Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

Kathleen Barber’s thriller Are You Sleeping? (Gallery Books 2017; $26) tells the story of  Josie Buhrman who thought she had put the trauma of her early life behind her, when a hit investigative podcast about her father’s murder brings the past back, compelling her return to the small Illinois town of Elm Park where she grew up.

“The main storyline of Are You Sleeping was inspired by true crime podcasts like ‘Serial,’ says Barber, a graduate from the University of Illinois and Northwestern University School of Law who previously practiced bankruptcy law at large firms in Chicago and New York

.  “I was utterly captivated with the first season of ‘Serial’ when I listened to it in the fall of 2014– so much so that I spent a lot of time reading about the podcast online and visiting forums where the underlying case was discussed. At one point, I caught myself doing an online image search for some of the people involved in the case, and I realized that I had perhaps crossed a line from interested to inappropriately obsessed. It was then that I started thinking about how the popularity of the podcast must feel to the people on the other side of the case–the people who I was image-searching for, the people who were interviewed for the podcast, and, most of all, the family of the victim. That was what I was thinking about when I started writing Are You Sleeping–what it’s like to be on the other side of a case that’s moved into the realm of pop culture.”

Barber, who was born and raised in Galesburg, Illinois, says that she wants to tell stories about women from the Midwest and used her hometown as the setting for her book.

“When I was writing Are You Sleeping, I could envision the characters walking down certain real-life streets in Galesburg and drinking in existing bars,” says Barber. “Since so much of the rest of the book is created from whole cloth, setting the book in a familiar location really helped me ground the story in reality.”

If you go:

What: Talk and book signing

When: Thursday, August 10 at 6:30 p.m.

Where: City Lit Books, 2523 N. Kedzie Blvd., Chicago, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: (773) 235-2523; citylitbooks.com

Hauntings of the Underground Railroad: Ghosts of the Midwest

Before the Civil War, a network of secret routes and safe houses crisscrossed the Midwest to help African Americans travel north to escape slavery. Although many slaves were able to escape to the safety of Canada, others met untimely deaths on the treacherous journey—and some of these unfortunates still linger, unable to rest in peace.

The author in front of an Underground Railroad stop said to be haunted.

In Hauntings of the Underground Railroad: Ghosts of the Midwest, Jane Simon Ammeson investigates unforgettable and chilling tales of these restless ghosts that still walk the night. This unique collection includes true and gruesome stories, like the story of a lost toddler who wanders the woods near the Story Inn, eternally searching for the mother torn from him by slave hunters, or the tale of the Hannah House, where an overturned oil lamp sparked a fire that trapped slaves hiding in the basement and burned them alive. Brave visitors who visit the house, which is now a bed and breakfast, claim they can still hear voices moaning and crying from the basement.

Ammeson also includes incredible true stories of daring escapes and close calls on the Underground Railroad. A fascinating and spine-tingling glimpse into our past, Hauntings of the Underground Railroad will keep you up all night.

Journalist Fiona Barton keeps suspense going with ‘The Child’

As a journalist, Fiona Barton investigated crimes, attended trials and then wrote and filed her stories. But as the author of the just-released “The Child” and her best-selling novel, “The Widow,” both psychological thrillers, Barton had to switch gears.

“It sounds ridiculous, but I had to stop being a reporter in order to write a novel,” Barton says. “I knew how to write — I’d been doing it for a living for more than 30 years, but what I was writing came from other people. Journalism is listening, probing, testing other people’s words and telling a story concisely and often under 500 words,” she says.

“Writing ‘The Widow’ meant unlearning a lot of things. It was incredibly hard at first and I got to 10,000 words and thought I had nothing left to say, but there was a moment where I gave myself permission to fully invent. It was a real crunching of gears but wonderfully liberating to be free to create my own world in both books.”

Barton’s done it again with “The Child,” which brings back Kate Waters, the newspaper journalist who first appeared in “The Widow.” Wanting to impress her boss, Kate follows up on the discovery of a small skeleton in a recently demolished building. Barton says that the inspiration for the story came from exactly the same place that Kate finds it in the book.“As a journalist, I’m always looking for stories,” she says. “I tore interesting items out of newspapers and magazines — my hairdresser hated me — and shoved them in my handbag for later. They were often just a few lines in a story but it was the unanswered questions that drew me in. One of the scraps of paper lurking in the bottom of my bag many years ago was about the discovery of a baby’s remains. Like Kate, I wanted to know who the infant was? Who had secretly buried it? And who else knew?”

