My Time Out Chicago blog (and other news)

Time Out Chicago, a local magazine, asked if I'd like to create a blog for them about odd and interesting Chicago history stuff.

So I now have a Time Out Blog that I'm referring to as "Adam in the Archives," since most posts will involve me digging obscure stories from old newspaper archives. I have two posts up so far, with one or two per week coming up.


Christmas Tragedies recounts a few tales of woe from the papers of a century ago (when taste and propriety were not exactly the order of the day).

Chaplin's Censorship in Chicago tells about how we actually had a government group that censored movies in Chicago 100 years ago - it seems timely given all the fuss over The Interview, which I take pretty personally - many of my books are satirical in nature, and I'm on the "banned books list." I don't care if the movie is any good or if Sony is milking it for publicity; if some country had hacked General Motors we'd have bombed them by now. But even before the release was (briefly) shelved and the President started talking about it, I kept seeing people saying "Well, Spider-Man 3 sucked, and I think Franco is annoying, so go, North Korea, go." This bugged me a lot. If you can't make fun of Kim Jong Un, who can you make fun of? If the answer is "no one," we may have reached some sort of Twitter-era singularity.

Anyway, no foreign nations launched attacks on us over Charlie Chaplin's Hitler-bashing The Great Dictator in 1941, but Chaplin ran afoul of local censors in 1914 over a two-reeler in which he spends about half the film pantless. This week marks exactly 100 years since Chaplin moved to Chicago; it was supposed to be a long-term move but only lasted a few weeks.

This ties neatly into a plug for Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the US Film Industry, which I co-wrote with Michael Glover Smith. I'll be out Jan 20 and, being published by the film studies arm of Columbia University Press, it's my first "scholarly" book.  That's Chaplin in the center of the cover photo, during his brief time at Chicago's Essanay studios.

Bitter and cynical old cuss that I am regarding publishing (a process that I describe as "95% misery and humiliation, 5% free food,") the books seems to be selling pretty well! As of this writing it's #6 in its category on Amazon and in the top 70k overall, which is a number I think I only ever hit with my novels when one of them is getting banned in Idaho.

While I'm making this rambling post (to show off my page's new look), there've been a couple of nifty posts over on The Mysterious Chicago blog lately:

The Mystery of Zanzic tells the story of an odd Chicago house set up to run fake seances in 1893 - according to a story Houdini retold years later, one customer died while doing it with what he thought was the ghost of his dead wife. Tough story to verify, but it's reasonably to imagine that if you were a magician getting rid of a body after something like that, you wouldn't fill out much paperwork.

The Strange Death of Lazarus Averbuch tells of the time the Chicago police chief shot a guy dead because he looked like he might be an anarchist. There were and are plenty of questions as to why the guy had really come to the chief's house, and plenty of reason to suspect that the chief just shot the guy because he thought he looked scary and panicked. But you can probably guess whether he was ever indicted.

And in William Duvol: Chicago's Only Revolutionary Soldier? I dig into a mysterious grave at Rosehill Cemetery that may or may not be the grave of a revolutionary soldier (he'd be the only one buried in the city that we know of; most revolutionary vets were long dead by the time Chicago began to grow).

That's about all of the news from here in Chicago. Jan 10th I'm the "paranormal guest" at an indie pro-wrestling event in Minneapolis, and I'll be at the ALA convention here on February 1st, signing VERY early advance copies of my Ghosts of Lincoln book at the Llewellyn booth.  My recent novel Play Me Backwards is up for a "funniest YA book" award over at YA Books Central, and I'd like to quickly plug The Wormhole, 1462 N Milwaukee Ave, where I've been coming to write every day. It has a full-size Delorean, a working Nintendo, and all sorts of 80s toys as decorations all over. I love it here.

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Adam's New Book: Sept 2013