Sammy Sosa, Chicago and Bardball

February 26, 2017–The reclusive, petulant, intermittently-English-speaking Sammy Sosa gave an interview recently, lamenting that his crappy attitude with fans and teammates has made him a pariah in the Cubs organization. In addition to comparing himself (of course!) to a suffering Jesus, he also bragged that he put Chicago “on the map”. Which was news to a lot of us.

So when I get a fat slow pitch like that, I have to pen a reaction to it for Bardball:

Sammy Sosa, the Founder of Chicago

Leave aside the famed DuSable
Who thought he wore this feather in his cap.
We’ll forgive you this historical bobble,
Twas Sammy Sosa put Chicago on the map.

Forget Jim Thompson and Hinky Dink Kenna
Who lay the town in corruption’s lap.
They came and went, but at the center,
Twas Sammy Sosa put Chicago on the map.

Dion O’Banion and Al Capone
Made sure the suds were e’er on tap.
Those slobs can’t call this town their own–
Twas Sammy Sosa put Chicago on the map.

Sure, Sandburg, Bellow, Studs could write,
Curtis Mayfield was a soulful chap,
Muddy Waters was a man, all right,
But Sammy Sosa put Chicago on the map.

I’ll admit MJ could play some hoops.
Hack, Ernie, Big Hurt and Pudge could slap
A few hits around, but no big whoops–
Twas Sammy Sosa put Chicago on the map.

 

If you happen to be in Chicago today…

gonefishing1As the Cubs play the Bucs for their chance at the playoffs, don’t expect any more of that Midwestern hospitality.  Today at Bardball:

Like Anything Will Get Done Wednesday

If you happen to be in Chicago today,
Don’t fret if nobody makes you pay
For your pumpkin muffin and soy latte,
Or drivers give you the right-of-way.
Don’t book something crucial, say,
Like surgery or a crown inlay.
No one has attention to pay
To anything but what may
Happen when the sky turns grey
And Jake and the Cubs begin to play.

Bardball Gets a Shout-Out from the Chicago Tribune

Rick Kogan is probably my favorite journalist in Chicago. A wealth of information, a wry attitude, an engaging style, and always supportive of the goofy crap I try to make a living doing. He gave our baseball doggerel website a mention in his Sunday Tribune column last week, in anticipation of a baseball writing discussion at the Newberry Library. If you’d like to read the whole article, click on this sentence. Below is one of my quotes in the piece.

“We avoid cosmic highfalutin importance and stick with subjects like the previous night’s blown save or the price of beer. But we do doggerel, not poetry. We also post song parodies and videos. We are profound only by accident at Bardball. There’s enough stuffy bloviage written about baseball already.”

Book Release Party for WET NOSE OF DANGER!

After a spring and summer of scrivening in the salt mines — how’s that for alliteration? — it was more than high time for a book release event. What good is writing a couple of books of clown noir if I can’t bring a little bit of circus excitement to my fans and readers? Is the writing life all practice and no spectacle? Emphatically NO!

Last July, I had just published Double Indignity and was busy working to finish The Wet Nose of Danger. I went to talk with Suzy Takacz, who owns my neighborhood store, the Book Cellar, about doing an event in the fall. She was interested.

“What do you think about having a couple of fire-eaters in the store?” I asked, just trying to get her attention.

Suzy thought about it. And thought and thought and thought, with the usual sparkle in her eye. (I think she had seen one too many boring, unattended signings where the writer droned on and on about his/her process.) Finally, she had to say no. Not because she was worried about torching her store, or filling it with chemical smells, or disrupting business. She said no because there are tenants living above the store, and she wouldn’t want to displace them if anything happened.

Lucky for me, The Book Cellar is across a quiet street from a city plaza, big enough to be useful for whatever I was thinking. I went through the city and the alderman’s office, as well as the chamber of commerce, to make sure everything would be ducky. The only warning I got came from the alderman’s office. “I’m going to have some music and circus acts,” I said. “Terrific,” spokesperson pol said, “just don’t do anything like fire-eaters or something.” “No worries,” I assured him.

With gypsy music from the fabulous Paprikash Brothers!

It was a beautiful night, and a good-sized crowd gathered for the ballyhoo.

Then we all marched across Lincoln Avenue, into the store for the reading. After being introduced by Suzy T, I read a passage from Double Indignity, the teeny car chase scene from Chapter 22.

