a brief moment of navel-gazing

I’m very fond of the Trib. I miss having it delivered to my door, as I did during my sabbatical in Chicago, but I check my RSS feed daily to see what new havoc is happening in the city that my imagination has adopted as its home. And now I’m even fonder, since their crime fiction reviewer, Paul Goat Allen, said he liked In the Wind.

In print. In the book section. Page 8. Holy smokes.

The whole column is here – starting out with a rave for my near-neighbor Neil Smith, who brings a dark kind of mayhem to southwestern Minnesota with Yellow Medicine. After reviews of several other intriguing books, mine brings up the rear, a pair of Minnesota bookends. And . . . awright, he calls In the Windan understated crime-fiction gem” with “a highly intelligent story line that underscores disturbing similarities between the counterintelligence practices of post-9/11America and those imposed during the Vietnam War era.” It goes on:

Fledgling Chicago private investigator Anni Koskinen is hired to clear the name of a dissident accused of murdering an FBI agent in the ’70s. Her investigation leads to some troubling revelations about the government and human nature in general. Discerning fans of political mysteries and thrillers looking for a wildly thought-provoking whodunit should check out this surprisingly compelling read.

Okay, enough of preening. But it is cool to be in the Trib. My father was a journalist, so I grew up in a house where, at breakfast, you had to hunt for the butter under all the newspapers. My mother was distressed when she heard I read the Trib regularly; she still holds a grudge against Robert McCormick. It’s true that it’s conservative – the paper hasn’t backed a Democratic presidential candidate since Horace Greeley. But the paper covers the news with solid, meat-and-potatoes reporting, doing some excellent investigative series from time to time, including a groundbreaking series on wrongful convictions.


It feels oddly postmodern to say this,but I have a character who works for the Trib, a genuine good guy with a weakness for cops. Here’s a snip:

A man with short grizzled hair was standing on the sidewalk outside my house, tapping a notebook impatiently against his leg. He had the sagging suit and the broad build of a cop, but I knew he wasn’t one. I was planning evasive maneuvers, when he turned and his jowly face lighted up.

“Anni!” he called out, as if I were a long-lost friend. “Good to see you.”

“Wish I could say the same, Az.”

“Aw, don’t be that way.”Azad Abkerian, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, had been put on the cops and courts beat decades ago. It was typically the job new journalists got assigned to after an apprenticeship in obituaries, because it was easy. You didn’t have to go out and find stories; you just listened to the scanner. But Az had never moved on to better things. It wasn’t because he wasn’t a good reporter; in fact, he was one of the Trib’s best writers and had even been nominated for Pulitzer once. He just fell in love with cops and never got over it. He liked nothing better than rubbing elbows with detectives at a crime scene, carrying Vicks in his pocket to dab under his nose if the body was too ripe, going out for a drink with the guys afterward. He was especially delighted whenever one of the women who hung out at the bar, attracted to uniforms and guns, mistook him for a detective. It never occurred to him he was like those women, just another cop groupie.

Anyway, it’s a kick to see my name in the Trib. And now I’ll stop this nonsense and get back to reading the paper.

photo courtesy of william couch.

2 Responses to a brief moment of navel-gazing

  1. jenna says:

    Congrats on the nice review! I just put a hold on it at NYPL.

  2. Barbara says:

    Cool. Hope you like it. (If it turns out not to be your kind of book, that’s okay.)

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