Saturday, August 30, 2008

"Chicago is where it's happening when it comes to crime fiction"

Another terrific review for Marcus's new novel Good People, this time from the Trib's Dick Adler. Dick also has great things to say about the new Michael Harvey book.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Curiouser and Curiouser. . .

So John McCain picks Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for his #2. To be "a heartbeat away". Talk about bold. Talk about a gamble.

Sarah Palin’s experience as an elected official is, well, thin. She served two terms on the Wasilla (pop. 8,000) City Council and then served as the town's mayor, a part-time job. She’s been governor of the state for less than two years. She has zero experience in national and international affairs. She is three years younger than Barack Obama.

Okay, the experience argument is out the window, on both sides. Which is fine by me. I don’t think “experience” is worth a hill of beans. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were the two most experienced people in the previous administration, by a country mile. And Abraham Lincoln was the least experienced president in our history.

So I don’t hold Palin’s lack of experience against her, but I’m curious why McCain would forfeit that argument against Obama. I guess the McCain camp has determined that their primary argument (“he’s not ready”) is not doing the trick, since he has just named as his VP someone with far less experience than the Democratic nominee.

I listened to Palin’s speech today. She invoked Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro, and talked about Clinton’s “18 million cracks” in the glass ceiling, and said that the women of this nation are not finished yet, “and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.” A clear plea to disaffected Clinton supporters.

But do you really think that women (and men) who supported Clinton will jump aboard the McCain/Palin ticket, just because Palin is a woman?

If that is true, it is very, very sad.

Palin and Clinton agree about very little. For example, Palin has called herself, “100% pro-life”, and would appoint Supreme Court Justices who would further erode a woman’s right to choose. Way to “shatter that glass ceiling,” girlfriend.

An aside: In high school, Palin was the head of her school’s “Fellowship of Christian Athletes”. Which makes me wonder, who was the head of the school’s “Fellowship of Heathen Athletes”?

Anyway. According to recent polling (yeah, I know, but…) 27% of former Clinton delegates plan to vote for the McCain this November. And that poll was taken before Palin was named to the ticket. McCain is betting that adding a woman to the ticket (regardless of her policy positions) will solidify that support and will draw even more Clinton supporters.

That simply baffles me.

Listen, I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty of good reasons to support McCain. If you’re a conservative (man or woman), he’s a very attractive candidate. But if you’re a conservative, you wouldn’t be supporting Clinton. And if you were supporting Clinton, why were you supporting Clinton? Hopefully, the fact that she has a uterus was not the primary reason for your support.

The thing is, our next president will probably appoint two, maybe three Supreme Court Justices. The next president will be gone in four or eight years, but that president will leave a legacy on the nation’s highest court for a generation.

This gamble on Palin may be a stroke of genius on McCain’s part. But only if a significant number of voters will put their votes on a ticket simply because there’s a woman on it, regardless of her policy positions and how they affect the rights of women.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gerbil Wheels and News Junkies

by Libby Hellmann

They’ve finally done it. The news media have broadcast themselves into irrelevancy. It’s been trending that way for years, but now, with the coverage of the Democratic convention, it’s over the top. I’m a long-time news junkie, but even I’ve had to turn off the tube.

On one hand, you’d think continuous coverage of the proceedings by CNN, MSNBC and Fox News would be a good thing. After all, the networks have abandoned full coverage, save for a spotty hour here and there. If the 24-7 outlets were really giving us full coverage, it would be a tremendous public service, not to mention a rich historical archive. But they’re not. Except for major speeches, what's on the air is a sea of pundits, all armed with talking points from their respective political arms.

Some of them don’t even bother to deny it. After Hillary addressed the convention last night, several “analysts” mentioned the emails they’d already received (Blackberries and I-phones are de rigeur now) reacting to her speech. And while I was flipping between CNN and Fox, I heard conservative pundits on each say exactly the same thing. In the same words. This is not news. It’s propaganda.

