard J Daley. But we're in the middle of an election cycle without end and I happen to have three friends with books coming out, really, really good books, each very different from the others, and you probably haven't heard of any of them yet.
I didn't know Charlie Newton eight months ago when I was sent an advance copy of his debut novel, CALUMET CITY. The publisher was hoping I would give it a blurb. I read it and I loved it, although my blurb turned out to be unnecessary after Lee Child called it "The best cop noir in years" and Booklist gave it a starred review. But I started emailing Charlie, a Chicago native who now lives in South Africa and we finally met when he was recently stateside, so I will disclaim my friendship with him when I tell you it's a book you have to read. And not just because of the fantastic hook.
The protagonist of CALUMET CITY is Patti Black, a south side symbol of community policing and the "most decorated cop in Chicago." I was maybe a quarter through the book and already in love with the character of Patti when something triggered a memory in my brain and I googled that name. Immediately I came across a ten-year old article in the American Prospect, written by another friend of mine Jonathan Eig. Jon's article was about the real Patti Black, a southside symbol of community policing and the most decorated cop in Chicago.
Charlie Newton has made up a painful backstory for character Patti, but the hours and hours he spent on the real streets with the real Patti are vivid on the page, and his pitch-perfect noir voice feel's absolutely authentic. The novel is shocking and violent and fast-paced and difficult to put down the same way a rattlesnake is once you have his head pinched.
(By the way, Charlie is going to be a guest on Rick Kogan's terrific radio show, The Sunday Papers, this Sunday morning (March 16) between 6:30 and 7 AM on WGN 720 AM. If you don't live within a few hundred miles of Chicago, you can listen on the internet.)
Daniel Radosh was my editor back when I was a contributor to the web site Modern Humorist. Daniel is a former writer for Spy Magazine, a contributing editor for The Week, and a popular blogger, perhaps best known for his hilarious and weekly New Yorker Cartoon Anti-Caption contest. Daniel's new book is called RAPTURE READY: ADVENTURES IN THE PARALLEL UNIVERSE OF CHRISTIAN POP CULTURE. It's a fascinating and extremely funny first-person exploration of the mostly separate but multi-billion dollar subculture of evangelical pop-culture that occasionally crosses over into the mainstream in the form of Left Behind books and Sixpence None the Richer albums. But Daniel takes you much further, into the world of Christian raves and theme parks and stand-up comedy and sex therapists and pro wrestling and BibleZines and superheroes and traveling skateboard exhibitions and television prank shows (did you see the episode of Prank 3:16 when the teenage girl thinks she's been "left behind" after the gang fakes the rapture?). That last one might sound snarky when I say it, but Daniel covers all this territory with great humor and also respect.
Eight years ago, John Warner and I were hired to write a quickie humor book about then president elect George W. Bush. We knocked the thing out in 19 days and only a few months later, MY FIRST PRESIDENTIARY went to #1 on the Washington Post bestseller list. A dime will probably buy you ten copies of that book now, but John is out this week with another entry into presidential campaign politics--SO YOU WANT TO BE PRESIDENT? Like everything John writes it is smart and funny and relevant and you should buy two because it makes a great gift.
MEDIA ALERT: For all those who have followed the David Cornbleet murder case here, this Sunday night, the entire hour of Dateline NBC will be devoted to Dr. Cornbleet's killing. It will include interviews with both Jon Cornbleet, the victim's son, and Dr. Tom Peterson, the father of accused killer Hans Peterson.