Members’ New Books
James L. Merriner
Stumbling in the Public Square
Auctus Publishers, January 2023
$28, 319 pages
The Miracle at Assisi Hill
Campat Publications, November 2022
ISBN: 979-8-9871624-1-5 hardcover; 979-8-9874924-0-8 paperback
$17.95; 347 pages
Links to purchase: paperback, hardcover, e-book
Personal struggle … Mystery and mysterious places … Friendship … Miracles … And, above all, a love story.
Emotionally scarred after battling cancer, amateur historian Cora Tozzi is troubled by religious doubts. She immerses herself in the life of a convent in her home town, Lemont, Illinois, agreeing to coauthor a book about the history of the religious order. Soon she discovers her problems are only beginning. She befriends a harmonica-playing young nun who is guarding a secret, and when Cora’s husband, Cisco, becomes seriously ill, she prays for help to a mysterious visitor from heaven. Soon Cora and her friends plunge into a desperate quest to solve a mystery from the life of a woman destined for sainthood, racing against time in the belief that solving the mystery will restore Cisco’s health. The quest takes them to 1886 San Antonio, Texas.
Judith F. Brenner
The Moments Between Dreams
Greenleaf Book Group Press, May 2022
ISBN: 1626349339 paperback; eBook 1626349346; audiobook also available
$17.95, 304 pages
judithfbrenner.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter
Carol misses red flags about Joe’s need for control before she marries him, dashing her dreams for herself and her family. Trouble escalates after their daughter Ellie is paralyzed by the polio virus and Joe returns from WWII. Carol realizes how brutal waking life can be, and she conceals bruises and protects her children the best she can.
The Moments Between Dreams is a captivating story of a 1940s housewife who conforms to the rulebook of society until Joe pushes her too far. His constant intimidation shrinks Carol’s confidence while she tries to boost Ellie’s. Church-going neighbors in Carol’s tight-knit Polish community are complacent, but Sam, a handsome reporter, stirs up Carol’s zest for life. Despite impossible circumstances, Carol plans a secret escape. Along a risky path, she empowers her daughter to know no limits and teaches her son to stop the cycle of violence and gender discrimination.
Steven A. Riess
Horse Racing the Chicago Way: Gambling, Politics, and Organized Crime, 1837-1911
Syracuse University Press, June 2022
Paperback $45, ISBN: 9780815637271
Hardcover $85.00, ISBN: 9780815637417
eBook $45, ISBN: 9780815655282
Chicago may seem a surprising choice for studying thoroughbred racing, especially since it was originally a famous harness racing town and did not get heavily into thoroughbred racing until the 1880s. However, Chicago in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was second only to New York as a center of both thoroughbred racing and off-track gambling. Horse Racing the Chicago Way shines a light on this fascinating, complicated history, exploring the role of political influence and class in the rise and fall of thoroughbred racing; the business of racing; the cultural and social significance of racing; and the impact widespread opposition to gambling in Illinois had on the sport. Riess also draws attention to the nexus that existed between horse racing, politics, and syndicate crime, as well as the emergence of neighborhood bookmaking, and the role of the national racing wire in Chicago. Taking readers from the grandstands of Chicago’s finest tracks to the underworld of crime syndicates and downtown poolrooms, Riess brings to life this understudied era of sports history. His previous book on racing, The Sport of Kings and the Kings of Crime, Horse Racing, Politics and Crime in New York, 1866-1913, was a runner up in 2012 for the Society of Midland Authors best book in history. Riess is a Bernard Brommel Distinguished Research Professor, emeritus, Department of History, Northeastern Illinois University.