But that’s only one of the problems. There has to be something going on, if only to fill all those hours, so what’s evolved is a false sense of urgency. For example, we’re treated to a breathless breaking news proclamation that the plane carrying a VIP has landed safely… or an “inside scoop” that Madonna’s new tour marries pictures of McCain to Adolph Hitler. The desperate need to create conflict elevates triviality, gossip and speculation to truth: Are Hillary PUMAs going to revolt? How frosty are relations between the two camps? Are the Clintons “over”?

Again, this is not news. It’s not even debate. It’s manufactured content. Ersatz news. Comedian Jon Stewart, whom some consider the most trustworthy source of news these days (an irony in and of itself) took the media to task the other day, calling the 24 cable news outlets “gerbil wheels” of spin. And this wasn’t the first time. Four years ago, he pleaded a similar case with Crossfire hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala. Sadly, most of the audience thought it was a comedy routine.

One of Stewart’s points was that by abdicating their responsibility for objective reporting, the cable outlets help advance the strategies and plans of politicians and corporations, who, in many cases, own the broadcast news outlet. I can’t disagree. Too often what passes for political discourse is raw partisanship, especially on MSNBC and Fox. And, in the off chance that a talking head disagrees with the political orientation of Chris Matthews or Bill O’Reilly,or their bosses, they’re literally shouted down or simply cut off.

A long time ago I worked at an underground newspaper. We were a collective, very Marxist, as convinced of our own superiority as Fox News and MSNBC are of theirs. One of my comrades claimed that even back then, the media were the pawns of the ruling class. They only reported news that the establishment could handle. You couldn’t trust them for accurate information, he said. Particularly news that undercut the ruling class's goals and strategies. The only thing you could count on, he said, was the weather report.

I didn’t want accept that, and I went on to work for the media. Inspired by Edward R. Murrow and Fred Friendly, I thought I was performing a public service. And when Watergate broke a few years later, I was convinced that serious journalism would --and did -- safeguard our democracy. But I now believe resentment over Watergate triggered Bill Clinton’s impeachment twenty years later. In the meantime Rupert Murdoch bought Fox News, MSNBC became the left-wing alternative, and CNN is up for grabs.

The weather channel says it’s not going to rain for another week. What do you think?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Poor Professor Pynchon had only good intentions

By Kevin Guilfoile

The song was about half-way through when a thought occurred--or maybe it was more like a feeling.

It's the start of the unofficial last week of summer and I suspect it's going to be rather quiet around here. It's a perfect time to introduce one of those half-baked notions that's probably interesting to no one but me.

I was driving somewhere in my car with the most recent album by the great Chicago musician and songwriter Andrew Bird on my iPod. Specifically, I was listening to a song called Imitosis:

And as I was listening, I had a vivid sensation: I would really like to write a story that's like an Andrew Bird song.

But after the thought had come and gone, I realized I had no idea what it meant. Bird's songs aren't really narratives. Clearly I was talking about tone. About style. But how does that tone and style translate from three-minute songs, which are immediate and sensual, to stories, which are immersive and intellectual. (As opposed to blog posts which, if this one is any guide, are pretentious and obtuse. Just stay with me a minute.)

I've spent more time thinking about this than I'd like to admit, and part of that is the fact that a central theme to my upcoming novel is the relationship different forms of art have to each other (and the relationship between art and nature and science, as well). And I know from talking with other writers that many of them also spend a lot of time thinking about the connection between music and literature.

I'll probably never get around to writing that story, but I'm curious if any of you think much about the relationship between music and literature. Are there novelists who remind you of certain musical artists or songwriters (or vice versa)? What music do you listen to when you write? Or do you hear a certain type of music when you read?

Have you ever wanted to write a story that was just like a specific song?


I'm doing some guest-blogging over at and have a post up over there about why newspaper and television reports always mention the Jaws of Life when covering an accident. It's not directly related to the stuff we usually write about here, but if you like reading about marketing and media, you might find it mildly interesting.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Who is the Most Corrupt?

