Local Author’s Work Offered in Virtual Reading  

 

Excerpts from Front Porch Society,” a work by Beverly/Morgan Park resident Melda Beaty, will be presented by the Beverly Arts Center as a virtual reading Sun., Oct. 25, 2 p.m.  

“Front Porch Society” follows the journey of Carrie Honey, a grieving mother in rural Mississippi, whose teenage son died at the hands of the police. Ironically, on the anniversary of her son’s death America elected its first Black president. On the front porch of her home and in the midst of a town scandal and the revelation of a past secret, a bond with friends helps to restore Honey’s hope and faith.  

Each excerpt of Front Porch Society” will be followed by discussion of the scene. The reading is directed by award-winning theater veteran Delia Jolly Gray. Tickets are $10, and $1 from each ticket will be donated to an organization supporting Black Lives Matter. 

Melda Beaty is a passionate playwright and “Front Porch Society” is her first play. It was premiered at The Ensemble Theatre in Houston, Tex., in 2017 and most recently, was a mainstage production at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C. Beaty’s second play, Coconut Cake, was accepted into the New Works Reader’s Series at the 2017 National Black Theatre Festival and her most recent play, Thirty, participated in the Women’s Theatre Alliance development workshop in Chicago last year 

Beaty was recently commissioned by The Ensemble Theatre for their 2021-2022 season. Her her upcoming short film, Cupcake, chronicles the divide mental illness creates between a mother and her daughter. 

In addition, Beaty is author of two books and freelance contributor to Black Masks magazine. Her first book, My Soul to His Spirit: Soulful Expressions from Black Daughters to Their Fathers,” a compilation of non-fiction writings by black women from across the United Stateswon the 2006 National Fresh Voices Award. Her debut novel, “Lime,” is described as “America’s Next Top Model” meets “Burning Bed.” Both books are available on Amazon.com. 

Beaty is a tenured professor at Olive-Harvey College. She is excited be working with the Beverly Arts Center on the virtual reading of her play, as she and her daughters are long-time residents of the Beverly/Morgan Park community. 

One Man’s Quest for the Best Hot Dogs in Chicago 

By Kristin Boza 

Once again, local author Dennis Foley has expertly combined his love of Chicago and food to deliver a book full of “snap.” In “No Ketchup: Chicago’s Top 50 Hot Dogs and the Stories Behind Them,” Foley created a hot dog bible meant to live in the glove box so travelers are never more than 15 minutes away from a superior hot dog.  

Foley is a lifelong Chicagoan who found success and joy in careers ranging from bouncer to attorney to teacher to writer and Streets and Sanitation worker. His first book, “The Street’s and San Man’s Guide to Chicago Eats,” won the Midwest Independent Publishers Association Book Awards first place for humor. He went on to publish “The Drunkard’s Son,” a memoir about growing up amidst family and neighborhood turmoil in 1960s Chicago.  

“I originally set out to write a novel set in the early 1900s Chicago, and I had what I thought was a pretty good first chapter. But nothing else was coming to me . . . I kicked it to the side because I found myself being pulled toward writing about one of my favorite foods — hot dogs,” Foley said. “The Chicago dog has been written and blogged about a bunch, but in this book, I made sure to give a good deal of focus and props to the mom-and-pop owners. Sitting down with some of Chicago’s most iconic dog stand owners was what made the book special for me. Their stories are Chicago stories through and through; stories that we can all relate to.” 

One such iconic story is that of Fat Tommy’s, 3031 W. 111th St., and owner Dan Coogan. Foley awarded Fat Tommy’s his top rating: four mustard bottles, translating to “Excellent.” According to “No Ketchup,” Coogan aims to make Fat Tommy’s not only a hot dog destination, but a happy place for families to find fun in tandem with “heart and soul.”  

Foley was especially impressed with Coogan’s substitution in his Chicago-style hot dog. Instead of a dill pickle, a fresh slice of cucumber is added to the usual Chicago dog mix. “The condiments are fresh and the dog has plenty of snap,” Foley wrote in the book. “Snap” is among Foley’s highest compliments for a hot dog.  

