The Death of the Detective, by Mark Smith

We will discuss  The Death of a Detective by Mark Smith  
on Wednesday, November 9

Detective Arnold Magnuson has retired to his upscale penthouse to live in misery and alcoholism, his life turned hollow after the death of his wife. In his heyday he built the Magnuson Men from the ground up, a powerful force of security guards and ushers by way of the Pinkertons who offer invaluable security to a scarred city. Now, he wallows without direction or course, abandoning some friends he invited to his apartment to play pinochle in favor of hiding in his room. He needs something to latch onto—what he gets is a mysterious call from a dying friend, the millionaire Farquarson, who has something he can discuss only with Magnuson. When he arrives at Farquarson’s estate, he finds the man dead; his nurse and nephew report that a stranger had prowled around the estate, and that the dying man worried about one John Helenowski, an escapee from a state mental institution who believes himself death incarnate. Magnuson determines that this Helenowski must have murdered Farquarson; thus begins his investigation for a mad killer and the reason behind Farquarson’s death, a road that will lead to the death and ruin of many people—all characters bound, whether they know it or not, a crisscrossing patchwork of death and decay.

Death of the Detective has a Dickensian quality to it, a sweeping scale and grandeur that encapsulates the detective story plot: it is a sprawling, ambitious novel, highly stylistic, wealthy beyond measure in characters and atmosphere. It deals with race relations and ethnic identity, something that comes up often due to its 1950s/early 1960s melting-pot megalopolis setting. The prose is literate, adroit, and stylized to the point where one good sentence piles onto another, but the novel never buckles under that weight. Some would call it overwritten or overblown; others would call Smith a “writer’s writer” or a “stylist of the highest caliber.” It can be overwhelming at times, and demanding, given its density—six-hundred pages of rich, stylized prose is not something you ingest in just a day… if only because you want to savor it, swish it over the taste buds like a fine wine. Imagine the bastard love-child of John Gardner and Charles Dickens, imagine that it cut its teeth reading Lew Archer and Carl Sandburg’s hog butcher, and you have a glimpse of this novel’s style and power: one of the most intense, atmospheric detective novels ever written.

- From Yellow and Creased

Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow

We will discuss  Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow  on Tuesday, September 12

Rusty Sabich is chief deputy prosecuting attorney in a large mid-western city. His boss is in the midst of a bitter campaign for re-election. A fellow prosecuting attorney, Carolyn Polhemus, has been brutally murdered. Rusty is handling the investigation-- and he needs results. 

Before election day. 

Before his illicit affair with Carolyn is uncovered. 

Election day brings a new prosecuting attorney into office. A political enemy who wants Rusty out. A man whose own secret investigation has revealed Rusty's relationship with Carolyn. A man who takes Rusty off the case-- and charges him with murder. Rusty now faces a long battle in court. Each side will twist the evidence to win its case, and try any procedural ploy, any courtroom trick that might ensure victory. Rusty's ordeal will uncover corruption, deceit, depravity and incompetence-- and keep you spellbound. Who did kill Carolyn Polhemus?

- From Goodreads

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

We will discuss  The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros 
on Tuesday, August 12

Acclaimed by critics, beloved by readers of all ages, taught everywhere from inner-city grade schools to universities across the country, and translated all over the world, The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero. 

Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers. 

- From Goodreads

Chicago: A Novel by Brian Doyle

We will discuss  Chicago: A Novel by Brian Doyle on Tuesday, July 12

On the last day of summer, some years ago, a young college graduate moves to Chicago and rents a small apartment on the north side of the city, by the vast and muscular lake. This is the story of the five seasons he lives there, during which he meets gangsters, gamblers, policemen, a brave and garrulous bus driver, a cricket player, a librettist, his first girlfriend, a shy apartment manager, and many other riveting souls, not to mention a wise and personable dog of indeterminate breed.
A love letter to Chicago, the Great American City, and a wry account of a young man's coming-of-age during the one summer in White Sox history when they had the best outfield in baseball, Brian Doyle's Chicago is a novel that will plunge you into a city you will never forget, and may well wish to visit for the rest of your days.

- From

Life Itself: A Memoir 
By: Roger Ebert 
We will discuss  Life Itself: A Memoir on Tuesday, June 14


Roger Ebert is the best-known film critic of our time. He has been reviewing films for the Chicago Sun-Times since 1967, and was the first film critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize. He has appeared on television for four decades, including twenty-three years as cohost of Siskel & Ebert at the Movies.

In 2006, complications from thyroid cancer treatment resulted in the loss of his ability to eat, drink, or speak. But with the loss of his voice, Ebert has only become a more prolific and influential writer. And now, for the first time, he tells the full, dramatic story of his life and career.

Roger Ebert's journalism carried him on a path far from his nearly idyllic childhood in Urbana, Illinois. It is a journey that began as a reporter for his local daily, and took him to Chicago, where he was unexpectedly given the job of film critic for the Sun-Times, launching a lifetime's adventures.

In this candid, personal history, Ebert chronicles it all: his loves, losses, and obsessions; his struggle and recovery from alcoholism; his marriage; his politics; and his spiritual beliefs. He writes about his years at the Sun-Times, his colorful newspaper friends, and his life-changing collaboration with Gene Siskel. He remembers his friendships with Studs Terkel, Mike Royko, Oprah Winfrey, and Russ Meyer (for whom he wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and an ill-fated Sex Pistols movie). He shares his insights into movie stars and directors like John Wayne, Werner Herzog, and Martin Scorsese.

This is a story that only Roger Ebert could tell. Filled with the same deep insight, dry wit, and sharp observations that his readers have long cherished, this is more than a memoir-it is a singular, warm-hearted, inspiring look at life itself.

"I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."
So Big
By Edna Ferber

We will discuss So Big on Tuesday, May 10.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and widely considered to be Edna Ferber's greatest achievement, So Big is a classic novel of turn-of-the-century Chicago. It is the unforgettable story of Selina Peake DeJong, a gambler's daughter, and her struggles to stay afloat and maintain her dignity and her sanity in the face of marriage, widowhood, and single parenthood. A brilliant literary masterwork from one of the twentieth century's most accomplished and admired writers, the remarkable So Big still resonates with its unflinching view of poverty, sexism, and the drive for success.