I still will back Todd Stroger and the Cook County board against all comers--to pay for all their political friends and relations on the bloated county payroll, they've given us a 10.25 percent sales tax, have put a once-fine teaching hospital on the critical list while endangering the health of millions of low-income county residents, have winked at corruptio, over-crowding and deaths in the county jails--but on the principal of "Family Hold Back," I have to say that there's a lot of competition out there.

R. Brawer's posting on New Jersey reminds me of Mike Royko's informal contest one year as to whether Chicago or New Jersey would have more elected officials under federal indictment by year's end. New Jersey won, by one legislator if I remember correctly--but that was the whole state against our city!

Still, I divide honors among Brawer's New Jersey, Doug Levin's Hatchetville, who win on fundraising ingenuity, and Janet Reid's Vernon, Ca.

Bribery helped in the process, of course, as did the old principal of voting early and often, and getting the dead to vote.

Mr./Ms. Brawer, Mr. Levin, Ms. Reid, if you e-mail me your addresses at I will see that your prizes arrive in due course.

Sara Paretsky

P.S. I removed an anonymous attack on Libby Hellman from the original contest post. I think if we're going to attack people through this blog, we have to be adult enough to sign our opinions.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


by Barbara D'Amato

Last night I did a program on mystery and crime fiction at the Herrick District Library in Holland, Michigan, with Joanna Carl [Eve Sandstrom], organized by Robin Williams-Voight. We had a good group of people in the audience. Only a couple of them admitted to writing, but the rest were enthusiastic and well-informed mystery readers.

All the nice things happened. A man told us before we started that he had been in a bookstore earlier in the week, had seen two people in the mystery books department, recommended our books, and invited the people to the program. A woman who chairs a mystery reading group came. She had met us before, and is passing on the torch of mystery reading to new group of younger members. Several people brought books for us to sign.

Most writers hope that library appearances will help sell more copies of our books. But I was reminded again of how much libraries can do for people. The reading group is very affirming, giving a sense of fellowship to readers. They have a chance to talk with other people who like what they like. A young woman told me before we left that she was largely shut in and the library group, and reading, were her only outlets.

It was clear from all the various names of writers that emerged in the Q&A—Sue Grafton, Michael Connelly, Robert Barnard, Agatha Christie, James Patterson and many, many more—that these were real readers, and readers who thought about what they read.

As I entered the library and again as I left, I was happy to see how many people were there. After all, this is August, a warm, clear night, and the Lake Michigan beaches were only five minutes away. Chairs were full; a group of children were clustered around a man with a book; the computers were fired up and running.

I guess I’m saying support your local library. This is good stuff.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

And Our Dynamic Duo Rolls On

Sean Chercover's Big City, Bad Blood has been nominated for the Private Eye Writers of America Shamus award for Best First Novel. Go, Sean! Remember, it's Chicago--vote early and often for our boy.

Monday, August 18, 2008

On the Road

by Marcus Sakey

First off, thanks to Kevin and the rest of you for the kudos on the book and articles. Strange time, but I'm enjoying every minute of it.

Second, I promise, some day soon I will have a real post, one worthy of my colleagues. However, that day ain't today, as I leave on tour tomorrow, and need to do my laundry in between radio interviews and spending a little time with my wife.

In lieu of actual content, however, let me offer you my tour schedule and an invitation--if you come out to see me, odds on I can be convinced to buy you a beer afterwards (assuming I'm not running for the airport)...

The Poisoned Pen
with Joe Lansdale
Scottsdale, AZ
August 19, 7:00 pm

Murder By The Book
with Jason Pinter
and Dave White
Houston, TX
August 21, 6:30 pm

Book People
Austin, TX
August 22, 7:00 pm

Mystery Bookstore
Los Angeles, CA
August 23, 2:00 pm

M is for Mystery
San Francisco, CA
August 24, 2:00 pm

Murder By The Book
Portland, OR
August 25, 6:30 pm

Oakbrook, IL
August 28, 7:00 pm

Mystery One
with J.A. Konrath
Milwaukee, WI
September 3, 6:00 pm

Hope to see you there!