Next it was time for a little vocabulary quiz, to see who was up on their circus “parlari”. I was frankly surprised that no one got the first question (a woman with an unnatural lust for clowns is, of course, a “joey jumper”), but most of the audience was fairly literate. I tossed out popcorn balls for prizes to the winners.

Then the audience asked me some questions about my writing process. A friend asked, “Where do you think these insane characters come from?” I gave her some long-winded answer — that some come to mind from a story of circus lore, some are inspired by an old photo, some are born of plot necessity — when really the only true response is, “If I knew, don’t you think I’d have taken care of it by now?”

Next, I read a rather lurid section from The Wet Nose of Danger, involving a “joey jumper” and Rex at a high-society fundraiser. “She had more arms than a spider-woman, and the sex drive of a hippo after Happy Hour.” Then, it was time for the signing, and the crowd didn’t disappoint. I also gave away a lot of free posters.

One of the best surprises of the evening was an old geezer sitting in the front row. During the signing, he came up balanced on his cane and introduced himself. He could’ve been 60 and he could’ve been 80, but he told me that since the age of 18, he had worked backstage with the big cats for the Cole Brothers Circus! He had retired about 10 years ago, but he said he had all the scars he needed to prove he’d been with the show.

“It was all I ever wanted to do,” he said. “The cats were just like housecats, with their routines and their need for attention, and their litter box. I’d never train monkeys. Monkeys were vicious, unpredictable. Big cats were always marvelous.”

I’m pretty certain he lives in my neighborhood, because he was pulling around a shopping cart from the local sausage shop. I apologized to him in advance for anything I might have gotten wrong in my story, but said all I was going for was entertainment. I’ve met a few other kinkers like this before. Circus people and veterans are out there among us. You never know when you’re going to meet one!

All in all, it was a spectacular night! One for the record books! A fitting launch for the latest and strangest “Rex Koko, Private Clown” caper!

(For more pictures of the evening, please check out the photo album I’ve created on Facebook.)

Speaking Before the Lawyers Club of Chicago

And it wasn’t even a deposition!

Last night my wife and I had a grand old time at the Union League Club down in the Loop, as guests of the Lawyers Club of Chicago. A little cocktail, a little dinner with some fascinating people (including a lawyer I was on staff with 25 years ago, when I worked for the American Institute of Real Estate Appraisers), and then it came time to earn my meal, with my speech on the current state of political correctness.

Lucky for me, that current state is always ripe for skewering, basting and ribbing, even if food isn’t involved.

My audience was very receptive and laughed a lot as I talked about various forms of extremism and ideological purity on both the right and the left. Among the topics we explored were the Washington Redskins and culturally sensitive team names, whether there is coded language in the word “thug”, and how Sweden is working to eliminate pronouns that indicate gender. Afterward we had a little Q&A. It was all a very fun time, and I thank the club for being so cordial and asking me to speak with them. (I had been pretty intimidated when they first asked me, considering they usually have a Supreme Court justice come and speak, and had recently had the Chairman of the Chicago Black Hawks and Peter Sagal talking about the US Constitution. Not together, of course.)

But wait, did I mention hardware? Yes, hardware!

The folks there were so nice that they even gave me a memento of the evening, to decorate the office bookshelf. I might be a sap, but I love these kinds of things. It shows thoughtfulness and planning. It also shows that they didn’t chase me off the podium by throwing dinner rolls. Win Win! Thanks again, Lawyers Club! You’ll always have an amicus in my curiae.

The New Cubs Mascot is Probably Sorry He Showed up in Chicago

The Chicago Cubs have lost nearly 300 games in the past three years. They fired their manager at the end of last season. Any new tyro who might be in the farm system is at least two seasons away from helping the team in the big leagues. And the team is arguing with the city and all their neighbors about expanding Wrigley Field and the surrounding area into something that looks a whole lot like Disney World.

So what’s the best thing to do in this hot stove season? Introduce a fuzzy cub mascot, of course!

By now, everyone who’s the least bit interested has heard about Clark the Cub, so I won’t rehash it here. He’s not popular with the adults, who are staring to act a little juvenile in their objections. I’m no exception. Below you can find the link to an article I wrote for ChicagoSideSports, on how ol’ Clark can ingratiate himself with the fans, at least the young and female portion of that group.

Top 10 Pickup Lines for Clark the Cub

Season’s Greetings on DITKA DAY!