Horseshoe Casino exec pens book about supportive women

Region resident Dawn Reynolds, drawing upon the early loss of her mother and the encouragement of others, has written “The Highmore Circle,” a novel chronicling six women who learn to navigate life together.

Writing as Cricket (her nickname) Reynolds, she tells the story of Gracie Anderson, a single college professor in her 30s with a severely lacking personal life whose best friend signs her up for a support group at a local community center.

“The group consists of women with diverse careers and personalities — one is a librarian, one a college professor, others include a fashion consultant, dominatrix, blue collar worker and housewife — who have very little in common except they are motherless,” Reynolds said.

The book, while dealing with complex life issues, also has a lot of humor and a touch of romance in the story plot, she said.

Reynolds, a Dyer resident and vice president of Human Resources at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, started the book 20 years ago but struggled with numerous obstacles — twice her laptops crashed, erasing the entire manuscript. The third rewrite disappeared when a jump drive became corrupted.

“Also in the meantime I got married, had two sons and got divorced,” said Reynolds, who graduated from Highland High School. “But I’ve always realized the importance of all the women in my life, including my sister, who helped me so much and died of cancer 10 years ago, and my friends. The core theme is the importance of having a circle — whatever the circle means to you whether it’s friends or family — that helps you get through difficult times and who are there for you.”

Reynolds, who earned a master’s degree in organizational communications from Purdue University Northwest, is a recipient of Caesars Entertainment Excellence in Leadership Award and Northwest Indiana’s Most Influential Woman of The Year Award. She also is an active supporter in promoting women’s initiatives and is a Lean In Circle moderator within Caesars Entertainment as well as the Global Gaming Women organization.

Describing herself as an avid reader, Michelle Ryba, director of casino marketing at Horseshoe Casino, said she was very eager to read Reynold’s book.

“I absolutely adore Dawn,” Ryba said. “And I thought this is a book by someone I know, not just a big name author. From the first chapter, I was hooked, I stayed up reading it until 2:30 p.m. because I wanted to find out how it ended.”

Ryba describes “The Highmore Circle” as touching and humorous.

“I laughed when I read the book, but also I related to it emotionally. We’ve all loss someone in our lives, and so I understand the feelings you have. I’m impressed with Dawn’s writing. She’s just as good Janet Evanovich or J.D. Robb, two of my favorite writers.”

Since her book has been published, Reynolds has been a New York Times and Publisher’s Weekly featured author, appeared on “Fox Good Day Chicago” to discuss her book and received starred reviews from BlueInk, Clarion and Kirkus as well as wining iUniverse’s Editor’s Choice and Rising Star awards.

“The Highmore Circle” is available at Barnes & Noble and online book sellers. For more information, visit www.thehighmorecircle.com.

Sportscaster pens book about the winning Cubs ‘plan’

With his team unable to win a World Series in over a century, the new owner and president of the Chicago Cubs came up with a radical way of transforming the most lovable losers into a powerhouse of a team.

His audacious plan was to tear down and rebuild the team. Many in the sports industry as well as avid fans were skeptical, but not Chicago sportscaster David Kaplan, a true believer from the very start.

In his recently released book, “The Plan: Epstein, Maddon, and the Audacious Blueprint for a Cubs Dynasty” (Triumph 2017; $24.95), Kaplan shows how the Cubbies went from perennial losers to the ultimate champs.

“I have been doing pre- and post-games since 1996 and I saw the real problems with the infrastructure of the Cub,” says Kaplan, a three-time Emmy winner, current host of “Kap and Co.” on ESPN Radio 1000 and co-host of “Sports Talk Live” and the Chicago Cubs pre- and post-game shows on Comcast SportsNet.

The plan began when the Ricketts family bought the Cubs and then were willing to spend the megabucks it would take to build the team into what at the time seemed unachievable — winners of the World Series.

The first step was hiring Theo Epstein, credited with turning around the Red Sox when he was their general manager, as the new Chicago Cubs president of baseball operations. Along with Cubs GM Jed Hoyer, the two added new players such as Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, creating a powerhouse team.

But it wasn’t without pain — a whole lot of pain.

