back in timeThis year was a big year for fans of the Back to the Future movie trilogy as we finally catch up with the future timeline in the films. Buzz has been all over the internet with folks comparing the movie’s predictions of life in 2015 with what has really happened. For the full list of movie comparisons versus reality, click here.

What seemed to get the most attention was predictions the movie made about the 2015 baseball season. According to Back to the Future II, the Chicago Cubs win the World Series in a sweep over Miami on October 21, 2015. Fast forward to the real 2015. With the start of the baseball pre-season, fans of both the movie and team began posting on Facebook that the Cubs were going to win the World Series this year. Considering the Cubs have not played in the World Series since 1945, let alone won since 1908, this seemed like more than a long shot. But…what if?  As the season went forward and the Cubs were looking better and better, more and more started to believe. When they beat the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, even I started to believe (just for a tiny second). In the end, they couldn’t quite do it, but there was definitely some kind of magic in the city of Chicago during the 2015 season.

The Back to the Future franchise was ready for what they knew would be a great year to revive the 80’s trilogy. A  Back to the Future Anniversary Trilogy DVD set was released earlier this year and the entire Back to the Future cartoon series. Let me just say, I loved that show! Also out is a Back to the Future PS4 video game.

Hollywood has followed up on this hype by releasing a brand new documentary about the making of the movie trilogy. Cast, crew and fans are featured in this 30th anniversary tribute. Back in Time stars Steven Spielberg, Micheal J. Fox, and Lea Thompson. For those of you that love the franchise, this is a must see. Back in Time along with the other anniversary items are available at the library.


making of the mobIn The Making of the Mob: New York, AMC has created an eight-part docu-drama series that begins in 1905 and traces the rise of the American Mafia for over fifty years. This series examines the lives of Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Frank Costello, Vito Genovese, and several other notorious gangsters as they all struggle for power when the mafia starts becoming more organized. The amount of attention to detail that went into the establishment of the five major heads of the family, also known as the Commission, and Murder, Inc., the group of Jewish hitmen who killed around 1,000 people in ten years, shows that the new mobsters rising up in the ranks were definitely looking to run the mafia as more of a business with set consequences and an elected representative board.

This docu-drama looks into the five main families of the American Mafia and goes into great detail showing how organized crime came to exist and flourish in America. What I found to be the most intriguing part of this series was that it included interviews from former politicians, mobsters, actors, and other influential people, as well as actual archival footage  and sound recordings of the actual mobsters alongside the actors’ dramatic interpretations of what was happening. The inclusion of actual footage and interviews really drew me into this docu-drama and had me fully invested in the lives of the mobsters, the shady deals they were doing, and the specific individuals and governmental organizations who were working to bring down the American mafia.

devil in the white cityA couple of months ago I heard on the radio that Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio were going to collaborate yet again on what will most definitely be another blockbuster hit. The two have previously collaborated on The Aviator, Shutter Island, Gangs of New York, The Departedand The Wolf of Wall StreetEach film was nominated by the Academy of Motion Pictures for Arts and Sciences (aka the best award in film you can attain) for Best Film and Directing with DiCaprio getting the Best Actor nomination for 3 out of the 5 films. Scorsese won the Oscar for Best Director and Best Film of the Year for The Departed. When these two get together, everyone turns out to see what they have created, especially me! This film is 2 years away from its release, and I am already gearing up for it.

This time they are bringing you a film based on the 2003 book The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. Erik Larson’s work is the story of the true events surrounding the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. He tells this story in interweaving fashion, focusing on Architect Daniel Burnham and serial killer H.H. Holmes during the years leading up  to the World’s Fair. Both men shaped Chicago’s history in very different ways.

When I first heard about this novel, I wasn’t too excited to pick it up. My fear was that it would be too much about gruesome murders for me to enjoy. But it wasn’t. The book is about paramount history that happened just a few hours away from where we live. In fact, one of Holmes’ lovers and later victim was from Davenport, IA.

While there are a few murderous details, Holmes’ part of the book is more about how he was able to carry on his killings undetected for so long. Multiple accounts describe Holmes as an ideal individual that exuded charm and warmth. While I am eager to finish and read about Holmes’ inevitable demise, I have truly adored page after page of historical firsts. The World’s Fair was such a monumental occassion that everyone wanted to be part of it. Great inventions were first unveiled, historical figures rubbed elbows, heroes we have only read about preformed, and so..much..more.

I have no doubt that Scorsese will capture the essence of this time period and the innumerable historical particles sprinkled throughout the book. As for my all time favorite actor, Leonardo Dicaprio, I know he will deliver. It was a bit disheartening to learn that DiCaprio would encompass H. H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer, but then I realized one cannot always play the hero. And in fact, many actors do their best work when playing the villain. I wouldn’t be surprised if DiCaprio gives his best performance ever with this new film.

Photos from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition.

More about the World’s Columbian Exposition.

A lot of great championship teams have come out of Chicago – the Bears of Ditka and Peyton, the 2013 Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks, the glory years of Michael Jordan and the Bulls – but baseball (despite the White Sox finally winning the World Series in 2003, just 89 years after their previous victory) has been mostly littered with tears and crushed hopes. Yet we remain loyal fans, clinging to the glory days (even though most of us aren’t old enough to have seen them!) and holding onto the belief that, maybe this will be the year they win it all.

Well, while you’re licking your wounds yet again (although the Sox are hanging close!), here are some great new titles about Chicago’s boys of summer.

before wrigleyBefore Wrigley Became Wrigley by  Sean Deveney

This book explores the early years of Wrigley Field, when it bore a different name and housed a different team. Sean Deveney has mined documents and resources from baseball’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, as well as the Chicago History Museum, to supplement the reports in newspapers and magazines of the day, giving readers a behind-the-scenes look at the origins and birth pangs of the park.

johnny eversJohnny Evers by Dennis Snelling.