Coogan humbly stated why Fat Tommy’s is the tops. “The best answer to that question I ever heard was ‘I don’t know if we are the best, but whoever is the best, we make ‘em awfully nervous.’ It’s a great honor and very humbling to be in Dennis’ book. He’s a great guy with good stories and an excellent writer,” Coogan said. “Whave been in business for 29 years and take it one day at a time. It’s always nice to be recognized.” 

Foley spent 50 days researching his book – that’s one hot dog per day. “But I ended up eating far more than that. I ate at many of these dog stands before, but I went back for another go ‘round to my favorite places and then took some tips from some of my trusted foodie friends,” he said.  

The meat of the book is really focused on the personal and oh-so-Chicago stories of the hot dog stand owners, many of whom have been neighborhood staples for decades.  

“Some of these owners overcame a great deal after emigrating to the U.S., some struggled to keep their business going over the years, and some have great stories about how they came to open their business or name their stand,” Foley said. 

Research for the book took Foley all over the city, but some of his favorites are right here in Beverly/Morgan Park and Mt. Greenwood. “I’m a big fan of Fat Tommy’s, Janson’s, and Joey’s Red Hots. A great Western Avenue event would be the Pub and Dog crawl. You can’t go wrong knocking off some good dogs in the area and downing some quality craft beer at places like Open Outcry Brewing and Horse Thief Hollow.” 

 

Find Dennis Foley’s “No Ketchup” at Bookie’s, 10324 S. Western. Be on the lookout for Foley’s next project with his son, Matt, as they co-write a screenplay, and be sure to check out his film “Not a Stranger, which was filmed in Beverly/Morgan Park in 2015 and received three stars from film critic Richard Roeper, now available on Amazon Prime. 

 

 

 

Local Lit: ‘South Specific’ Makes Storytelling Personal  

Local Lit 

‘South Specific’ Makes Storytelling Personal  

Literary artists have three ways of getting their artform to an audience: in print, at a reading and as a performance. Print is print, but the difference between reading a work and performing it is kind of like the difference between a wave and a hug, when you give someone a hug, it’s personal.  

“When people have a book or script in front of them, they have created a wall between themselves and their audience, and, in most cases, a stationary position,” said storyteller David Boyle.  “When I tell a story, the audience becomes my scene partner and they get my whole self.  I can’t tell the story without them.”  

“Reading you’re so worried about getting every little word down,” said storyteller Madeline O’Malley. “Storytelling is about getting out the emotions; it’s not a play, it’s a story.” 

Last spring, Boyle, an actor, writer and musician, and O’Malley, a stand-up comic and comedic memoirist, founded a quarterly storytelling series they call South Specific. The two first worked together when O’Malley signed up for Boyle’s storytelling workshop as a new challenge in training as a performer 

O’Malley, by day a special education case manager for Chicago Public Schools, had started taking classes at The Second City. She likes the intimacy that comedic memoir and stand-up comedy evoke, and pursued both performance styles in classes, one woman shows and open mics. In addition to appearances on The Second City stages, O’Malley performed at Riddles, The Hideout, Under the Gun Theater and local venues 

In Boyle’s workshop, O’Malley upped her storytelling gamedeepening the exposure that makes her stuff resonate with audiences that don’t just want to be entertained, but to connect.  “I do personal, autobiographical [stories}, and there’s such a feeling of catharsis,” O’Malley said. “I really like how common experiences are.” 

O’Malley performed in Boyle’s showcase of workshop students, which he called South Specific, then took her talent on the road at fringe festivals in Elgin and Atlanta, and storytelling events that include Tellin’ Tales, Homewood Stories and at Oggi Chicago, and at The Frunchroom readers series in January. In addition to collaborating with Boyle on South Specific, O’Malley started an all-female storytelling and live music series in Pilsen called Truth Be Told. 

Boyle has been singing and playing musical instruments all his life, and makes his living as a church music director. He started doing theater in high school and later, when directing a theater program for young actors, wrote scripts for student productions.  

“I’ve always admired solo artists like Lily Tomlin and John Leguizamo but couldn’t fathom how I’d ever do what they can do,” Boyle said. Then in 2005, he performed “Santaland Diaries” by David Sedaris. “I wanted to do more work like that,” he said. In 2009, he took a class in writing for solo theater at Chicago Dramatists, and a year later performed, “An Accidental Organist,” his solo show about being a church musician. The show debuted at Gorilla Tango Theater and earned an excellent review in The Reader. 