Yesterday was Mike Ditka Day in Illinois, on which the former player/coach’s number 89 was retired by the Chicago Bears. It was an honor long overdue, not to mention a reconciliation between the hard-headed Ditka and the petty and long-memoried Bears. But he’s the only player to return and coach his team to a Super Bowl, so whatever you want to say about him, he was at the helm at the right time. And those of use who watched the 1985 Bears roll to the Super Bowl will remember what a magnificent season it was. While the youngsters might get sick of us reminiscing about it, it was what made me a Bears fan.

So after watching the Bears in the unlikely situation of shellacking their opponent during the game last night, my doggerel muse was tickled a little. I wrote some lines before I went to bed, then finished them up this morning. The good people over at ChicagoSide printed it this noon, and now you can enjoy it here. Go Bears!

Here’s a little taste to get you started:

TWAS THE NIGHT OF DITKA
….
Then at halftime they rolled out a giant red carpet
And displayed all his trophies like goods at the market.

Us fans held our breath, even though it was froze.
Twas like the coming of Santa, Jesus and D. Rose.

Da Coach came into view, all pink in the face,
In a dapper top coat, not a hair out of place.

He strode tall and erect, like a much younger man,
A youth-giving sight to most of the fans.

And at midfield, what wondrous sight do we see
But Ditka standing next to McCaskey!

This wasn’t the one who fired him, still
Ditka Day is a time for peace and goodwill.

Read the rest of it at ChicagoSide!

New “Paper Machete” Essay: A Bigger, Brighter Wrigley Field

Hi all. A few weeks ago, I read the following essay at one of my favorite live lit shows here in Chicago, The Paper Machete. If you have not been to this show yet — held every Saturday at the history-sodden Green Mill Lounge at 3 pm, with FREE admission, no less — then you should do yourself a favor and haul your keister over there. Great readers, great comedians, and sometimes great/always interesting musicians. The best thing since indoor plumbing (hey, the Green Mill even has THAT!)

One of the big news stories of the week had been the proposed renovation of Wrigley Field and the surrounding neighborhood. The plans involved, among other things, more than 35000 square feet of advertising signage at the intersection of Clark and Addison Streets. I decided to get a little snarky about it. Quel surprise!

WRIGLEY RENOVATIONS: EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSEMONT

Chicagoans are used to threats. We get em all the time. Threats of random street violence. School closings. Government bankruptcy. A second term for Rahm Emanuel.

Now add to that, the threat that owner Tom Ricketts will take his Chicago Cubs out of the city – lock, stock and Marmol – if he can’t get approval to renovate the area around the park and install scads of gargantuan video screens inside Wrigley Field. As threats come, it’s about as hollow as Sammy Sosa’s bat.

He told a business luncheon crowd this week, “I’m not sure how anyone is going to stop the signs in the outfield, but if it comes to the point that we don’t have the ability to do what we need to do in our outfield, then we’re going to have to consider moving.”

Whoa, harsh! If Denzel Washington heard the word “consider”, how fast would the bad-guy corpses start piling up. That’s the kind of hard-charging, take-no-prisoners attitude that made the Cubs what they are today!

First off, where would Ricketts “consider” moving? Rosemont? How peaceful, to rebuild the Friendly Confines within a few hundred yards of the runways at O’Hare.

Maybe a bigger market, like Las Vegas? It’d be tough to build a brand new stadium in a place only slightly less mobbed-up than Rosemont.

Besides, years of negotiations have already happened, among the team, the mayor, the alderman, and the neighborhood. The only hurdle now is the rooftop owners, who worry that the new signage will block their view of games over the wall. If you can only get off on baseball voyeuristically by peeking over the wall like a guy in loose, dirty sweatpants, there’s no better place to be.

The rooftop owners are painting themselves as the little guy in this contest. Some national reporters have even described them as a “neighborhood tradition”. Now, a real neighborhood tradition would involve a picnic table, cheap folding chairs and a cooler of beer, like it did 20 years ago, and not small corporations cramming Miller 64 and chicken wings into people either too claustrophobic to wedge into a stadium seat or too dumb to use StubHub. However, compared to all other commercial ventures in Wrigleyville — ah, Wrigleyville, that friendly northside village where the leafy country lanes stream with beer and vomit – compared with them, the rooftop owners are like Mr. Hooper on “Sesame Street”.