Johnny Evers was the heartbeat of one of the greatest teams of the 20th century and the fiercest competitor this side of Ty Cobb. This is the biography of a man who literally wrote the book about playing his position and set the standard for winning baseball.


turning the black sox whiteTurning the Black Sox White by Tim Hornbaker

Charles Comiskey was a larger-than-life figure – a man who had precision in his speech and who could work a room with handshakes and smiles. While he has been vilified in film as a rotund cheapskate and the driving force, albeit unknowingly, behind the actions of the 1919 White Sox who threw the World Series (nicknamed the “Black Sox” scandal), that statement is far from the truth.

wrigley fieldWrigley Field: the Long Life and Contentious Times of the Friendly Confines by Stuart Shea

In spring 1914, a new ballpark opened in Chicago. Hastily constructed after epic political maneuvering around Chicago’s and organized baseball’s hierarchies, the new Weeghman Park (named after its builder, fast-food magnate Charley Weeghman) was home to the Federal League’s Chicago Whales. The park would soon be known as Wrigley Field, one of the most emblematic and controversial baseball stadiums in America.

monstersFor Rich Cohen and millions of other fans, the 1985 Chicago Bears were more than a football team: they were the greatest football team ever – a gang of colorful nuts, dancing and pounding their way to victory. They won a Super Bowl and saved a city. It was not just that the Monsters of the Midway won, but how they did it. On offense, there was high-stepping running back Walter Payton and punky QB Jim McMahon, who had a knack for pissing off Coach Mike Ditka as he made his way to the end zone. On defense, there was the 4-6: a revolutionary, quarterback-concussing scheme cooked up by Buddy Ryan and ruthlessly implemented by Hall of Famers such as Dan “Danimal” Hampton and “Samurai” Mike Singletary. On the sidelines, in the locker rooms, and in bars, there was the never-ending soap opera: the coach and the quarterback bickering on TV, Ditka and Ryan nearly coming to blows in the Orange Bowl, the players recording the “Super Bowl Shuffle” video the morning after the season’s only loss.

Cohen tracked down the coaches and players from this iconic team and asked them everything he has always wanted to know: What’s it like to win? What’s it like to lose? Do you really hate the guys on the other side? Were you ever scared? What do you think as you lie broken on the field? How do you go on after you have lived your dream but life has not ended? The result is Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football, a portrait not merely of a team but of a city and a game: its history, its future, its fallen men, its immortal heroes. But mostly it’s about being a fan – about loving too much. This is a book about America at its most nonsensical, delirious, and joyful. (description from publisher)

mr wrigleys ball clubChicago in the Roaring Twenties was a city of immigrants, mobsters, and flappers with one shared passion: the Chicago Cubs. It all began with the decision of the chewing-gum tycoon William Wrigley to build the world’s greatest ball club in the nation’s Second City. In this Jazz Age center, the maverick Wrigley exploited the revolutionary technology of broadcasting and attracted eager throngs of women to his renovated ballpark.

Mr. Wrigley’s Ball Club transports us to this heady era of baseball history and introduces the team at its crazy heart – an amalgam of rakes, pranksters, schemers, and choirboys who take centre stage in memorable successes and disasters. Readers take front-row seats to meet one Hall of Famer after another – Grover Cleveland Alexander, Rogers Hornsby, Joe McCarthy, Lewis “Hack” Wilson, Gabby Hartnett. The cast of characters also includes their colorful if less-sung teammates and the Cubs’ nemesis, Babe Ruth, who terminates the ambitions of Mr. Wrigley’s ball club with one emphatic swing. (description from publisher)

City of Scoundrels is the masterfully told story of twelve volatile days in the life of Chicago, when an aviation disaster, a race riot, a crippling transit strike, and a sensational child murder transfixed and roiled a city already on the brink of collapse.

When 1919 began, the city of Chicago seemed on the verge of transformation. Modernizers had an audacious, expensive plan to turn the city from a brawling, unglamorous place into “the Metropolis of the World.” But just as the dream seemed within reach, pandemonium broke loose and the city’s highest ambitions were suddenly under attack by the same unbridled energies that had given birth to them in the first place. It began on a balmy Monday afternoon when a blimp in flames crashed through the roof of a busy downtown bank, incinerating those inside. Within days, a racial incident at a hot, crowded South Side beach spiraled into one of the worst urban riots in American history, followed by a transit strike that paralyzed the city. Then, when it seemed as if things could get no worse, police searching for a six-year-old girl discovered her body in a dark North Side basement.

Meticulously researched and expertly paced, City of Scoundrels captures the tumultuous birth of the modern American city, with all of its light and dark aspects in vivid relief. (description from publisher)


In Chicago, truth is truly stranger than fiction, but the fiction is awfully good, too!

Scott Simon’s Windy City: A Novel of Politics was published in a very timely manner, this last year. The comic novel involves a poisoned mayor and the exploits of the 50 Chicago alderman who want to determine the next mayor. Simon grew up in Chicago and is a long time National Public Radio host.

“I think politics is a local specialty in Chicago, the way that blues and improvisational comedy is a local specialty,” Simon says.

Scott Turow is generally acknowledged as the best legal fiction writer in the business. Presumed Innocent was one of the first really big legal blockbusters and is a classic in the genre. Turow’s Kindle County is a thinly disguised Cook County, As s a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, he’s had first hand knowledge of fraud and corruption. If you want insight into the Chicago way of doing politics check him out.

Sara Paretsky‘s books immerse the reader in the South Side setting. The heroine, V.I. Warshawski, is a whiskey-drinking private eye who grew up among the steel mills.She first appeared in 1982, and was groundbreaking as a tough female p.i., in a male dominated genre.