Boyle has appeared at various storytelling events throughout Chicago, and the Minnesota, St. Louis and Indianapolis fringe festivals; this fall he will perform for the seventh time on the Elgin Fringe Festival.  

Storytelling appeals to Boyle in a way that’s totally different from his work as a musician or actor. “There’s a feeling of immense satisfaction after the performance of solo work,” he said. “It’s a different feeling from traditional theater with a cast; it’s all on me. I think it must be like what tightrope walkers feel when they reach the other end.”  

O’Malley agrees that the challenge of being out there alone offers a unique satisfaction for a storyteller. “The best feeling is when you know you’re pulling it off,” she said.  

Boyle and O’Malley will be pulling it off at South Specific, Fri., Feb. 28, Givins Beverly Castle, 10244 S. Longwood Dr. Doors open, 7:30 p.m.; stories begin at 8. They’ll each be telling two stories, one of which will be about their birthday, which they both celebrate this month. By the way, O’Malley’s birthday is Feb. 29 – yes, she’s a leap year baby, so (technicality) she will be turning 11This show will be so much fun.  

Tickets are $20 (a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Castle Restoration Fund.)in advance at concertsatthecastle.com and at the door 

 

 

Authors Share Their Winter Reads 

By Kristin Boza

Winter is here, and so are local authors with their cozy reading recommendations. Grab this list, head to Bookie’s, 10324 S. Western or the library, check for these authors’ books as well as their recommendations, then settle in with a pair of wool socks, a warm blanket and a cup of hot chocolate for a long winter’s read.
Michael Walsh
In a previous life, Michael Walsh was a Marine Scout Observer, working in dangerous places like Vietnam’s “Leatherneck Square.” In addition to an assortment of campaign ribbons and unit commendations, Walsh’s personal recognitions include the Bronze Star with V, the Navy Achievement Medal with V, and a Regimental Mast. Later in life, he embarked on the Zhimon project, culminating in his book, “Zhimon, A Solitary Adventure” detailing his personal story of a 3,500-mile solo canoe journey along Canada’s fur trade route.
“For ‘put your feet up in front of the fire’ reading, it’s hard to beat Michael Connolly’s Harry Bosch series; I’m starting over with one of his first: ‘Black Echo.’ For top-shelf, non-fiction reading, and a timely reminder of how our presidents have historically conducted themselves, I recommend Doris Kearns Goodwin’s ‘A Team of Rivals’ and David McCullough’s ‘Truman.’”
L.D. Barnes
L.D. Barnes is author of the police procedural novel “The 107th Street Murder.” Her stories have been published the “BAC Street Journal” and Tallgrass Anthology, and as a performing artist, Barnes has read at The Frunchroom, Woman Made Gallery, Tangelo Reading Series, and local libraries. Her website is Barnesversation.com.
“I love anthologies because they give a variety of poetry and short stories that go well with snowy days. It’s like having a magazine full of wonderful reading. If you want a novel, I suggest a mystery to give your mind some exercise, or some historical fiction to give you an appreciation of your ancestors and their environs. For mystery, I recommend anything by Clare O’Donahue, Tracy Clark, Susanna Calkins, Lori Rader-Day or Raymond Benson, all talented Chicago writers who will keep you engaged until the last page. As for anthologies, pick a subject that you enjoy and ask the folks at Bookie’s to guide you in the right direction. I am reading ‘The Water Dancer’ by Ta-Nehisi Coates, ‘Borrowed Time’ by Tracy Clark, and anxiously awaiting the new Lori Rader-Day mystery. For a local mystery taking place in Beverly and Mt. Greenwood, I recommend my book ‘The 107th Street Murder.’”
Arnie Bernstein
As a non-fiction writer, Arnie Bernstein loves exploring the forgotten stories of American history. He is the author of “Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund,” and “Bath Massacre: America’s First School Bombing,” and three books on Chicago film and Civil War history. His books have been acclaimed by “Publisher’s Weekly,” “Kirkus Reviews” and “The New York Times,” and he was recently named one of the top 50 movers and shakers in the Chicago book world by New City’s annual “Lit 50.”
