R.J. Nelson speaks Nov. 22 about “Dirty Waters”

The Society of Midland Authors invites you to our next event:

R.J. Nelson speaks about Dirty Waters

Tuesday, November 22
The Cliff Dwellers Club, 200 S. Michigan Ave., 22nd floor, Chicago
A social hour, with complimentary snacks and a cash bar, begins at 6 p.m.
The reading begins at 7 p.m.
This event is free and open to the public.
No advance registration is required.


R.J. Nelson’s new book, Dirty Waters: Confessions of Chicago’s Last Harbor Boss, is a wry, no-holds-barred memoir of his time controlling some of the city’s most beautiful spots while facing some of its ugliest traditions.

In 1987, the city of Chicago hired Nelson, a former radical college chaplain, to clean up rampant corruption on the waterfront. Director of Harbors and Marine Services was a position so mired in corruption that its previous four directors ended up in federal prison. Nelson inherited angry constituents, prying journalists, shell-shocked employees, and a tobacco-stained office still bearing a busted door that had been smashed in by the FBI.

In the book, Nelson — a resident of Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood — reveals the different moralities underlining three mayoral administrations, from Harold Washington to Richard M. Daley, and navigates us through the gritty mechanisms of the Chicago machine. He also deciphers the sometimes insular world of boaters and their fraught relationship with their land-based neighbors.

Dirty Waters will be published Nov. 8 by the University of Chicago Press, and an excerpt is in the November issue of Chicago magazineread it online here.