Marcus Sakey “Afterlife”

In his dream, Marcus Sakey found himself walking the streets of Chicago, everything is much the same but also different—in the way that dreams often are.marcus

“At first, I think that everyone is gone but then realize it’s me that’s gone–not anyone else– and that I was dead,” says Sakey, who seconds after this realization woke up in his own bed, next to his wife. But the import of the dream remained.

“In the dream, I wasn’t scared but when I woke up, it seemed like a nightmare when I imagined being in those same circumstances of wandering around, being dead and not being able to speak to her,” says Sakey, whose bestselling Brilliance, the first in a trilogy, has sold over a million copies.

This dream became what Sakey calls a “seed crystal,” the catalyst to write Afterlife (Thomas & Mercer 2017; $24.95) a supernatural thriller featuring Brody and Claire McCoy, FBI colleagues and lovers. Killed in the line of duty, both are reunited in an after world where they must battle an ancient satanic entity.

It was a story Sakey felt compelled to write but one that was frightening as well.

“This one scared me from the very beginning and it scared me every time I sat at the keyboard,” he says. “I never looked up and saw ghosts. Like any of my books, when I’m writing I’m working on it all the time not just when I’m at the keyboard. When I’m having dinner with my wife or playing with my daughter on the swing, I’m thinking about the characters and what they are doing. I was also afraid I might not be able to pull it off.”

Fascinated by mythology since he was very young and striving to bring an almost mythical quality to his book, Sakey rewrote the first 100 pages nine times, each revision adding new layers, clarifications and bringing the characters into sharper focus.

“It was my ninth book and by far the hardest I’ve written,” he says.

But the rewards of all that hard work have been great. Imagine Entertainment, an American film and television production company founded by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer, won an auction for the screen rights to Afterlife.  Grazer and Howard are producing the movie with Sakey writing the screenplay.

“To be perfectly honest, none of this has sunk in,” says Sakey when asked how he feels about all this heady success. “My job up until now has been to hang out with my daughter in the morning and then go into the basement and make stuff up.”

The World Is Awake, A Celebration of Everyday Blessings by Linsey Davis

Though she often reports on what’s worst in our world (the Las Vegas massacre, the Boston Marathon bombing and the sexual predator assertions against Harvey Weinstein), Linsey Davis, an Emmy award winning news correspondent for ABC News, wants us to look at the world in a more positive way, enjoying its delights with a sense of childlike wonderment and excitement.

“As adults we put on our blinders and just go about our day,” says Davis, author of the recently released children’s book, The World Is Awake, A Celebration of Everyday Blessings: (Zonderkidz 2018; $17.99). “Children are able to remind us about the beauty and joy of so many little things we often overlook.”davis, linsey_portrait

Her inspiration, says Davis, comes from watching her four-year-old son Ayden interact with nature, saying it gives her a buoyant and spiritual perspective.

“My son’s excitement when he asks me who opens the flowers or laughs when he sees a butterfly is contagious,” says Davis, who files reports for shows such as “World News,” “Good Morning America,” “20/20” and “Nightline.” “He sees with a child’s heart. I think children are able to remind us of that.”

With colorful and lively illustrations, Davis’s says she hopes the book stimulates parents to regain that childlike outlook. But even more so, Davis wanted to write a children’s book where the main character is a person of color.

“The characters in children’s books are not in sync with where we are as a country,” says Davis, who is African American. “More than 90% of protagonists in books for children are white. We’re at a time in our country where we’re becoming more colorful at the same time we’re becoming more divisive. Children need to find themselves in books and to see children in books who look like them. I think that is essential particularly now.”

Ifyougo:

What: Linsey Davis will discuss and sign copies of her book and participate in a Q & A.  at

When: Sunday, July 22 at 2:00 p.m.

Where: Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W. Jefferson Ave. Naperville, IL

Cost: This event is free and open to the public. To join the book signing line, purchase the book at Anderson’s Bookshop.

FYI: (630) 355-2665; andersonsbookshop.com.

 

 

Chicago’s Only Castle

 

It’s been more than 40 years since Errol Magidson first saw The Castle with its crenelated towers, stone walls, parapets and arched doorways and windows. Only this castle, rising on top of a hill with even, we’re not kidding here, slit-like windows perfect for archers to fire at marauders, wasn’t located in Europe but instead had been built by an Irishman named Robert Givens back in the 1880s in the Beverly neighborhood of Chicago.1551581_640122486049460_1036349268_n

“My wife and I were looking for a place to live and a friend told us to come out to Beverly as it’s a great place,” recalls Magidson, author of Chicago’s Only Castle: The History of Givins’ Irish Castle and Its Keepers and its companion DVD. “So we did and we were driving down Longwood Avenue, looking at the homes including one that’s a Frank Lloyd Wright and were stopped at a light. We looked up and saw the castle.”