“I’m currently working my way through ‘Churchill: Walking with Destiny’ by Andrew Roberts. It’s an epic task that I’ve been working on since spring! I recommend ‘The Mirage Factory: Illusion, Imagination, and the Invention of Los Angeles’ by Gary Krist; ‘The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Moment Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America’ by Karen Abbott. My usual go-to books are “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote, “The Executioner’s Song” and ‘Of a Fire on the Moon’ by Norman Mailer, ‘Native Son’ by Richard Wright and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. Those titles will hold anyone through the winter, particularly if winter proves to be as long as it threatens to be this season.”
Dennis Foley
A life-long Chicagoan, Dennis Foley is the author of “The Drunkard’s Son,” “The Blue Circus” and “The Streets and San Man’s Guide to Chicago Eats.” His screenplay, “Not a Stranger,” filmed on Chicago’s South Side in 2015, received a 3-star review from film critic Richard Roeper, and went on to win or be nominated for several awards, including “Top Screenplay” from the Golden Door Film Festival, and “Top Debut Film” from Route 66 Film Festival. The film is now available on Amazon Prime. Foley is currently adapting “The Blue Circus” into a screenplay and working on a novel set in Chicago in the early 1900s.
“I recommend ‘Reading in the Dark’ by Seamus Deane; Frank McCourt received the big bucks and acclaim for ‘Angela’s Ashes,’ but if you want a beautiful read that will take you to the Land of Green and outdo McCourt’s memoir in the process, Deane’s autobiographical novel does the trick. I also recommend ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens; there’s nothing like a short Dickens tale to put things in perspective around the holidays. I just finished reading ‘The March’ by E.L. Doctorow, who is a master of historical fiction and this is a beautifully written book with wonderful voices covering one of the most difficult times in our nation’s history, the Civil War. As for my own books, I recommend ‘The Drunkard’s Son.’ a coming-of-age memoir about growing up in 1960s Chicago.”
Lee Bey
Lee Bey is a photographer, writer, lecturer and consultant whose work deals in the documentation and interpretation of the built environment — and the often complex political, social and racial forces that shape spaces and places. He is the author of “Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago’s South Side,” which showcases both his writing and photography. As a former Chicago Sun-Times architecture critic, Bey’s writing and reporting on architecture and urban design have been featured in numerous publications and mediums, including WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, “Chicago” magazine and “Architectural Record”.
“For cozy winter reading, I recommend ‘Julius Shulman: Modernism Rediscovered’ by Pierluigi Serraino. Shulman photographed Southern California architecture at midcentury, and the book is filled with his incredible photos of modernist structures sitting beneath that warm California sun — just the thing for a cold winter day in Chicago. I’m reading ‘Midwest Architecture Journeys’ edited by Zach Mortice. This is a book of essays and photographs about places in Chicago and across the Midwest an as far as New York State. It’s a well-written, smart book that takes you off the beaten path. I also like ‘Binga: The Rise and Fall of Chicago’s First Black Banker’ written by Beverly’s own Don Hayner, and looks at the spectacular life of millionaire Jesse Binga who found success – and prison – in the first half of the 20th century. Say you read the book now because I’m sure it’ll be a movie at some point!”

Coloring books make great holiday gifts

Two coloring books featuring local landmarks are available this holiday season, Color Me Beverly II and Color Me Morgan Park.

These books are the innovative and unique creations of Beverly artist Judie Anderson and local historian and writer Carol Flynn. Each book retails for $10 and features 12 illustrations accompanied by text explaining the origins and importance of the landmark to the community.

Coloring is a fun and relaxing activity for all ages. For children, coloring fosters self-expression and helps develop motor skills. For adults, studies show that just a few minutes of coloring have the same benefits as meditation – a restless mind calms down, reducing stress, enhancing relaxation and sleep.

These coloring books are also unique collectors’ items. They are very popular with ex-patriates nostalgic for the old neighborhood. They make great stocking stuffers and are very easy to mail as gifts.