Friday, August 15, 2008

A trip to City Hall, another day in court, and a ride on the Brown Line

by Michael Dymmoch

Actually it was a trip to the Cook County side of the building, but City Hall is more melodic and has more of the associations I’m trying to evoke—Don Quixote and his windmills. I had to fill out a form for the Cook County Assessor, and I decided that going there would be less frustrating—or at least more interesting—than trying to get through the telephone maze. So I hopped on the El.

Where I observed that chivalry is not dead—yet. At the Washington & Wells stop, a twenty-something gentleman offered to help a young woman with her suitcase. Unfortunately, she was too busy yakking on her cell to notice. I wonder how many repetitions it will take to completely extinguish the young man’s generous impulses.

At the county building I had to take a number, but it was only five above the number being served. So I got to watch people, but not long enough to get tired of the sport. I spotted a cute man in his late teens lending moral support to his mother. His Tee-shirt said “I’d Do Me.” When my number got called, I was astonished to be helped by a pleasant, patient, super-competent woman who had me in and out in 15 minutes!

It was hard to hear what was going on in court yesterday. A large contingent of friends/family members of three accused murderers was in court to lend the defendants support. While the visitors were waiting for the case to be called, they carried on as if they were waiting at a bus stop, conversing loudly. (Easy to see that the defendants might be guilty of the ultimate breach of rules. And why.) The deputy who usually evicts children and confiscates cell phones was absent, and his replacement was a lazy-ass wuss who just glanced at the noisys and went back to doing essentially nothing. Nobody said anything about the breach of rules and etiquette until a cell phone went off and the judge threw the offender out. People who first come to court notice these things, but they don’t speak up. Maybe it’s just the way things are done. And who is a visitor to comment? By the time you’ve been around long enough to know what’s out of line, you’ve been worn down into accepting the status quo— the problem is just too big to tackle.

When I was a kid, I didn’t get why old people were so cranky—always telling us to be quiet, be respectful. Now I’m old. I get it. Most rules were made for good reasons. Old people’s impatience is because they don’t have the energy or time to deal with rule-breakers—to tune out the dissonance they cause, or to convince them to be civil. Most of us old fogies save our effort for fights we might win.

Last night I took the Brown line to Lincoln Square to attend Marcus Sakey’s launch party for Good People at The Book Cellar. (Marcus’s friends, family and fellow writers showed up—including Judy Bobalik from Indiana, and New Yorkers Rosanne and Reed Farrel Coleman. Marcus is a class act, and the party was terrific.) I got a kick out of the El trip, too.

There were three twenty-something couples waiting at the Merchandise Mart stop. Couple number 1 appeared to be casual friends—fellow students or coworkers. They conversed in a relaxed, friendly manner until the train came, then got lost in the ingress. Couple number 2 was more interesting. Both were fashion model gorgeous. The woman, in flared jeans and double tank tops, was slim and blond and clinging to her companion like a teen in the throws of romance. He looked like he was posing for a GQ ad. He didn’t push the girl away, but he never took his hands off his hips. And he seemed to more interested in being seen than in looking at her. When the train came, they stalked down the platform in search of a sparsely populated car. The third couple embraced briefly when they arrived on the platform, then stood close enough to one another to make it obvious they were together. The woman was apparently more comfortable with this than the man, but he sure didn’t act as if intimacy was a burden. I didn’t have the nerve to go up to any of them to ask what they were thinking. So I’ll do what most writers do—make up a story.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Mouse and the Shedd . . .

So by know everybody knows that Chicago is a great summer place. It has more green space (over 12,000 acres of public parks) than any other American city, and has wisely kept the lakefront off-limits to developers. A year ago I blogged about The Mouse and his first visit to The Bean and the fountains and the Frank Gehry walking bridge at Millennium Park. If you haven't been, you must.

And earlier this week, Agent 99 took The Mouse to the Lincoln Park Zoo. Another essential summer destination in Chicago.

But some of Chicago's best attractions are indoors (which is nice when it's as hot as it is right now). Today, Agent 99 and I took The Mouse to the Shedd Aquarium.