Continue reading “New “Paper Machete” Essay: A Bigger, Brighter Wrigley Field”

“CUBS COACHES SUSPICIOUS OF “TUMMY-ACHE” OUTBREAK”

I was expecting the piece below to show up on my formerly favorite sports site last week, but with vacations and miscommunication, nobody bothered to tell me it had been spiked. I might not have spent more than 10 minutes on it, but man, it still hurts. The perfect window would’ve been last week, as the Cubs got ready to move home for the regular season.

I think the feeling at the site is to quit picking on the Cubs. I’ll quit picking on them when they stop pretending they are a major league team and lower their prices commensurate with their talent, about on the par of the Joliet Jackhammers.

CUBS COACHES SUSPICIOUS OF “TUMMY-ACHE” OUTBREAK

As spring training nears its end and Chicago Cubs rookies begin contemplating a season in the big leagues, officials with the team say a number of players have been complaining of “really bad tummy-aches,” and one brought a note from his mother asking if he can be excused from traveling to Chicago with the team.

“These complaints first surfaced when we mentioned heading up north for the regular season,” says manager Dale Sveum. “They became more common when players began discussing that Stephen Strasburg would be pitching against us. That’s when I first noticed some of the kids rubbing their stomachs. I’m starting to think it’s not the clubhouse tacos in Phoenix.”

Coaches have also noticed many players who can’t find their shoes in the morning or complain about “a big mean dog” that they’ve seen on the way to Chicago. They are beginning to question the desire of some players to make it to the big leagues.

“Hey, I don’t lie to the new players,” Sveum told reporters. “There will be some tough times in Chicago: playing in 40-degree April weather, dealing with an outfield turned to hay after some concert, and our mathematical elimination from the playoffs in July. But there’s lots of good things too, and deep-dish pizza, and they’ll make nice friends there. I try to tell them they can’t stay in Phoenix forever but right now they’re not being good listeners.”

Jailbreak! Update!

On December 22, I read the essay below at a performance of my favorite Chicago reading series right now, The Paper Machete. Four days earlier, two inmates from Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) staged a daring escape, only the second time in its history that the building has been compromised like that. The picture to the right (credit: Associated Press and Chicago Reader) should give you a hint why. This picture actually makes it look more inviting than it is. The windows are about 6 inches wide.

The story of how the two inmates escaped is actually pretty ingenious (you can read about it here at the Chicago Tribune). For the week before Christmas, the city was wondering what was going on. Frankly, despite the fact that the inmates were considered dangerous, most people weren’t taking it very seriously. It was a welcome diversion from fiscal cliff discussions and the memory of the Newtown massacre. My daughter actually goes to school about four blocks from the MCC, but I wasn’t really worried about her safety. These guys couldn’t be dumb enough to hang around the jail, could they?

No, but they weren’t much more ambitious. The flashier inmate was captured on Dec. 21, in the apartment of an acquaintance. Now, we get word that the other inmate — the one I call “The Escapee Without a Nickname” — has been caught, too, in the vicinity of an old apartment of his. A rather disappointing ending. Their escape held such promise, but these guys never planned for Act II.

Anyway, the essay is here, below the fold. Often, the Paper Machete will post audio files of some of its performers, but for about two weeks, this hasn’t been the case.

Continue reading “Jailbreak! Update!”

Because It’s Been Too Long: BARDBALL!

It’s been a while since I posted one of my poems from Bardball here. Not that I haven’t been working on keeping the site alive and growing, but because I’m starting to lose track of all the online venues I’m supposed to feed material to. The Internet is starting to feel like Audrey II, with constant cries of “FEED MEEEE!”

Anyway, here’s a fresh one from yesterday’s White Sox-Tigers game, possibly the most important game between them this year:

Madre de Dios! Ese Alex Rios!

Among Omar Infante’s dislikes
Must be incoming baserunners – Yikes!
To dodge getting maimed
Cost the Bengals the game –
One of inches, and feet wearing spikes.

Me, on “The Sunday Papers” with Rick Kogan

Those of you who don’t live in Chicago miss out on many local treasures. Chicago-style hot dogs, with the salad right on top. Italian beef sandwiches. Sailing on Lake Michigan, watching the most beautiful skyline in North America. And local journalists like Rick Kogan. Rick has been writing for the Chicago Tribune for years, following in the footsteps of his father Herman, and is perhaps a living embodiment of the old-school type of Chicago humanist and reporter. He BREATHES this city. Heck, he was named after Riccardo’s, a former hangout for journalists near Michigan Avenue.