The books will be available at two craft fairs that will be held at Olivia’s Garden at 10730 S. Western Ave., on Sunday, Dec. 1, from noon to 5 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 7, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Locations in the community that carry the books are: Bookie’s bookstore, 10324 S. Western Ave.; Turkey Chicago gift shop, 9913 S. Walden Parkway; Heritage Gallery, 1907 W. 103rd Street; the Ridge Historical Society, 10621 S. Seeley Ave.; and Mt. Greenwood Cemetery, 2900 W. 111th Street. In addition, Sacred Heart Church at 11652 S. Church St. has the Morgan Park book, and the Beverly Unitarian Church at the Givins Castle, 10244 S. Longwood Drive, has the Beverly II book.

For those who live out of town and would like to have copies shipped to them, contact Carol Flynn at cflynn2013@yahoo.com.

Children’s Author Campaigns to #DoGoodThings 

By Kristin Boza 

Faith and family are two touchstones in local author Chanelle Rogers’ life. Her first book, “Good Morning God & Good Night God” was written in honor of her three sons, Andrew, Gates and Bear, as a way to teach them about the power and thoughtfulness of prayer. 

The two-in-one book features a morning prayer and an evening prayer; readers simply flip it over to read the other side. With fun and colorful illustrations, children engage with the images while working on memorizing their prayers. 

After receiving a Master of Fine Arts in 2013, Rogers was sure that by now she’d have written several books. While focusing on her short stories and working on teaching her son, Gates, his prayers, she got the idea for this book.  

“We have always included prayer in our daily rituals, and my oldest son, Andrew, learned to pray by repeating after his dad; then later he said his own prayers to God. By the time Gates came along, I had grown in my relationship with God and my method of praying had really evolved into such a comfortable conversation with Him. I really wanted to show the simplicity of talking to Him in words and ideas that Gates could understand,” she said. “Gates’ lively, adventurous personality gave me the inspiration for the prayers and illustrations. I wanted Gates to be thankful that God gives him a new day every day to be a puddle-splashing, brother-taunting, thoughtful and loving little boy!” 

Reaching kids through words came naturally to Rogers, with many in the literary field telling her she had the great ability to do kid talk. “I think the best thing I could share with aspiring children’s book authors is to be genuine with your voice,” she said. “Children are incredibly perceptive and can sense disingenuous attempts at relating to them.” 

Finding the time to write with three young boys and a bustling real estate business is tough, but Rogers strategizes her day to ensure the boys are occupied while she stretches her creative muscles. “Thanks to a great babysitter, I can schedule my days and consistently dedicate time to the writing goal I set for the week,” she said. “I think the key is setting a goal and spreading it out over the week, because a mom’s day can get crazy sometimes. When I do miss a day, I don’t feel so bad when I know I can make it up later.” 

In conjunction with the book, Rogers and her family launched the #DoGoodThings initiative, which encourages families to do good things for others. She asks for social media users to use the hashtag when posting photos and videos of themselves giving to others. Find more information about Rogers and her book at GoodMorning-God.com. 

Program Highlights Chicago’s First African-American Banker 

 

The Ridge Historical Society (RHS) is sponsoring a program on Jesse Binga, Chicago’s first African-American bankerat the Givins Castle, 10244 S. Longwood Dr., Sun., Apr. 7, 2 p.mPresenter Don Hayner will discuss his book, Binga, The Rise and Fall of Chicago’s First Black Banker, scheduled for release in November.  

Jesse Binga (1865 – 1950) was a prominent real estate businessman who founded the first privately owned African-American bank in Chicago in 1908 to serve black clients denied service at white-owned banks. 

According to an article written by Hayner for The VillagerJesse Binga came to Chicago in 1892 with 10 dollars in his pocket and by 1919 he was a wealthy realtor, Chicago’s first black banker and a lightning rod for the worst race riot in Chicago history.” 

In 1908. Binga opened a bank at 36th and State — the first black-owned bank in Chicago. He built a home in a white area and his house and offices were bombed numerous times. Animosity between whites and blacks led to a major Chicago race riot in 1919. 

Hayner, a lifelong Chicagoan and Beverly/Morgan Park resident, retired as editor-in-chief of the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper in 2012. He has co-authored three books including Streetwise Chicago, A History of Chicago Street Names. 