Democracy’s Rebirth: The View from Chicago
University of Illinois Press, April 26, 2022
ISBN: 9780252086380 (paperback); 9780252053290 (ebook)
Paperback, 254 pages, $$19.95
Foreword by Mayor Lori Lightfoot:
“Democracy’s Rebirth is a blueprint for repairing America’s imperiled democracy.“ His proposals represent nothing short of the rebirth of our democracy on both a local level and the national level—values that I have personally fought for in my mayoral campaign and administration. Democracy’s Rebirth: The View from Chicago helps illuminate both our past and our way forward toward a government and society that are more fair, equitable, and effective for all its residents, and a successful future that we can all equally engage and benefit from.”
Dick Simpson draws upon his fifty-year career as a legislator, campaign strategist, and government advisor to examine the challenges confronting Americans in their struggle to build the United States as a multiracial, multiethnic democracy. Using Chicago as an example, he examines how the political, racial, economic, and social inequalities dividing the nation play out in our neighborhoods and cities. His investigation of our current crisis and its causes delves into issues like money in politics, low voter participation, the politics of resentment, political corruption, and a host of structural problems. But Democracy’s Rebirth goes beyond analysis. Simpson lays out a sober, practical manifesto meant to inspire people everywhere to educate themselves and do the hard work of creating the kind of strong institutions that will allow true democracy to flourish.
Make Herstory Your Story: Your Guided Journal to Justice Every Day for Every Woman
Strong Arm Press, January 2, 2022
ISBN-10 : 1947492586; ISBN-13 : 978-1947492585
Paperback, 122 pages, $19.99
Every. Woman. Can. Make. Herstory. Her Story. That’s the inspiration for Rebecca Sive’s newest book, the guided journal and workbook for women advocates and activists: Make Herstory Your Story: Your Guided Journal to Justice Every Day for Every Woman.
Make Herstory Your Story is a tool to help today’s activists find and raise the volume on their own voices, and formulate a plan for change. The illustrated journal and workbook includes more than 45 inspirational graphics and writing prompts that will move readers to journal their dreams into reality. The book is organized into three sections: Imagine. Create. Organize. It aims to create the life every woman and girl deserves with practical advice for building projects, organizations—and even movements. Make Herstory Your Story is for every woman who dreams of making the world a better place and is committed to doing the work to get that done.
Make Herstory Your Story reminds us that every woman—not just the rich, powerful or famous — can have a positive impact on her community, changing the world for all. This is a book that champions the quiet but powerful voice in each of us that wants to be heard.
Make Herstory Your Story is ideal for individuals seeking to move from concept to action, or for groups of activists seeking a forum for discussion and a springboard to action. Although written with a female audience in mind, its message transcends gender, making it a useful tool for today’s changemaker. It is for every person who dreams of making the world a better place and is committed to doing the work to get that done.
Unter der Sonne / Under the Sun: German and English Poem
Deutscher Lyrik Verlag, December 2021
82 pages, $12.63
This dual-language lyric collection features David Radavich’s German poems with English translations, along with four English poems translated into German by leading scholars and writers. The first of three sections focuses on Stuttgart and Southwest Germany, where the author taught as a visiting Fulbright professor. The second section explores literature and history, while the third concentrates on travel to new realms. Radavich exhibits a kinship with German writers such as Friedrich Hölderlin, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Hilde Domin, whom he knew personally. This new collection represents a signal departure from his earlier work—into another language, another lyric sensibility, and a dual perspective that opens readers to a literary tradition beyond American shores.
Ray E. Boomhower
Richard Tregaskis: Reporting under Fire from Guadalcanal to Vietnam
High Road Books/University of New Mexico Press, November 15, 2021
Hardcover; 368 pages. $34.95.
Also available in eBook and audiobook editions.
Considered by his contemporaries as “the bravest of the brave war correspondents” of World War II, journalist and author Richard Tregaskis risked his life on countless occasions to bring the brutal realities of combat to light for Americans on the home front.
Tregaskis was a firsthand witness to such major combat operations of the war as the Doolittle Raid, the Battle of Midway, Guadalcanal, the invasion of Sicily and Italy, fighting in France and Germany, and B-29 bombing missions over Japan. He did all of this while suffering from a potentially fatal illness, diabetes.