“They needed to do it,” Kaplan says. “It would have been like taking a really nasty house and just doing cosmetic changes instead of taking it down to the studs. It was a rare thing to have an owner like Tom Ricketts who bought into what the two wanted to do.”

Kaplan, who played football and baseball in college and then worked for years as a basketball coach and then scout f

or the NBA, says he grew up going to Cubs games with his father.

 

“I grew up a Cubs fan, I am a Cubs fan, and I’ll die a Cubs fan,” says Kaplan, who believes that unlike most teams, Cubs’ love is intergenerational.

When Kaplan got a call from his agent saying a publisher wanted him to write a book on the 2016 Cubs, he turned down the offer.

“My agent said, ‘You’ve got to do this; you have the access,’ ” recalls Kaplan, who didn’t want to write a typical fan book. “So I said, ‘Get the publisher on the phone.’ ”

But the publisher wasn’t sure about Kaplan writing a book about “The Plan.”

“He said no one will want to read about ‘The Plan,’ if the it doesn’t work,” Kaplan says.

But Kaplan saw similarities with other teams who had turned around and won a championship and so convinced the publisher they should go for it.

Did Kaplan, while writing the book and watching the 2016 series unfold, ever have doubts? Not for a moment, he says.

The day after the final game, Kaplan went out to the cemetery to tell his father the Cubs had finally won the World Series — a happening he says was an end to “108 years of insanity.” While standing at his father’s grave he noticed something amazing.

“There had to be 300 graves with “W” flags or Cubs pennants on them,” he says. Driving back to work he spotted other cemeteries as well filled with homages to the team’s victory.

“It was unbelievable,” he says.

But then, in ways, so was the Cubs finally winning the World Series.

If you go

What: Reading and book-signing with David Kaplan

When: 7 p.m. July 12

Where: The Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave., Chicago

Cost: Free

FYI: 773-293-2665

Searching for Ghosts Along the Underground Railroad

My latest book, Haunthautntings coverings of the Underground Railroad. Ghosts of the Midwest (Indiana University Press)is due out August 1. Researching the book took me into the small towns of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan where ghost stories abound about UGRR. Though I never saw a ghost myself, The Courtyards housed in a building dating back to the 1820s were said to be a stop on the Underground Railroad.

For more information:

http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/product_info.php?products_id=808927

 

 

 

 

Before the Fall: A Riveting Mystery by Noah Hawley

A Great Beach Read!

I wasn’t sure that I’d like Noah Hawley’s “Before the Fall”(Grand Central 2016; $26) because I already knew it involved a plane crash and that didn’t sound too appealing. But this mystery about a rich media titan and his family and friends is so absorbing, I kept turning the pages way after it should have been lights out.

Only two people survive plane crash — Scott Burroughs, a once very promising artist and now a recovering alcoholic barely able to make ends meet, and the mogul’s 4-year-old son. Both end up in the dark Atlantic waters, and Burroughs, who has achieved sobriety by intensive swimming, pops the kid on his back and heads for land — an epic swim against currents and gigantic waves. But that’s the least of his problems.

Once ashore, he’s hailed as a hero until the media titan’s star anchor concocts conspiracies about Burroughs’ part in the plane’s crash. It all ends very satisfying and the plot is mesmerizing. Just watch out for sunburn if you pick up this book.

Adult-ish: Record Your Highs and Lows on the Road to the Real World by Cristina Vanko

At 27, Cristina Vanko began to feel herself metamorphosing into adulthood — at least in some ways.

“Adulthood was a topic of conversation among my friends who were doing all these movement things towards being adults — they were getting real jobs, getting married and moving away,” says Vanko, the author of the just released “Adult-ish: Record Your Highs and Lows on the Road to the Real World” (Penguin Random House 2017; $15).

Now that she’s 28 and finally deciding that yes, she is after all an adult, Vanko decided to record her transformation and create prompts for others who are following in her footsteps.

Designed like a journal, her book has lots of space to answer such questions and tackle topics: “What’s the first song that made you feel out of touch with kids today?” “What’s the first plant you kept alive?” “Describe the first time you felt lost. How did you find yourself again?”

“Overall, I want people (to focus on) good memories,” Vanko says about the book. “If they do write something sad, hopefully they’ll be able to look back at it later and laugh.”