The cost of the RHS program is $10 per person and all proceeds will go to the Givins Castle Restoration Fund. The Beverly Unitarian Church, owner of the Castle, has started an initiative to raise money for repairs to the Castle turrets. Donations to this fund will be used for preservation of the Castle, not for church operations.  

As space is limited, program reservations are suggested. Call 773881-1675 or email ridgehistory@hotmail.com. Tours of the Castle will be available following the program.  

You Are My Neighbor Explores Boundless Compassion

The Southside Catholic Peace and Justice Committee, in coordination with local organizations and faith groups, will host the next You Are My Neighbor event, “Disrupting Violence,” Thurs., Apr. 11, 7 p.m., St. Barnabas Church, 10134 S. Longwood Dr. The presentation features Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J., author and founder of Homeboy Industries, along with local Chicagoans working on anti-violence initiatives.   

Fr. Boyle is the author of the New York Times-bestseller “Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion” and founder of Homeboy Industries in East Los Angeles, the largest gang intervention program in the world. In his Apr. 11 presentation, he will talk about his experiences in the poor and violence-prone neighborhoods where he began his ministry 30 years ago which led to founding Homeboy Industries.  

With Father Boyle as its leader, Homeboy Industries has grown from a small community effort to a $20 million organization that provides opportunities for young people in poor and isolated neighborhoods to change the direction of their lives through resources that “disrupt” the effects of past violence and trauma. 

Leading up to the event, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 9401 S. Oakley, invites are residents to join in exploring the theme “Boundless” at midweek Lenten discussions Wednesdays through Apr. 10. “At a time when the divisions between people seem to be growing stronger and more painful, Father Boyle’s work reminds us that God calls us to boundless love. We hope to explore practical ways to build peace by ‘standing with’ one another in solidarity and love,” said Bethlehem Pastor Jennie English-Dumont. More details can be found on the congregation’s web site, www.bethlehem-chicago.org. 

In his presentation in April, area residents will hear Father Boyle tells the stories of trauma and hope, and how a community built on the virtues of boundless love and radical kinship encourages us all to embrace the humanity and dignity of all of our neighbors, no matter how we differ by race, income, class and experience.   

Homeboy Industries provides opportunities for young people in poor and isolated neighborhoods to change the direction of their lives through resources that “disrupt” the effects of past violence and trauma. Services include counseling, high school classes, job readiness preparation, day care services and tattoo removal.  

Southside Catholic Peace and Justice, together with a coalition of local churches and organizations, has hosted two You Are My Neighbor events focusing on the plight of refugees and immigrants in our country. Both events drew close to 1000 attendees 

“The success of these events is the result of the community collaboration that took place among our churches and grass roots organizations,” said Maureen Gainer Reilly, one of the organizers. “The invisible lines that sometimes exist in Beverly/Morgan Park between residents and faith communities are fading by building relationships and focusing on our shared hopes for our neighborhood and City.  

These groups followed the example set by the community leaders who hosted the “Thou Shalt Not Kill” campaign, a collaborative neighborhood effort in 2016 to raise awareness and stem gun violence in the city for a single day.  

New Book is a Chicago Style Good Read

By Grace Kuikman 

The experts say to write what you know. Lucky for readers, local author Dennis Foley knows what makes the City of Chicago tick.  

In his new novel, “The Blue Circus,” Foley calls on his experiences as a lawyer, electrician, bouncer, teacher and coach to create a memorable cast of characters and a compelling plot that connects Chicago neighborhoods, dive bars, shady political deals and even great spots to grab a bite to eat.  

The book tells the story of a disbarred attorney who gets a job as a City of Chicago electrician with the help of a union boss, then makes the mistake of befriending a mob-connected city worker. Action takes place from one end of the city to the other, but the book’s two main characters are locals.  

“One of the main characters lives at 102nd and Bell while another lives at 106th and Whipple,” Foley said. “Much of the action takes place in the Beverly and Mount Greenwood neighborhoods with places like the Beverly Park baseball fields, St. Barnabas Church, the Dubliner (may she rest in peace) and more turning up in its pages.”  

