Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Tour schedule for Hardball

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

When my webmistress, Lisa Hazen, finishes my new site, the blog and the tour info and everything will all be available in one place, and I will be trained in how to update the site, but for another few weeks, I’m in two different places.  Putnam has finalized a tour schedule for Hardball, and you can see it here.  For UK readers, Hodder is publishing in February and I’ll go to the UK for a week then–details will follow.

Meanwhile, great ideas for what V I has been up to!

V I’s Whereabouts–Updated

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

I didn’t give enough details on how and when to send in your suggestions for where V I spent the years I was writing other stories (see the post below for all the details.)  The cut-off date for entries is August 31, and you can post them here on the blog.  I keep track of all posts, so don’t worry if it ends up under a different header.  Also, you can enter multiple times if you have another idea you like better than the first one you sent in.  And thanks, as always, for your interest.

Where Has V I Warshawski Been?

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

Hardball will be in stores on September 22, but I have an extra Advance Reader Copy –what some people call bound galleys.  As you may remember, it’s been a few years since V I was last tearing up Chicago, or being torn up by Chicago. What was the Girl Detective doing while I was writing Bleeding Kansas and Writing in an Age of Silence?  Post your idea here and the one that is the best–funniest, scariest, or most clever–will win its author my last advance reader copy.  Our judges are completely subjective–remember, this is Chicago!

Thank you, New Jersey!

Friday, July 24th, 2009

I live in a state that has sent 3 governors to prison since 1960, with a 4th on his way.  And I live in a city and county where public officials who aren’t under indictment can be assumed to be wearing a wire (Todd Stroger, President of the Cook County Board, has quite a few relatives on his staff.  And while, like the rest of the country, we’re frantic for ways to find money for essential services, Todd hired a man whose only job experience was as a busboy  to run part of the county highway system.  Not only that, while waiting trial on a domestic violence charge, the man’s bail was allegedly paid by Todd’s cousin and –now former–county chief financial officer.)

So thank you, New Jersey, for three mayors and a bunch of rabbis operating scams and schemes that would make the Chicago Outfit faint with envy.  Quoting from July 24 New York Times coverage:

Even veteran political observers were nearly breathtaken at the scale of the arrests. “This is so massive,” said Joseph Marbach, a political scientist at Seton Hall, who called it the biggest sting operation he could remember in the state. “It’s going to just reinforce the stereotype of New Jersey politics and corruption. While we thought we were cleaning up New Jersey, it just shows how much more needs to be done.”

You can read the whole story, and see what the rabbis were doing.  Meanwhile, everyone in Illinois is grateful.  Our ex-governor with his mop of hair and promise to sell Barack’s senate seat (this is gold!) is no longer the most corrupt elected official in America!

Suspicions of Mr. Whicher

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

This book, by Kate Summerscale, is quite a tour de force.  Jonathan Whicher was one of the first detectives in the Metropolitan Police in 19th Century London, and Summerscale tells the story of the murder at Road Hill House, which Whicher was called to investigate.  The murder of a 3-year-old child in a house where all the family and servants had been locked in for the night gripped England for a year.  Whicher solved the case, but couldn’t prove it, and his career was almost destroyed by the calumny he underwent.

More than a true-crime account, though, it’s the story of the intertwining of the detective novel and real-life detectives, and the story of the way in which criminal investigation, Darwinian science, and Freudian analysis all evolved in tandem, with a shared belief in searching the past for clues.

Dickens and Wilkie Collins both interviewed Whicher and his colleagues at length and based their own fictional detectives on the new breed of professionals.  Dickens took a keen interest in the Road Hill murder.  He had his own theory, which he published in letters, but he wasn’t alone: dozens of newspapers covered every aspect of the case, from detailing the secrets of the family, to offering their own theories of the murder.

Summerscale also describes the secrecy of the Victorian middle-class household.  Her book explains why “locked-room” mysteries became popular–early crime writers were obsessed with the Road Hill locked house mystery.  Wilkie Collins based the Moonstone on Whicher and Road Hill.  When Sherlock Holmes arrived, the perfect detective, he was in a way the embodiment of all of Whicher’s craft.

A must-read for anyone who cares about the mystery genre.

Now–I need something new to read–so tell me what has really gripped your imagination lately.


Monday, July 20th, 2009

When I was a kid, if I brought home the news that my teacher had particularly praised some project of mine, my father would frown and say, “SPS.” This stands for “self praise stinks.” Actually he only had to do this twice before I learned to be truly ashamed of ever letting anyone know about praise in my life.  So forgive me for violating the SPS mantra, but Booklist has given Hardball a starred review, which is very pleasing, and Chicago Magazine named me Chicago’s “best mystery writer.”  Okay, I’ll go away and be quiet and promise I won’t do this again for a long time, although I will post links to pieces I write if they appear online.

Bronzeville, Chicago

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

I’m writing an essay for Granta about Bronzeville, the Great Migration of African Americans from the south to Chicago early in the Twentieth Century, Chicago’s racism, and my favorite Chicago library, which sits in Bronzeville, the Chicago Bee branch.  I’m working flat out

Librarian Jo Willis in front of the Chicago Bee branch's Art Deco doors

Librarian Jo Willis in front of the Chicago Bee branch's Art Deco doors

to meet Granta’s deadline, but when I’m done I’ll post some of what I’ve been learning here, so stay tuned.

Bronzeville used to have a vibrant shopping and entertainment area, around 35th and State; the Bee branch of the library, which used to house the Chicago Bee newspaper, is the only remaining building from that time.  However, Gregg Spears painted a vibrant portrait of Bronzeville that hangs in the library’s lobby.

Bronzeville, by Gregg Spears

Bronzeville, by Gregg Spears

July 4

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

On July 4, I have a ritual that includes listening to Paul Robeson sing “Ballad for Americans,”  reading the Declaration of Independence aloud with my husband, and eating chocolate ice cream.  The last ritual is a remainder of my childhood 4ths, when we made ice cream in my mother’s old hand-cranked churn.  The Ballad is also a childhood icon.  I grew up thinking that Robeson had sung it for FDR at his first inaugural, but it turns out that the song wasn’t written until 1939.  We had a set of 78’s, which my parents had bought in 1941 when they first started to date.

I grew up imbued by my parents with a passionate belief in American ideals of liberty and justice and I often feel baffled and frustrated by our divagations from those standards.  The Supreme Court and the Presidency both seriously undermined our fundamental freedoms in the last decade, while the third arm of the government, Congress, has been so busy feeding at the public trough that they’ve paid no heed. When Justice Scalia ruled that it’s okay for police to break down people’s doors without showing a warrant, there was no outcry in press or Congress.   And the behavior of the executive branch makes for a mighty uncomfortable reading of the  Declaration.

Among George III’s abuses detailed by Jefferson are:

“For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences”

I think we’d all hoped Barack would end secret courts, and bring any suspected terrorists to trial, rather than holding them indefinitely.  We’d all hoped for more daylight on torture committed by our government.

The one right that keeps expanding here is handgun ownership.  Congress is now allowing weapons in federal parks.  Arizona, in the same week that it sharply curtailed abortion rights, expanded gun ownership rights.

But it’s the 4th of July, time for ice cream and parades, not for worrying about 2 billion handguns in a time of high economic anxiety.  I’ll think about that tomorrow.  In the meantime, Happy 4th, and wherever you are on this planet, I hope you find a way to live your life in freedom, as FDR said, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and above all, freedom from fear.


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July 2009