Vanko also created an Instagram page to go with the book called “100 Days of Adulting,” which, like her book, is filled with her insights and drawings. Besides being an artist, Vanko is a dedicated calligrapher who learned to perfect her skills after discovering her father’s nibs and pens. He was an art teacher at Hyde Park High School for 36 years. She also authored “Hand-Lettering for Everyone.”

“Until I got to college, I didn’t realize calligraphy really existed,” says Vanko, who graduated from Munster High School, studied graphic design and Spanish at Indiana University and now works as a freelance graphic designer, illustrator and author in Chicago. “IU has a program that focuses on typography and has the largest letter press shop in the U.S. I loved working in there.”

When asked what her favorite prompt is in “Adult-ish,” Vanko mentions the pizza page. There are no page numbers in the book so finding what she’s talking about means flipping through the book until I located the prompt, written in cursive over an empty picture frame, reading, “Whether you’re engaged to a human or a slice of pizza, draw a silly engagement photo.”

I ask what that means.

“I was somewhat bummed that so many of my friends were getting married and posting photos of their engagement — it’s annoying,” she says.

So if you were going to get engaged to a slice of pizza, what kind would it be?

“Probably pepperoni with extra sauce,” Vanko says.

“Adult-ish: Record Your Highs and Lows on the Road to the Real World” is available at Barnes & Noble and also through online book dealers.

Chicago’s Fabulous Fountains by Greg Borzo with photos by Julia Thiel

Hiding in plain sight, Chicago’s many fountains are gems of art, history, politics and culture, their stories often overlooked.

Sure we all know Buckingham Fountain and the Crown Fountain in Millennial Park. But what about the Nelson Algren Fountain at Division Street and Ashland and Milwaukee avenues which was opposed by the Polish community and many residents near the Polonia Triangle because he wrote about life there with a brutal honesty? Or the Drexel Boulevard Fountain, originally named the Thomas Dorsey Fountain, after the South Side musician considered to be the father of gospel music which is bookend by the newly restored Drexel Fountain?

I thought not. But then neither did I until I chatted with Greg Borzo about his newest book, Chicago’s Fabulous Fountains (Southern Illinois University Press 2017; $39.95) with photos by Julia Thiel.

A news officer covering science at the University of Chicago, Borzo also volunteers to give tours of the “L” and often was asked about the fountains they passed on the route.

“I realized that people knew about the Chicago Fire and World’s Columbian Exposition which was held in Chicago in 1893 but they didn’t know anything about Chicago’s fountains,” says Borzo.

And so, because Borzo likes to chronicle the city’s intriguing icons and is the author of The Chicago “L,” and Chicago Cable Cars, he began extensively researching Chicago’s fountains, past and present. In the process he inspired his friends, who he dubbed “fountain finders,” to join in the search.

“They got a fountain buzz going and they’d say there’s one at such and such” says Borzo. “As I found out about fountains, I began to realize it’s about the artists, the ethnic groups, the politics—it’s so much more than just a pretty fountain.”

Immersed in fountain lore, Borzo connects the historic dots—or should we say splashes of water.

“People are very interested in the 1893 Fair and what I found is there are four fountains directly related to the fair—which were built for the fair or part of the fair,” he says. “The Rosenberg Fountain on Michigan Avenue and 11th Street was built in time for the Fair but was built near the Illinois Central Station that used to stand at 11th and Roosevelt for people getting off the train could get a drink.”

The fountain was a gift to the city by Joseph Rosenberg, a former paperboy who used to get thirsty while his rou

te. To prevent that happening to others, the fountain had metal drinking cans attached by a chain–doesn’t sound very sanitary, does it?

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union was also worried about thirsty people and wanted to provide water instead of stopping at a bar for a whiskey.

“Fountain Girl was located at the fair and people could take one of the tin cups chained to the fountain to get a drink,” says Borzo. “After the Fair, they moved Fountain Girl to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union skyscraper in the downtown and when that got torn down the fountain was moved again to Lincoln Park. The city didn’t ban shared drinking cups until 1911. The Illinois Humane Society had about 60 fountains with shared cups, two still at Chicago and Michigan. Now they’re cute fountains but instead of the cups they have troughs for water for carriage horses.”

Which brings up another point. While I always assumed that once it was built, a fountain stayed in one place. But that’s not necessarily so. According to Borzo, fountains were moved quite frequently.