First opened in 1930, the Shedd boasts impressive architecture, and has become the largest indoor aquarium in the world, and a leader in marine education and conservation.

Yeah-yeah, blah-blah-blah. But the thing is, it's also really, really cool. Just ask The Mouse.

The Mouse is just shy of his second birthday, so "a leader in marine eduction and conservation" means even less to him than it does to you. But he is a BIG fan of dolphins and sharks and whales and penguins and turtles and stingrays and fishies and . . .

And today, we had an awesome time at the Shedd.

So will you.

PS: Our own Marcus Sakey is having a launch party for his new novel, GOOD PEOPLE, tomorrow (Thursday, August 14 - 7 p.m.) at The Book Cellar.

Be there or we'll talk about you.

Marcus on Eight-Forty-Eight

Marcus was a guest on the Chicago Public Radio program Eight-Forty-Eight this morning, discussing his spanking new book Good People.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Contest Reminder

Just another quick reminder to enter the Outfit's Second Anniversary Corruption contest. Check out Sara's blog from last week, and keep those cards and letters coming!

Culture Clash

by Libby Hellmann

I went to a lake in Wisconsin this weekend: Lake Nagawicka, to be exact. It’s in Hartland, which is near Delafield, which is not far from Milwaukee. It was delightful, and everything I hoped it would be. Long boat rides on the docile water, lazy hours spent reading, a Sunday morning trip into “town” to the coffee shop, even a quick afternoon rainstorm, Mother Nature proving again who’s really in charge.

But the most memorable part was Ken and Kent’s garden. Those of you who are familiar with Delafield may know it. Nestled on a corner near the boat dock, the garden these two men have created is splendid. A plaque says it’s a Habitat garden, which contains its own natural ecosystem, requires few chemical pesticides, and attracts indigenous wildlife. It’s an eye-stopping patch of beauty. The Phlox, hydrangeas, salvia are over four feet tall; there are tiny waterfalls, fishponds, and other species of flowers I didn’t know. This isn’t it (sadly, I didn’t have my camera with me), but it looks similar.

The best part, though, was Ken – he’s seventy-five and walks with a cane, but he’s so enthusiastic about his garden he reminds you of a proud teenager. He invited us in, showed us the new fishpond, the mushroom compost he and Kent make from scratch, and told us to come back anytime between spring and fall. Kent, who’s a little younger and wore a flowing white shirt that must be a relic from the Sixties, was busy taking other passers-by on a tour. Their friendliness and genuine love for the land was obvious.

Slow Fade out. Fade in Six hours later.

I’m home and on my way to Ravinia for a Sheryl Crow concert. Ravinia is an open-air concert venue in the middle of Chicago’s North Shore. It was a beautiful evening, and the concert was sold out. My friends and I were lucky to get lawn tickets, which means you don’t see anything, but you can hear just fine.

We arrived about 45 minutes before the concert, and there was not a patch of lawn to be had. We walked around twice, and finally shoehorned ourselves into a tiny space behind a group party. I remember when going to Ravinia meant a blanket, a bottle of wine, cheese and crackers. No more. People bring tables, chairs, coolers, stemware, hors d’oeuvres to die for, entrees just as fancy, and some even have their own music. Huh? The woman dressed casually – but it’s a long way between Wisconsin casual and North Shore chic. The men talked about their golf game – even during the concert. The lines for drinks, food, and the rest rooms wound half-way around the park, and there were enough people who thought they were entitled to budge in front of others that I was harboring truly evil thoughts.

Sure, Sheryl Crow was terrific, and I love her down-home earthiness, but seeing her in that venue was almost an oxymoron. I kept thinking about Ken and Kent’s garden and wishing I could grow hydrangeas like them.

How about you? How do you deal with culture clash?

Friday, August 08, 2008

A reminder to everyone of the ongoing city corruption contest started by Sara earlier this week. There's a fabulous prize and still plenty of time to enter.