Although the tall, gangly reporter had been lucky to escape from Guadalcanal unharmed, producing the classic Guadalcanal Diary in the process, his luck ran out on a hill in Italy. Shrapnel from a German shell pierced Tregaskis’s helmet, leaving him gravely wounded. He spent the next several months re-learning how to speak by reciting poetry, returning to action with a metal plate in his head covering a hole in his skull.
Tregaskis eventually returned to the Pacific on a B-29 bomber, following its crew into battle for a series of articles he wrote for the Saturday Evening Post. In accepting his assignment, Tregaskis, when asked by his editor if he really wanted to go, responded, “I don’t want to, but I think I ought to go.” According to the Post, “ought to go” had been Tregaskis’s first commandment “ever since he began chasing the war, three months after Pearl Harbor.”
Author/ex-journalist Ray Boomhower’s riveting new biography of war correspondent Richard Tregaskis embeds the reader in the battles that Tregaskis covered. Tregaskis was the eyes and voice of the “everyman” soldier, sailor, aviator, and marine to the world. Boomhower’s well-rounded presentation of the author of Guadalcanal Diary, Invasion Diary, Vietnam Diary, and many other best sellers of the time presents a portrait of a man of courage, sensitivity, and intensity, while very much human and flawed.
A History Lover’s Guide to Chicago
The History Press, November 1, 2021
ISBN-10: 1540250431; ISBN-13: 978-1540250438
$23.99; 240 pages
Founded next to a great lake and a sluggish river, Chicago grew faster than any other American city ever had. The promise of a canal drove wild land speculation. Real estate fortunes have been made and lost ever since. Homes were built into the prairie as immigrants poured in. Transit schemes, including the “L” and trolley cars, broke new ground. A central downtown flourished to handle booming business interests, and the skyscraper was invented to manage the work. The stockyards fed the world, the railroads turned the city into the nation’s transportation hub, and enormous grain elevators stacked the wheat. A great fire leveled the city, but Chicago rose again. Glorious museums, churches and theaters sprang up. Music flourished and libraries thrived. Splendid department stores created modern retailing. Public housing changed the landscape. Speakeasies and sports roared. Through it all, the lakefront was preserved as a magnificent public playground.
Borzo’s book goes beyond traditional guidebooks—digging deeper and exploring Chicago’s sweeping historical arc, as well as its little-known but fascinating nooks and crannies. He draws on years giving tours and researching his seven other books about Chicago history.
Flights for Freedom
Battleground Press, August 30, 2021
ISBN 979-8467746388 / 978-1087983103
$12.95 paperback / $1.99 Kindle
The dangers of flying an open-cockpit WWI aeroplane were many. Flights for Freedom is the exciting story of one brave American flyer — “Petrol” Petronas of the 17th Aero Squadron — as he learns to master the undisciplined two-winged fighter called a Sopwith Camel. Shot down over France during the course of a bruising air battle, Petrol is then shuttled from safehouse to safehouse by a beautiful yet defiant woman of the Dutch Resistance.
In the background is the poppy-covered landscape known to us as Flanders Fields, a battlefield choked with dead and dying soldiers. Children, orphaned by the war, find safety with a kindly Catholic priest, who raises carrier pigeons vital to the war effort on the rooftop of his Abbey. Every day, his birds carry secret messages to and from the frontlines for Signal Corps.
Life-threatening challenges lay at every turn. Two thousand volts pulsate through the electrified border fence that separates Holland from Belgium, enough to kill a man. The trick in crossing the border alive is in knowing who to bribe and how much to pay. Otherwise, there is no way for a downed American flyer to get safely across the heavily patrolled border into Holland and back to England. Will Petrol make it back to England alive? Will he make it back carrying the top-secret plans for an advanced gunsight that has been smuggled at great risk out of Holland hidden inside an embroidered cotton flour sack?
