4 New Books Featuring Chicago

I've discovered four new books that have either come out in May or will come out in May that feature Chicago prominently. One is nonfiction, but the others are flights of imagination. You do not want to miss any of them.

Aleksandar Hemon has written his first comedic novel: The Making of Zombie Wars. Joshua seems to have a decent life: he teaches English as a second language, has a beautiful and intelligent girlfriend, and an understanding if slightly off-kilter landlord. The thing is, he is creatively stifled and his only screenplay that seems to have legs is Zombie Wars. The book follows Joshua in the spring of 2003 as he commits infidelity, gets caught, gets beat up, quits his job, blows a meeting with a producer and deals with a family crisis, among other things. The action is mostly in Wrigleyville and punctuated by great sentences. If you like a quick, intelligent read full of incident with something to say about the way we live in America, you very well might like The Making of Zombie Wars.

The Ghost Network by Catie Disabato features Chicago's subway network prominently in this inventive mystery. When someone disappears in Chicago, most of the world doesn't care. However, Molly Metropolis was a rising pop star. Written as a collage of journalists' notes, maps and newspaper columns, Ghost Network claims to be Disabato's completion of fellow (fictional) journalist Cyrus Archer's investigation of Molly Metropolis' disappearance. There are plenty of pseudo-historical bits and pieces, including the idea of abandoned and secret subway stops. Fun if you like your novels outside the box.

Balm is Dolen Perkins-Valdez's second novel, after the bestseller Wench. It is set in Chicago after the Civil War. Freeborn Madge is an herbalist, but was rejected by her kin and mentors in Tennessee. She takes a job as a maid to Sadie, a young widow who was basically sold to her late husband by her impecunious father. Sadie has found her calling as a medium. Michael, her friend, is a doctor who has terrible guilt about not enlisting in the Union army. Hemp, a freedman, is searching for his wife while fighting his feelings for Madge. By each of their own methods, they manage to find the balm to their lives.

Empire of Deception by Dean Jobb tells the true tale of Leo Koretz, Chicago's own Bernie Madoff. In the 1920s, Koretz schmoozed hundreds of investors to invest over $400 million in today's money in Panamanian oil wells and timber operations. Of course they did not exist, and Koretz disappeared with the money. The yearlong manhunt found Koretz passing himself off as a literary critic in Nova Scotia (and living very comfortably). After a dramatic trial, he died under mysterious circumstances in prison. If you are a fan of Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City), you will be entertained by this novel-like book.

Got other books that feature Chicago? We'd like to hear about them. Use the comment section below.

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