My Fate Is Sewn Into the Hem of Her Failings

By Kevin Guilfoile

The August issue of Chicago magazine includes a lengthy update on the fate of Jeanette Sliwinski, the model/stripper who killed my friend Doug Meis and two other Chicago musicians three years ago. Incredibly, although she was sentenced to eight years last November (far less than prosecutors sought in a bench trial) due to incomprehensible prison math, she's likely to get out of prison in just a few months:

[A]round Thanksgiving this year, [Sliwinski] will be asked to gather her things and prepare for her release from Dwight Correctional Center. The announcement will probably come on the day before her sentence officially ends: Jail officials say they time it that way so nothing holds up the inmate's last obligation—a meeting with a prison counselor. In this meeting, Sliwinski will receive a check from her "trust fund," the bank account that holds the prison wages she has earned since her first day in jail. The counselor will then describe the conditions of Sliwinski's parole, likely mentioning whom she'll report to and how she will be expected to conduct herself. Before she's set free, Sliwinski will likely learn that, in two years' time, she can petition for the return of her driver's license.

Depressing as that thought is (and perhaps nothing will anger you more than reading about the violence done to her victims in Noah Isackson's account and then glancing at Sliwinski's unblemished, unemotional DOC mug shot), there is a light at the end of the weekend. Doug was a drummer in several bands. One of them, Exo, disbanded after his death--the thought of playing those songs on stage without Doug's exuberance behind them had become unthinkable. But this Sunday night (August 10) at Schuba's in Chicago, Exo is reuniting for an acoustic show, with all proceeds being donated to the Doug Meis Gifted Artists of Tomorrow Scholarship Fund. It will be intense and it will also be great fun, an emotional gathering of musicians and friends honoring Doug and John Glick and Michael Dahlquist, as well. Absentstar will open the show and the terrific Coach K, who nearly ten years ago DJ'd the infamous McSweeney's event at the Ethiopian Diamond restaurant, will man the turntables starting at 7PM.

I hope to see you there. I hope to see lots of people there.


Simon Baatz's For the Thrill of It is out this week. The extensively researched non-fiction account of the Leopold and Loeb case is reviewed in this weekend's Trib and I have a short piece on the legacy of that murder (featuring comments from novelist and Friend of the Outfit Sam Reaves) in Saturday's book section. I commented on L&L just a few weeks ago so I'll leave it at that post and this weekend's essay, but frequently when I read a book like this it helps me to make a map of the events. And since I'm much more familiar with Chicago's north side than I am with the south side, it was particularly helpful for me in this case.

View Larger Map

This was a working map I slapped together as I was reading and I make no warranties to its accuracy. But it really struck me as I followed the geography of this case that, sensational as it was (and still is), this really was a neighborhood crime. The murderers lived within blocks of each other and Richard Loeb lived right across the street from their victim, Bobby Franks. (The fact that Kenwood is now Barack and Michelle Obama's neighborhood adds an irrelevant yet irresistible contemporary twist, of course.)

History has dwelt on the existential evil of the case, but the real horror of this particular Crime of the Century was a timeless one--the fear of the devil who lives next door.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Who's the Most Corrupt of All?

Take this quiz, win big prizes, and find out who leads the pack!

I've been taking a course this summer in commercial fraud examination techniques. The instructor, who's with the Secret Service's white collar crime unit, says federal fraud investigators pant at the chance to work in Chicago because there's so much corruption here. In fact, in one of their newsletters, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners says, "Come to Chicago, where we have the hottest jazz, the coolest architecture, and the most indictable politicians in the nation!"

We're justly proud of our corrupt politicians here. Our nickname is Clout City, and the connections among the Mob, elected city and county officials, bribable businessmen, vote fixing, real estate zoning--I could write a book here on the Blog, but I won't--are legendary.

To celebrate the Outfit Collective's second anniversary, we're offering a little contest. Do you think your town or your city or county is as corrupt or more so than Chicago? Write a short essay, no more than 200 words, to say why, and you will win--not Karl Cassell's voice on your home answering machine--but even better--a basket of books by your favorite crime bloggers, the Outfit Collective!! Chicagoans: you can enter, too, of course. Historical corruption counts, too.