Illustrated by Steph Lew
You Be Daddy
Macmillan (Feiwel & Friends imprint) April 27, 2021
A tired daddy lets his son have a turn being the parent at bedtime in Karla Clark’s You Be Daddy, a humorously charming companion picture book to You Be Mommy, featuring illustrations by Steph Lew.
Daddy’s too tired to be Daddy tonight.
Can you be Daddy and hug me tight?
In this clever, rhyming picture book, a father tells his child that he’s simply too tired to be Daddy tonight and asks his son to take over for him. An utterly relatable theme told with humor and heart provides a story parents and children will delight in reading together at bedtime.
A Necessary Explosion: Collected Poems
Chicago Arts Press, June 25, 2021
ISBN 978-1-7332794-3-7 (Hardcover), 978-1-7332794-4-4 (Trade Paperback), 978-1-7332794-5-1 (E-book)
$22.95 (Hardcover), $16.95 (Trade Paperback), $5.99 (E-book)
A Necessary Explosion is an act Dan Burns performs daily to expel the stories pressing on his mind. Only by getting words down onto the page can he make room for all that comes next. Exploring the themes of life, love, family, writing, music, travel, history, and humanity’s future, this collection artfully conveys the words of a craftsman in relatable, accessible poems.
In “Afterimage,” a man struggles with his diminishing memory but takes comfort in knowing that he can always recall the image of the only woman he ever loved.
“Worlds Traveler” stands as a dedication to, and remembrance of, Ray Bradbury and his influence on the author.
“A Necessary Explosion” explores the cranial pressure that builds as a result of life’s experiences and the need for humans to release that pressure to survive.
Each of the seventy-five poems in this collection offers a glimpse into the mind of a hopeful poet and storyteller. They will make you consider your place in the world and leave you contemplating the magic of poetry.
Dunn, October 6, 2020
This is the fourth book in a suspense series which debuted in the 1990s; Dunn books is reviving the series after a hiatus of twenty years.
Repentant ex-terrorist Pascual Rose has been lying low under an assumed name for twenty years, successfully living off the grid in a little Catalan town. His past catches up with him in the form of two midnight visitors who want him to front a multi-billion dollar money-laundering operation involving cryptocurrency. His dual identity and multiple languages make him the ideal man for the job. The visitors make Pascual an offer he can’t refuse, with implied threats to his wife and son; Pascual agrees but starts looking for a way out. The operation will take him on a trajectory from the Caribbean to both shores of the Mediterranean and expose him to danger from unexpected directions before a final showdown in the south of Spain.
Kissing the Long Face of the Greyhound
Terrapin Books, 2020
Kissing the Long Face of the Greyhound places poems about the natural world in dialogue with poems about human nature. The interweaving of poems on these themes is meant to illustrate the ways in which humans and nature are interdependent, a truth that has been brought into sharp relief by climate change. Every poem, though—whether focusing on the harshest of realities or documenting the sweetest of moments—demonstrates the beauty and grace there is to be found everywhere around us.
Bradbury Beyond Apollo
The University of Illinois Press, August 2020
ISBN Hardcover: 978-0-252-04341-3; E-book: 978-0-252-05229-3
$34.95; 336 pages
This book completes the biography trilogy begun in Becoming Ray Bradbury and continued in Ray Bradbury Unbound. Bradbury Beyond Apollo begins in the early 1970s, as Bradbury found himself fully established as a witness and celebrant of the Space Age. His storytelling powers were turning to stage, screen, and television adaptations of his classic midcentury titles, including The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. Although he was no longer producing a high volume of masterful tales, Bradbury Beyond Apollo chronicles how the last four decades of his life produced the playful fantasies of The Halloween Tree, his award-winning television series The Ray Bradbury Theater, a collaboration with Disney Imagineers on EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth, and significant essays on the common ground between science and religion represented by humanity’s Space Age achievements. The book also documents how Bradbury’s influential lectures, interviews, and essays explored the history of ideas, the nature of creativity, and his own evolving work ethic of optimal behaviorism. Mid-book chapters analyze Bradbury’s significant late-life achievements in fictionalized autobiography and his completion of books that originated decades earlier, including Somewhere a Band Is Playing, perhaps his most significant late-life reflection on time and memory. The book’s overarching contention is that Bradbury’s wide range of ventures were largely sustained by his ever-increasing prominence as a Space Age visionary.