I’m glad to call Rick my friend, because he has an eye and an impatience for frauds and bozos. So I was as pleased as a sport pepper to go on his WGN radio show yesterday morning and talk over Honk Honk, My Darling, as well as Bardball and the state of American culture in general. Rick is the only person I know on commercial radio who not only acknowledges that books are an important part to life, but actually gives over the majority of his show to talking with authors, some well-known, some a little less so. And talking to him is like getting a quick intravenous shot of every nightclub and newsmaker in the Second City. Thanks for a great time, Rick.

If you’d like to hear the interview (trust me, the banjo-and-fiddle music in the beginning fades quickly), click here.

Upright Citizens Brigade Podcasts

The Chicago Reader asked me to submit an item about what “fascinates” me now on the Chicago scene. That was a pretty big lay-on, but I finally realized there’s something I’ve been recommending to people for a while: The Bear Down Podcast, hosted by my old friend Matt Walsh from LA.

But since that’s not so Chicago-centric, I decided to look into another old friend’s podcast. Improv4Humans is something new from Matt Besser, who like Walsh was a founding member of the Upright Citizens Brigade. He’s in Los Angeles now too, and you’ve seen him on “Modern Family”, “Raising Hope” and many other shows. But maybe if I put the TWO of them together, that makes it a Chicago event. I remember them back in the day, when they introduced the Bucket of Truth and the Titty Brothers at Theatre of the Bizarre. They have (sort of) grown up.

But I won’t waste time explaining why you should listen to both of these (because you really, really should). Instead, click this link and read the Culture Vulture piece in the Reader.

And if you want to go straight to the podcasts, click below:

The Bear Down Podcast

Improv4Humans

I’ve Got No “Woody Allen Problem” About Creative Awards

The setting last Saturday was my favorite bookstore in town, the Book Cellar. The event, the Book of the Year Awards for the Chicago Writers Association. When I got there, maybe six people were scattered around on folding chairs. I went to say hello to Randy Richardson, president of CWA, and his wife. I introduced myself to the other winners in the competition.

Before too long, I turned around and was shocked to see the bookstore completely packed. More than 100 people sat and stood, waiting for us to get the show on the road.

A face or two was familiar, but none were more important than those of my ever-lovin’ wife and two kids. My kids have never seen me read at a big event, because during the past decade, almost all of my readings have been in taverns. There were times 15 years ago when I could occasionally pull a crowd this big. I wanted to show them that their dad wasn’t just the creep who prowls the mezzanine, stocking his mancave with stage props and comic books.

Earlier in the afternoon, I had faced the panicky decision of what to read for the evening. Most of my books have lent themselves to easy excerpts for events like this, but Honk Honk, My Darling was fiction of a weird, rambling, immersive sort. Could I come up with 8-9 minutes that were exciting and coherent and gave a good taste of the book’s contents? I decided against reading the passage of the brawl at the clown bar (want to avoid HHMD being pigeonholed as a clown book) and chose a two-person scene that had a smattering of circus parlari but not too much. Oh, and one that ended in a theatrical killing.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous before a reading, certainly not recently. It’s been a long while, and the relaxed stage demeanor is only easy to fake when I’m in shape. And all false modesty aside, while HHMD was being given an award, it’s a very strange book, not suited to everyone’s taste. This would be an acting exercise, because the two characters in the passage were very different. In reality, this was going to be a short audition, in front of a packed house, in a familiar place (a fact that actually made things harder).

Randy introduced the program and the mission of the Chicago Writers Association. Then, first up to read was Krista August, who won the Nontraditional Nonfiction award for her catalog of the statues in Chicago’s Grant Park, Giants in the Park. She had also illustrated the book with her own watercolors, which I hadn’t realized. She brought along the whole box of them. She told the story of General William Sheridan, both his personal history and that of his statue. (She omitted the tale of what happens to the horse’s genitals on the statue whenever the Pittsburgh Pirates come to town, and she asked me to keep it to myself. Being a classy guy, I acquiesced.)

Next came Pamela Ferdinand reading from her memoir about three friends, late romance, and donor sperm, Three Wishes. Her passages were very funny and touching. Transplanted from the East Coast, she’ll be a good addition to the Chicago scene.

Then Randy introduced me, with way too much praise to make me comfortable. (He’s a huge fan of the HHMD podcast, and makes me feel guilty when I fall behind in production.) He handed me the lucite award, plus the gift card that came with winning. It felt dense yet incredibly delicate. I became afraid of dropping it, so I set it on a table quickly.

