Friday, September 21, 2007

too close to home

I haven't had a lot of time for books lately, but cc gave me one to read during my recent travels that was quick and extremely engaging. The Chicago Way is a private-eye noir that appealed to me for several reasons, but the thing that kept me turning pages was the dead-on description of the city. I was all ooh and ah-ha about places I recognized until the detective went to meet some acquaintances. River North gallery district? Hey, that's where I work! A double-dip from Mr. Beef on Orleans? Hey, I walk past that place every day! An unassuming little eatery with a red awning under the Brownline El tracks? Now hang on just a clock-punching second!

In the book, Brett's Kitchen is the setting for the detective's meeting with a mob connection, a place where they get cannoli and arrange a rendezvous with the big boss. Brett's also happens to be located across the street from my office (we can see it from the window), and sometimes I go there for both breakfast and lunch. The wry waitress has a new hair color every few weeks and reminisces about life back in Mexico, where she'd get her morning glass of milk straight out of a cow. However, the place is often bumping and people sit at the tile-topped tables to enjoy oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins with the newspaper. Or even for a meeting. And in the refrigerated case, next to the banana bread and frozen Snickers, is usually a whole tray of cannoli.

Normally, I'd chalk that kind of description up to artistic license and not think too much about it, but after I found out that the author was a journalist, I thought twice. Because if there's anything I know about good journos, it's that they do their homework. And not only was this guy an investigative reporter and one of the only ones to interview serial killer John Wayne Gacy, he's also behind A&E's Cold Case Files, which resolves real-life (and sometimes bizarre) murders.

So now every time I go to Brett's, I reevaluate the suited guys wrangling messy Mexican Chicken Sandwiches out of the corner of my eye and hope that I haven't done anything to piss them off.

9 comments:

Jon said...

I had a similar experience when reading Kerouac's "On The Road" and Octavia Butler's "Parable of the Sower." With Kerouac, I completely lost interest after he finished talking about the train ride through Ventura, and with Butler, I was never interested and was overall pretty annoyed with the route she described taking to get to northern California. I felt like she was taking the long way, even though in the book she insisted that it was the quickest possible route. She was wrong and I'm willing to publicly debate her. You hear that Octavia? Consider the gauntlet thrown down.

Syar said...

New life goal, must eat a cannoli.

Librarian Girl said...

If "Don't Stop Believin'" starts playing while you're in there, hit the floor!

Becky said...

librarian girl's comment- ha ha, that's exactly what I was thinking.

Alexandra said...

dude i totally walked into a mob meeting accidentally in queens one day- got my espresso and got out... but the empty place and only one table taken in the back where men in suits shouted at each other... and one BIG dude in suit sat outside the door... how did he even let me in the first place!?

Lia said...

I read a kidnapping story that was set in my neighborhood. Well, I stopped reading it about halfway through. Now, every time I pass that little park, I shiver and try to forget.

ML said...

That would be exciting to read about something or places that you're very familiar with.

Yeah, I would be looking over my shoulder too!

naechstehaltestelle said...

Oh, sweet, I^ve been looking for a good book to read, and really, I used to be addicted to Cold Case Files on A&E. That, and City Confidential, too.

jinius said...

ooh the book sounds good. and now im inspired to make time to read more!