Enchanted by what they saw, Magidson and his wife, since deceased, moved to Beverly.  It didn’t matter that she was Catholic and he was Jewish, he joined the Men of the Castle, a group dedicated to the preservation of Chicago’s only castle, which in 1942 had become a Unitarian Church.

“We worked at raising money and when I retired and was looking for something to do, I volunteered to make a documentary about the castle,” says Magidson.

Over the decades, Magidson read everything he could about The Castle’s origins, trying to get beyond repetitious material based on faulty sources.164347_142585029136544_4388143_n

“One reporter would write it and everyone else would quote it as if it were true, but often it wasn’t,” he says.

When he first started, old newspapers were on microfiche if available at all. But he was able to reach out to historians who helped him learn how to sift through information including how in 1909 the addresses in Chicago changed.

“It wasn’t like you could open a book or get on line and there was all that history,” he says.

Legend has it, says Magidson, that Givens, a real estate developer, popular novelist, purposed mayoral candidate, world traveler who wrote travel reviews for the Chicago Evening Post, built his castle in 1877-1878 after seeing one he liked on the River Dee in County Louth, Ireland and sketching it so he could return home and build it for his Irish fiancée.

181559_142585012469879_5721985_n       “My children went to pre-school at the castle, so it felt almost like an extension of home when they were young,” says Mike Flannery, a political reporter for Fox 32 News in Chicago who lives near the castle on Longwood Drive. “Sitting stop the limestone ridge above Longwood Drive, it’s one of the neighborhood’s most prominent landmarks. Returning from a long trip, it’s always good to see the Givens Castle. Means we’re almost home!”

After Givens, the Castle was home, from 1895 until 1897, to the Chicago Female College. From 1909 until 1921, the property was owned by the Burdett family.

“J.B. Burdett was an inventor and manufacturer,  whose company still exists but under a different name,” says Magdison.  “He was also an early automobilists who won the first race to Chicago to Joliet in 1901.  Siemens bought it in 1921 and kept it until 1942. he was a medical doctor of Ukrainian descent and his wife was the founder of the Ukrainian National Museum.”579100_492735217454855_1525667273_n.jpg

Despite all these changes, much of the original interior remains including the  ornate woodwork, a skylight on the third floor as well as a stained glass window with the Givens family coat of arms and fireplaces on each floor.

“The Castle was built by stones quarried in Joliet that were taken by the railroad to 103rd and Vincennes,” says Magidson. “There a builder cut them to size and then they were shipped by horse and wagon to the house.”

Things change as well. The property where it is located is only about the half size of the original lot. But still, it is a castle.

Ifyougo:

What: Presentation, Book Signing, and Tour at The Castle

When: July 21 at 11 a.m.

Where: 10244 South Longwood Avenue, Chicago, Illinois

FYI: chicagosonlycastle.org or send a message on their Facebook page

 

 

Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend

Deirdre Bair wasn’t that familiar with Al Capone. Beyond the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, she’d been more focused on literary biographies, racking up numerous awards including the National Book Award. But when she was contacted by a friend who had a friend who knew someone (yes, it went like that) who wanted help in solving some family mysteries about Al Capone she was intrigued.

“I asked what does he want, a private investigator or a ghost writer?”

The man was a relative of the infamous gangster and after they talked, Bair received phone calls from other Capone relatives.

“They called me and said we’re getting old, we want our story to be told,” recalls Bair.

And so began years of interviews, extensive research and writing as Blair learned from Capone’s surviving family members about the Capone they knew—a devoted father, a loved husband, a kindly caretaker of his relatives.

“There are so many legends about him,” says Blair, noting more than 100 books have been written about Capone. Her book, “Al Capone: His Life, Legacy, and Legend” (Nan A. Talese 2016; $30) is the first to have the cooperation of his family who provided her with exclusive access to personal testimony and archival documents.

Of course there’s the Jazz Age, bootlegging Capone. But in his brief arc of fame and success—Bair points out that he took control of his gang at 25 and by 31 was ill, broke and in prison, he became a role model for, of all things, business management.

“The Harvard Business School did a case study of how he ran his business,” says Bair. “Today the Bulgarian Mafia say they study Capone. So many people tell me a generation or two later, he could have been a CEO.”

His family saw him as loving. His wife May, says Bair, said she knew every bad thing he’d done (and we know he did a whole lot of bad stuff) but she still loved him. His son remembered him as a great dad.

“Every day was a revelation,” says Bair. “But I don’t think anyone will ever have the final answer as to who he really was. He’s a riddle, a conundrum and an enigma.”

 

 

 

 

 

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