Contest will end on August 15, and winners will be chosen based on completely subjective criteria, although hanging chads will of course be a factor.

Sara Paretsky

Monday, August 04, 2008


by Barbara D'Amato

Alzina Stone Dale is a long-time member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, familiar to most people in the crime-writing world. She is the author of biographies of Dorothy L. Sayers and G. K. Chesterton, as well as walking guides to mystery fiction sites in Chicago, London, the U.K., and much more.

She has written a memoir called WHEN THE POSTWAR WORLD WAS NEW, about her experiences in Europe just after the war. The book is coming out from Tate Publishing Company, with a pub date probably in 2009. I recently read several sections of it.

1952. World War Two is recently over and much of Europe is in ruins. Dale, newly graduated from college, hearing about acquaintances “stacking bricks in West Berlin” and “clearing Finnish forests” goes to Europe to a work camp under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee. Later she backpacks through Germany, Italy, the U.K. and France. She describes Hamburg, “bombed to pieces, cold, wet, and hungry.” In Cologne, the Cathedral stood untouched, “while every other building seemed to be gone. In London, “a line of churches—just shells.”

Dale’s observations of postwar Europe provide insight into the roots of conflict in our present time. Many Europeans, far from being endlessly grateful, saw the Americans as future world leaders and resented it. I was especially surprised that in the U.S. election that year, Dwight Eisenhower versus Adlai Stevenson, the Brits strongly favored Stevenson. Eisenhower had been Allied Commander and I would have thought he’d have been viewed as a sort of savior. And if not, at least he was the devil they knew, as opposed to the devil they didn’t know. Dale’s perception then was that the Brits very much resented the fact that U.S. troops had good food and housing in Britain, which the local people, many with homes bombed, did not. “Not reasonable,” as she says, but it makes sense.

It was a time different from today. She had, for instance, to sign three papers to declare she was not now and had not ever been a Communist” to get a passport.

Her adventures are not just sober, they are fun reading, too. Watching her young self as she sees Queen Elizabeth II drive to her coronation is worth the price of admission all by itself.

Among the many charms of this book is her willingness to rely on her own diaries and her letters home, as well as letters from her friends. There is a freshness that would not be there if she had only summarized, as a 2008 person, what one might think about the postwar times.

Which brings me to my question. How many of us would use our young words in anything? My mother threw out all my letters home from college and later, so that is over and done, but not too long ago I threw out all my early writing. It was ghastly.

Would you use any of your juvenilia? Where? How?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Invitations All Over

by Marcus Sakey

Hello friends,

I've got an invitation for you. My new book, GOOD PEOPLE, comes out August 14th, and to celebrate I'm throwing a party.

It's at the Book Cellar (4736 N. Lincoln), one of Chicago's finest independent bookstores, on August 14 from 7:00 - 9:00. Wine, beer, and snacks are on me, and rather than a formal signing, we'll just hang out and chat. Then at nine, I hope a lot of you will join me as we move the party down the road.

Also, you may recall that I had a contest going to finalize my tour schedule. A few places that scored high were already on my calendar for a visit, either in August or later in the year. But when I filtered those out the winner was...drumroll...a tie!

That's right, a tie. Between Austin, TX and Portland, OR.

So I figure I'll do them both.

I'll be at Book People in Austin on Friday, August 22 at 7:00, and at Murder by the Book in Portland on Monday, August 25 at 6:30. Come and see me. Bring your friends. Bring your family. Bring the homeless guy down the street.

Because after the signing, I'm taking everyone out for drinks. My treat, and one I'm looking forward to.

Sadly, for those of you not in Portland or Austin or Chicago, I don't have any parties planned. But I do have some signings. My initial tour schedule is now available here. I'm also planning visits to Milwaukee, Indianapolis, Ann Arbor, Springfield, New York, and Atlanta later in the year. I'll add dates as they finalize.

If you think you can make a signing or a party, comment and let me know--the promotional side of the gig is fun but wearying, and it's always nice to know there will be friendly faces.

All best, and hope to see you soon!