Mystery Readers Journal focuses on Chicago Mysteries (Volume 29:2). Here's Marcus Sakey's contribution to this issue.
Marcus Sakey's thrillers have been nominated for more than fifteen awards, named New York Times Editor's Picks, and selected among Esquire's Top 5 Books of The Year. His novels Good People and Brilliance are both in development as feature films. Marcus is also the host and writer of the acclaimed television show Hidden City on Travel Channel. He lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter. Brilliance, his latest thriller, just launched last week.
Woman With A Broken Nose
Chicago isn't a city.
It's a hundred cities, a thousand. Bustling and
bumping up against one another. Cities that coexist, that overlap not
only in space but in time. Chicago is a storied place, and every one of
those celebrated stories made its own reality, realities that continue
to exist in flashes and fragments even as the city they were based on
The Chicago of Nelson Algren, who wrote that loving
it was "like loving a woman with a broken nose"—that place is no longer
on a map. It's been paved over and polished up. But even so, Algren's
Chicago exists. You can catch a glimpse on a snowy night when the El
rattles overhead, blasting sparks as it rounds a curve. In the quiet
dignity of an old man, bent and tired but nattily dressed, out for a
slow stroll around a block he used to walk with his wife. In the roar of
the crowd at the Golden Gloves, cheering for a kid they don't know as
he swallows his fear and steps into the ring.
Mine is a city of contradictions. The parks and
beaches of the gorgeous lakefront were built atop smoldering wreckage,
the remnants of the Great Fire hauled in horse-drawn carts to be dumped
in Lake Michigan. Donald Trump's mirrored tower stretches to the
heavens, but the shadow it casts falls on Rossi's, a dive bar where you
can buy beer by the six pack. Wander the streets of Lakeview, past the
cafes and noodle bars, bookstores and head shops, and you'll see a clean
bright place as welcoming as a college campus. But hop the Red Line
south a dozen stops and you're in Englewood, a once-proud neighborhood
ravaged by gang warfare and narcotics, where more than 50% of boys drop
out of high school.
While New York looks east and Los Angeles looks
west, Chicago is perhaps the most truly American city. Founded by
traders who stole it from the Indians, raised to greatness on the back
of stockyards that supplied the country and filled the air with the
scent of cow shit, shaken by riots that exemplified the changing mores
of a changing world, governed even today by wolves in wolves' clothing,
this is a city with swagger. You don't like the Chicago way? Fuck you.
In the space of a weekend, I could take you to a
dozen Chicagos. We could catch a world premiere show in a storefront
theatre and follow it with a 22-course meal, each a sparkling gem of
edible art. Or stroll the Maxwell Street Market on a Sunday afternoon,
munching on tacos de lengua—seared beef tongue with cilantro,
wrapped in fresh corn tortillas—and poking through junk-market stalls
filled with stolen goods. Slather on sunscreen and join the party at
North Avenue Beach, where bikini-girls and volley-boys flirt in the
skyline's reflected glare. Wander the cool halls of the Art Institute in
the quiet of a weekday morning, and bathe in the blue holiness of
Chagall's stained windows. Lounge in a hundred-year-old pub and sip a
Guinness as snow buries the cars outside.
No, Chicago isn't a city. It's a hundred, a thousand.
And for me, it's the city.
Read more about Chicago Mysteries HERE.
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