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April 1999

One of the items on the menu for the Society of Midland Authors annual awards dinner on May 18 will be a 'hot potato.'

That's what Chicago magazine called the latest book by Carol Felsenthal, the featured speaker. The book is Citizen Newhouse: Portrait of a Media Merchant. It was published by the independent and 'gutsy' Seven Stories Press after Viking cancelled her contract, apparently because of publishing-world politics.

The unauthorized biography presents an unflattering portrait of S. I. Newhouse, whose publishing empire includes Random House, 26 daily newspapers and The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and Vogue magazines.

Felsenthal's previous books include Power, Privilege and the Post: the Katherine Graham Story, also unauthorized and an annoyance to the powerful publisher of the Washington Post.

She'll talk about 'My Life as an Unauthorized Biographer,' which, she says, could be translated as, 'What's a poor Chicago girl doing mixing it up with a billionaire New York media mogul?'|

At the dinner, the Society's judges will present awards to authors from the Midwest who published books in 1998 in the following categories:

Adult fiction
Adult nonfiction
Children's fiction
Children's nonfiction

In former years, brief acceptance remarks by the authors have often been notable for their charm and wit, as might be expected of writers so honored by their peers.

Where: Cliff Dwellers Club, atop the Borg-Warner Building, 200 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. Parking: Grant Park South underground garage, where people park for the Art Institute and Orchestra Hall. When: Tuesday, May 18 Cash bar: 6 pm, Dinner: 7 pm Cost: $50. Make reservations and payment now so that your name will be on the list at the door.

By Jim Schwab
SMA has scheduled three great programs for summer nights in our new cooperative venture with the Barnes & Noble Webster Place store.

June 16 ' The first program will feature SMA vice president Richard Lindberg, author of numerous works of local Chicago history, including To Serve and Collect, a history of police corruption, and Rosemary Adams, editor of the Chicago History Reader and a long-time editor for the Chicago Historical Society.

Lindberg and Adams will discuss the research, writing, and publishing of Chicago history and share tidbits of their wide knowledge of the subject.

July 21 ' Susan Sussman and Sarajane Avidon, co-authors of the new murder mystery, Audition for Murder (St. Martin's Press), will perform parts of their intriguing, snappy story.

Aug. 18 ' Biographer Carol Felsenthal will talk again about Citizen Newhouse: Portrait of a Media Merchant. Her new book has stirred the waters with a critical portrait of Si Newhouse, the publisher and newspaper magnate.

All programs will begin at 7:30 p.m. and last an hour. During the summer they'll take place on the third Wednesday of the month; in the fall they will shift to the third Saturday at 2 p.m. They will take place on the upper floor of the Barnes & Noble store at 1400 W. Webster Ave., at the corner of Clybourn Ave. and Webster St. on the North Side of Chicago. Parking is free with validation of the ticket.

While visiting Cuba to research Ernest Hemingway's presence there, Kenneth R. Paterson couldn't help making observations about Fidel Castro's Cuba.

The U.S. embargo of Cuba is absurd, he said. All it accomplishes is to impoverish 12 million Cubans, who enjoy a higher literacy rate than in the U.S. and deserve better.

Paterson delivered a charming and witty illustrated lecture on 'Hemingway's Cuba' at the March meeting of the Society at the Cliff Dwellers Club.

While in Cuba, Paterson talked his way into Hemingway's house, which is preserved as a museum by the Cuban authorities, who ordinarily admit visitors only to the grounds. Hemingway's fishing boat, the Pilar, is kept there too.

Paterson interviewed Hemingway's boat captain, Gregorio Fuentes, age 101, who was the model for 'Santiago' in The Old Man and the Sea.

They hit it off because Paterson is also a sailor, with his ocean-going Odin docked in Kenosha. Paterson also visited Hemingway's favorite watering holes and learned that the author is still revered in Cuba as one who understood the Cuban people.

Paterson said the Cubans live in a '1950s time warp.' Along with ancient cars and trucks on the streets, one sees children and young people who are refreshingly innocent and unspoiled. That's something that worries older Cubans. They foresee that when relations with the U.S. eventually become normal, some of the less desirable aspects of American culture are likely to make their way across the Caribbean.

Despite the general absence of crime, not all Cubans are innocents. Paterson was amused to encounter a minor con game. He recognized it at once because his career before becoming a writer and a publisher included being an Indianapolis policeman as well as an escort to Queen Elizabeth II in the Household Cavalry Regiment. He allowed the Cuban con artists to take him for $10. He said it entertained him for an afternoon and made the Cubans happy. (For more details about Hemingway's Cuba, see Paterson's article in the March 1999 issue of Biblio magazine.)

By Barbara Schaaf

No Potholes
Mica Highways, William Elliott Hazelgrove's third novel, was published in November by Bantam Books. A Chicago writer by way of Richmond, Va., he tells the tale of Charlie Tidewater, newly divorced from his wife and gainful employment, who tries to prove you can go home again. His is not just a simple journey to the rural Virginia of his childhood and youth, however; there is the matter of the mystery surrounding the untimely death of his mother 30 years earlier. Tidewater wants to resolve this matter, but finds roadblocks along the way.Mica Highways is a multilayered mystery that illuminates the South of both past and present. 'You can practically smell the magnolias,' according to an advance reviewer.