 

Researching the 125 existing outdoor fountains in the city wasn’t easy.

“There’s no record of many of them,” he says, noting there are records of “lost” fountains that no longer exist. Others are slipping away.

“Laredo Taft, great sculpture artist, made two of the greatest fountains—the Neo-classical bronze Fountain of the Great Lakes right next to the Art Institute which shows five maidens each holding a shell with the water pouring from one shell to the next—it’s elegant, beautiful and large,” says Borzo. “He had another one that was a failure called the Fountain of Time. It’s made out of

 

Does he have a favorite fountain?

thin concrete and is wearing away and there’s no way to prevent that.”

“My favorite is the one I’m spending time with at the moment,” he says but then relents. “There are six fountains at the base at the AON Center. The nice thing is you don’t haveto pay admission and at night they’re lit. It’s fountain heaven.”

Ifyougo

What: Greg Borzo book signing

When & Where: Wednesday, June 14 at 6pm; Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State Street, Chicago IL. 312-747-4300

Testimony by Scott Turow

More than 30 years ago, Scott Turow released his first legal mystery, Presumed Innocent, a best seller that soon had any lawyer with a modicum of writing ability penning novels. Since then, Turow, a Chicago attorney, has continued to specialize in complex, multi-faceted books about the legal scene in scene in Kindle County—think Cook County. But in the just released Testimony (Grand Central 2017; $28) Turow moves beyond Kindle when his protagonist, United States attorney and criminal defender Bill ten Boom accepts a job working for the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. ten Boom is suffering mid-life crisis blues and prosecuting the genocide of 400 Roma men, women and children who were buried alive in a cave is just the uber change he needs as the typical solution of a red sports car just wasn’t going to do it for him.

ten Boom has a witness, the lone survivor of the massacre which took place in Bosnia. It should be easy but there are layers upon layers of misperceptions, lies and half-truths as well as centuries of nationalistic pride and grievances, the prejudices against the Roma (or gypsies) and his own vulnerabilities for ten Boom to sort through. It doesn’t help when he finds himself engulfed in an affair with sexy Esma Czarni, a time-bomb of a woman with a law degree from Cambridge and a Roma background. Czarni, who gobbles up ten Boom like he’s so much candy, is, of course, not to be trusted.

So how did Turow come up with all these thread to weave such a story?

“In 2000, I was at a reception in The Hague and found myself in a circle of lawyers who said you have to write about this–it’s an amazing case,” he recalls. “Usually when people say they have an amazing case it’s about their divorce but this actually did sound fascinating.”

His interest in the Roma culture goes much further back to some 40 years ago when he was visiting a sick relative at Rush Hospital.

“The King of the Gypsies was ill and there were Roma camped all over the hospital, the staff had to lock patients’ doors because things were disappearing,” he recalls.

When their king died, the Roma departed as well but not before removing all the large metal ash trays (smoking was permitted in hospitals back then) in the waiting rooms.

“At the time I thought to myself I have to figure these people out—they’re clearly coming from a different place than me,” says Turow. “Why would they do this knowing it would make people hate them and less willing to deal with them in the future. What I later learned when researching for this book is that there’s no tense but the present in the Roma language and no written or oral tradition for passing down information. Their history goes only as far back as the oldest Roma alive.  So that’s a big cultural difference from us.”

Scott Turow has three book events in the Chicago area.

What: Scott Turow in-conversation with Dave Berner (journalist, NPR’s Weekend Edition contributor and associate professor at Columbia College Chicago).

When: Wednesday, May 24 at 6:30pm

Where: Hollywood Blvd. Cinema, Bar & Eatery, 1001 West 75th St., Woodridge, IL

Cost: Advance tickets are required and may be purchased from Frugal Muse by calling (630) 427-1140 or stopping in the store.

FYI: This will be a ticketed event, the discussion and audience Q&A will take place at the theater and then the book signing will be at the museum.

What: Talk, Q&A and book signing with Scott Turow

When: Thursday, May 25 at 7pm

Where: Barnes & Noble Old Orchard, 55 Old Orchard Center, Skokie, IL

FYI: 847-676-2230

When: Saturday, June 10 at 11:00am- 11:45am

Where: Harold Washington Library Center, Multipurpose Room, 400 S State St, Chicago, IL

FYI: (312) 747-4300