This was the first physical trophy I had won since high school, when I got a statue for staying in the Gabriel Richard Club for grade point average for four years. That one sits in my office, not ironically, but with pride and affection, because my father made sure the panel on the statue was engraved with all four years.

My intro describing the genesis of Rex Koko and this self-pubbed book seemed long and rambling, but my wife told me later it was spot-on. I then read a passage from Chapter 8, in which Rex confronts the daredevil Flying Fleming to find the woman he’s looking for. The most frightening part was how easily I slipped into those two characters. Recording the podcast had forced me to create their vocal profiles, but upon reading it started to become my own one-man show. Laughs were not numerous, but somehow the audience grew stone silent and hung on every word. A reflection on the writing? I guess, but it was the comfort with acting that was the most disconcerting. It all felt too natural. Does this mean I have to get out of my mezzanine command center and actually perform in front of people again? St. Genesius, please spare me that fate. I’m insufferable enough as it is.

The final reader of the night was the lovely Christine Sneed, who read from her book of short stories, Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry. She read a funny and perceptive passage about a creative writing teacher reacting to having a famous young actor in her class. Christine’s writing is strong and clear, and you’d do yourself a favor to check it out. (For profiles of all these winners, go to the Chicago Writers Association blog.)

Do I have any kind of problem with books being chosen for awards? Hell no. The word “appreciation” doesn’t begin to describe how I feel. After working on the Rex novels for more than 10 years, operating solely on faith and stubbornness, it’s almost unreal that other people believe in the book as much as I did. It’s like everyone recognizing your invisible, imaginary friend at a dinner party. I’m grateful but disoriented.

But now I can tout “Rex Koko, Private Clown” as an “award-winning” mystery series and not be lying (except for the idea that a book and a half constitute a “series”). Frankly, that’s going to help on those slow mornings when what I do seems like a ridiculous way to spend one’s life.

Woody Allen’s whole “don’t show up at the Oscars” schtick is a little rarefied and elitist for me. Furthermore, I think it’s a calculated move to cement his image, what with his clarinet gig that he simply won’t interrupt to schmooze in Hollywood. He won the statue for “Annie Hall”, and he can rest on that while avoiding the awkwardness of being nominated and not winning.

The arts are in no way a competition (except maybe for movies on Memorial Day, but even then, it’s not like a movie ultimately “loses”), even if the presenting of awards makes it seem like there are winners and losers. It’s human nature to want to find distinction among a group of peers. And because they are popular, awards are a good way for people to expand their reading rosters beyond their comfort zones. Anything that promotes more reading is good for writers earning a living, so I’m behind that.

But I’ll say it now: If I’d lost out on this award, I’d’ve been a pretty miserable prick to be around for a weekend or two.

UPDATE: Here are a few pictures from the event. The first two were taken by photographer Mark Thomas.

And here is me with Christine Sneed, who won the Traditional Fiction award for her book of stories, Portraits of a Few of the People I’ve Made Cry. Photo by Mitsuko Richardson.

“I’ve Just Won a Major Award!”

You mean, the lamp made out of a woman’s leg?

No, something better!

Honk Honk, My Darling has just won the inaugural “Book of the Year, Nontraditional Fiction” from the Chicago Writers Association !!! YAHOOOO!!

This is truly awesome! I am so overjoyed that the judges gave the nod to Rex (and indirectly Lotta, Bingo, Boots Carlozo, Jimmy Plummett, Pinky Piscopink, Happy Jingles and all the other kinkers of Top Town). While I will proudly proclaim “Nontraditional Fiction” to mean my own strange brew of whatever makes me chortle, it really is directed at e-books and self-published books. And that’s pretty cool, too, in this brave new world of publishing, to have made a splash.

Here’s what judge Robert W. Walker said in his release:

This novel packs so much humor on each page, combining humor and the solving of the case with a unique panache. The novel defies categorization and flies in the face of convention while at the same time using the conventions of humor and mystery, a rare find; a paradox that works.

Man, it feels pretty good to defy categorization, and then win a category.

The last award I won for writing was in 1981 for a couple of short plays I wrote while at the University of Michigan. While writing has been good to me over the past 15 years, it’s pretty darn nifty to receive an award like this, voted on by my ink-stained peers. The award ceremony will be held at the Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, on January 14. We’ll all be reading and signing, and it will be open to the public. Can’t wait.

(Damn, I think my snark engine is broken. That’s what genuine gratitude gets you. I hope this isn’t a permanent condition.)