We Hope They Don't Find Out Where You Live, Mel
Most historians would quail at the task of ranking big city mayors from best to worst, but not UIC's Mel Holli. In The American Mayor: The Best and the Worst Big-City Leaders, Holli reveals the results of his poll of historians, biographers and social scientists. They rated the 730 mayors serving major cities between l820 and the present. First place goes to New York's Fiorello LaGuardia; no Chicago mayor ranks in the top 10, but two ' Big Bill Thompson and Jane Byrne ' make it to the 10 worst list. Byrne also is the only woman listed. Holli goes deeper than reporting poll results; he provides biographical sketches of the 10 best mayors and details on the worst, as well as his observations on mayoral success and failure.Due out in April, The American Mayor is expected to be well-received by the readers of Holli's dozen earlier works as well as by politicophiles.

Scratch and Sniff Cover?
Following closely on the heels of his lengthy report on post-disaster planning, noted last month, the American Planning Association is releasing in late April another Planning Advisory Service Report by SMA President Jim Schwab.

This one deals with large-scale animal confinement operations and the land-use and environmental problems they pose for rural communities. Planning and Zoning for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations suggests an array of zoning and permitting techniques these communities can use to minimize the impacts of such operations, including means to limit odors and prevent water pollution. The report will be highlighted on April 26 in Seattle during a panel presentation by Jim Schwab and two planning consultants during APA's annual National Planning Conference.

Tribute to Darrow
Lila Weinberg was photographed by the Chicago Tribune tossing a wreath into the Jackson Park lagoon in tribute to Clarence Darrow. The annual ceremony, attended by a committee of dignitaries, was begun in 1957 by her late husband, Arthur, at the place where Darrow's ashes were scattered in 1938. The Weinbergs, who both served as presidents of the Society, produced several books about Darrow. including a biography, Clarence Darrow: Sentimental Rebel.

Keeps Galesburg on Map
Martin Litvin's new novel, Scenes from a Forgotten Life (Western Books), tells the story of a Russian-born Galesburg junk yard magnate and his family. 'It's social history come alive,' said the Peoria Journal Star, '...the struggle of Jewish immigrants and first-generation American-born Jews to make it in America.' Robert MacNeil, former public TV news anchor and author of Breaking News, calls Litvin 'one of the most natural storytellers I have ever encountered.' The book, he adds, 'blows the dust off social history, turning it into literature and making it breathe for our generation and the future.'

Share Trial Expertise
Two SMA members have been popping up separately on radio and TV lately because of their connection with the same high-profile trial. 'The DuPage Seven' are police and prosecutors accused of framing an innocent man for the murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico. Rolando Cruz spent years on Death Row before being freed. Scott Turow was one of the attorneys who helped get the conviction of co-defendant Alejandro Hernandez overturned. Because Turow is a former federal prosecutor as well as a best-selling author, his opinion of the 'DuPage Seven' trial carries particular weight. Tom Frisbie reported on the case for the Chicago Sun-Times and has written a book about it (Victims of Justice). He knows more of the details than almost anyone else.

Noisy Poet
Big Bang is a new book of poems by George Bilgere of Cleveland from Copper Beech Press. He won the Devins Award for a previous collection, The Going, and his work has appeared in many magazines, from Poetry and Field to Shenandoah and The Sewanee Review. He teaches at John Carroll University.

A Bone to Pick
Barbara D'Amato starts her new Cat Marsala mystery, Hard Evidence. with the discovery that a soup bone purchased in an expensive store actually was part of a human leg. Whose? Why? Telling the story gives readers 'another delightful mystery from the ever-reliable author,' says Publishers Weekly. It's due out in May from Scribner.

Court Goes by the Book

A March 1999 Ohio Supreme Court decision cites Ohio Planning and Zoning Law, a treatise co- authored by Stuart Meck. The decision upheld a state statute that authorizes the creation of joint economic development districts, a mechanism intended to encourage municipalities and townships to work together to create or preserve jobs. The court quoted from an analysis of the statute in the treatise in sustaining the statute's constitutionality. A new edition of the treatise, which Meck wrote with Kenneth Pearlman, is scheduled for release by the publisher, West Group, in April.

Michael H. Ebner
He's the A. B. Dick Professor of History and department chair at Lake Forest College, where he taught since 1974. He is best known as the author of Creating Chicago's North Shore, A Suburban History (University of Chicago Press, 1988).

David Stevens
Author of Baseball's Radical for All Seasons, a biography of John Montgomery Ward. Born in 1860, Ward starred on four world championship baseball teams. That was before he became a star golfer. He became an attorney who founded a union for athletes and tried in 1886 to bring black players into the major leagues. Noted in his youth for stormy affairs with Broadway actresses, he wound up happily married to a suffragette.

Carl H. Kroch
The former head of the Kroch's & Brentano's bookstore chain died at 84 on March 6. He was a benefactor of SMA as well as a member. At one time, the store on Wabash Ave. in downtown Chicago was called the 'world's largest bookstore.'

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