While the inspirations for many of the characters in “The Blue Circus” can be found right here at home, Foley’s idea for the book’s main character evolved from a Chicago literary icon. “I pay homage to James Farrell and his Studs Lonigan trilogy in the book,” Foley said. “I often wondered what Studs Lonigan’s family would be like in contemporary Chicago. Enter main characters Danny Lonigan, a Streets and San worker, and Tom Lonigan, his union boss big brother.”  

Among the people we may recognize in “The Blue Circus” are Mary Lonigan who is modeled after Foley’s mom; Tom Lonigan, who is based on Foley’s brother; and a character who runs a neighborhood boxing program who is based on the late Marty McGarry. Foley;s friend and neighbor, Dr. Jim Valek, makes an appearance with his real name and identity.  

“The Blue Circus” is Foley’s first novel but third book. His first book, “The Street and San Man’s Guide to Chicago Eats,” is one of Lake Claremont Press’s all-time best sellers (and an excellent resource if you’re looking for a place to stop for lunch.) “The Drunkard’s Son,” is a poignant memoir.  

In all of his work – including his award-winning film, “Not a Stranger,” which was largely shot in Beverly/Morgan Park and surrounding communities, Foley employs a perfectly pitched Chicago patois that adds spot-on authenticity to his characters and a lot of fun for readers. 

The first incarnation of “The Blue Circus” came in the form of a television pilot screenplay about Chicago politics and how the city works. Foley’s hook was telling the story from the perspective of a city worker, “the common Joe,” he said. The work won best original television pilot in the 2013 Beverly Hills Screenplay contest.  

“I wrote a couple more episodes then decided to go for the book format,” Foley said. He spent the next several years writing and editing. “The Blue Circus” was released Sept. 12.  

Almost like the plot of one of his stories, there’s a chance that Foley’s new book may be made into a movie by a London-based film company. He recently sent them finished book, but said movie deal would be a long shot, “Like winning the Queen of Hearts at McNally’s” he laughed. 

“The Blue Circus” is available at Bookies, 10324 S. Western.  

Writer’s Work Takes Flight

By Abby Johnson 

David Sears’s niece wasn’t interested in “Flying Naked.” To the young girl, it’s simply a boring adult book about piloting. 

“You should write about an adventure,” she told him. “Something that has horses, trains and Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry…oh, and American history — but only the interesting parts.” 

Sears, a Beverly/Morgan Park native and St. Ignatius College Prep graduate, is in the Air Force stationed at the Pentagon. He’s a former airline pilot and the author of “The Untimely Journey of Veronica T. Boone,” a young adult trilogy that explores friendship and Chicago history while featuring exotic travel, dramatic chases, tornados, presidents of the United States, millionaires, gangsters, bootleggers, monsters, and one helpful but ornery African dwarf mongoose.  

The trilogy is Sears’s first Middle Grade series, and the disparity between this genre and that of “Flying Naked,” a chronicle of his time as a pilot in South America, may be surprising to those unaware of Sears’s interest in Chicago’s backstory. He’s a self-proclaimed history buff, the result of growing up with a father who worked as school teacher for Chicago Public Schools and always pointed out the historic sites while driving throughout the city.  

“There is so much history that flies under the radar,” Sears said. “And when writing these books I was able to explore all of it. That’s why I enjoyed writing them so much.” 

While he may know the city’s rich past like the back of his hand, his experience in pre-teen entertainment was previously nonexistent. His research process was a rather hands-on one: He spent several hours talking to his niece and her friends, uncovering hidden interests and curiosities. What came of these conversations was a time-travel, historical fiction adventure about two girls from the present who try to save the country by stopping a crime that happened at Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893.  

When asked why he chose this particular setting for the story, Sears said Hyde Park is often overlooked as a neighborhood when it comes to historical significance. Everyone thinks of Al Capone or the Sears Tower when they think of Chicago, he said  

“I wanted to bring attention to an area that is arguably the most important in Chicago’s history.” 

And there are still plenty of other areas whose stories are waiting to be told. Sears knows this, which is why he is already mapping out Veronica T. Boone’s next adventure. He gives up his lunch hours to write these stories. But it’s worth it, he said.  

“I never thought I’d be writing these kinds of books, but when the niece gives you a job, you do it, right?” He chuckles. “Seriously, though. I’m glad she did. It’s been good for both of us.”