Oldest Chicago, Second Edition
Reedy Press June 1, 2020
Part of Chicago’s success owes to its ability to reconstruct itself. A sophisticated street grid replaced Indian trails. After cabins and shacks came brick mansions and the first skyscrapers. Steel mills belching fire and stockyards with their rivers of blood have given way to the clean efficiency of financial markets and corporate headquarters. But the endless rebirth has left its toll. Grand movie palaces, mom and pop stores, taverns, and ethnic family restaurants have been replaced by multiplexes, and food chains whose recipes are produced by a team of scientists in a test kitchen. Hand painted and neon signs have been replaced by glowing plastic hamburgers and tacos.
But the past has not all vanished. Oldest Chicago celebrates the survivors from famous civic monuments to neighborhood bakeries. Included are some of the businesses and buildings from the city’s inception that are examples of Chicago’s living history like The First United Methodist Church (1831); The Noble-Seymour-Crippen House (1833) and Old St. Pats Church, 1856. Many others are still run by the same family members whose dedication has made them not only enduring businesses but living landmarks. These include: Iwan Ries Tobacco (1857); The Jaeger Funeral Home (1858); Anderson’s Books (1875); Central Camera (1899); Margie’s Candies (1921); Wendella Boat Tours (1935); Hagen’s Fish Market (1946); and many others who tell the story of Chicago through the words of the men and women who run them.
Cookie the Cockatoo: Everything Changes
Paperback: 112 pages, $8.00
Softcover ISBN 979-8633708561 ($8.00)
Ebook ASIN B086Y7DS8M ($2.99)
Purchase this book online.
Today the Brookfield Zoo is home to approximately 2,300 animals. But on July 1, 1934, when the zoo first opened, it was home to only a few. Among those few was a year-old Major Mitchell’s cockatoo from Australia. The zookeepers named her Cookie. But, as the keepers discovered a year or two later, Cookie was not a female bird — so Cookie changed from a female name to a male name. And that was just the beginning.
Nobody could have predicted it way back in 1934, but Cookie would see many, many more changes. He would live in the zoo for more than eighty years, becoming the longest-lived cockatoo on record. During those decades, the world saw changes in music, science, transportation, discovery, and attitudes. Cookie the Cockatoo: Everything Changes imagines what it would be like for a small (but loud) bird to witness these profound changes.
Told in free verse vignettes, and aimed at middle-graders, ages 10+ — but enjoyed by adults as well, because adults have lived through all the changes Cookie lived through.
Grace: Stories and a Novella
Hardcover $26.95; trade paperback $18.95, e-book $5.99, audiobook $19.95
Chicago Arts Press
ISBN: 978-0-9911694-5-0 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 978-0-9911694-6-7 (Trade Paperback)
ISBN: 978-0-9911694-7-4 (E-book)
“We’re all flawed and confronted daily with sometimes slight but often apparently insurmountable challenges. But if we dig deep, what we unearth from the depths of our souls, if we’re lucky, can allow us to overcome and carry on to live another day with an untortured heart.”
This is the sentiment Dan Burns explores in his exciting new collection. Five stories and a novella highlight Burns’s range as a storyteller and his ability to see life and all its emotions through a unique lens. This collection features his most personal and insightful stories to date.
The collection includes notes about the thoughts, ideas, and inspiration behind the stories, offering an exclusive behind-the-scenes perspective of the author’s writing process, along with twenty-six illustrations by artist Kelly Maryanski.
Books are featured on this page as a service to members of the Society of Midland Authors. Members may submit books published within the last six months by emailing the following to Robert Loerzel:
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