Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chicago Mudshoes

"Chicago was full of triggers. Chicago was Trigger City."

Sean Chercover, Trigger City

And he's not just talking about guns. It's a metaphor. That's the problem. You would think I would be happy about all the new detective novels about Chicago, being a mystery fanatic, loving Chicago, and having penned a few Chicago stories myself.

I am happy, why not. And most mysteries are like M&Ms; they go down easy and you've forgotten what you've read within a few hours.

My beef is about the metaphor thing and Chicago. Michael Harvey in The Fifth Floor and Scott Simon's The Windy City focus on D'Mayor. Chercover's Trigger City and Harvey's The Chicago Wayare obsessed with guns and "Outfit" gazing. Windy City is enthalled by Chicago's hyper-ethnicity.

These are important dimensions of Chicago lore and identity, no doubt about it. But the authors serve them up at every meal without much else.

On the other hand, Aleksandar Hemon's The Lazarus Project eerily captures the dislocation and cruelty of Chicago's immigrant labor experience without succumbing to easy resolution. It also turns the traditional detective novel on its head while keeping the reader turning pages.

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