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Book Reviews: You Were Never in Chicago, Silhouette of Virtue, and Code of Hono

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You Were Never in Chicago  by Neil Steinberg (The University of Chicago Press, $15.00)
OK, let me warn you, this is a strange book, beautifully strange, written by an engagingly articulate man. What is strange about it is that there is an ethereal air to it, akin to that of life itself. Initially, it is the articulation of a search; a search made via memoir, history, anecdote and tale, conversationally textured. It is a tapestry of all these things in attempt to exhaustively characterize a city that cannot be summarized because it is too unique, too dynamic, too difficult, too raw and too remarkable to be captured, not to mention that it is a city that is forever renewing itself through change, evolutionary and sometimes, sudden. It is a city of determination and fortitude; one example cited is how a city founded on swampland and virtually leveled by the Great Chicago Fire did not cry, “Finished.” No, Chicago not only overcame but thrived.
You Were Never In Chicago by Chicago Sun-Times journalist and author, Neil Steinberg is the directional refrain that echoes throughout this very readable poetic memoir, historic excavation and contemporary exploration; Steinberg portrays a vastly nuanced city, breathtaking in its myriad facets like a rare diamond, painstakingly, slowly cut and lovingly polished. He notes that perhaps the first time the expression, “You were never in Chicago,” was used was on a postcard sent to A.J. Liebling, addressing his harsh commentary on Chicago first in essay for the New Yorker magazine and later in his book, Second City.
As this marvelous book progresses it becomes less an attempt to fully comprehend Chicago, it is far too vast for that, and more of a marveling appreciation. In the last paragraph of this superb book, Steinberg writes:
“Downtown Chicago is shrouded in fog, the top half of the John Hancock Building visible but the base obscured. It is an eerie, marvelous sight, this city of mystery and beauty, half seen, half hidden, distant yet right there.”—Ned Haggard

Silhouette of Virtue by Jay H. Richards (Face Rock Press, $15.00, www.MyBook Orders.com/Orderpage/1356. Available May 1st)
Dr. Nathan Rivers is the central figure in
this nail-biting novel that revolves around students and faculty in a small Midwest college in  Oakton, Illinois in 1972. Rivers is a black philosophy professor who carries an antique walking staff (actually a Botswanan thornkerrie hand-carved in the 1890s). Rivers is considered somewhat eccentric—a jazz musician who frequently quotes T.S. Eliot and Milton in the early morning hours before shutting down the Ale Begotten Pub. Rivers has a daughter with an attractive white artist with whom he has lived for many years, to the annoyance of some of the white faculty. All of this is just a backdrop to a terrible crime with racist implications that places Rivers in a position where he feels forced to provide legal counsel for an accused black student implicated in the crime. Rivers puts his job on the line while he tries to uncover the motives and find the criminals who committed the crime when our nation was at war in Vietnam around the time of the 60’s Civil Rights Movement. Based on actual crimes that occurred during the mid-1970s, the novel is a can’t-put-down story that keeps you glued to Rivers and his fight for justice.—Jack Burns

Code of Honor by V.C. Weeks (99 Percent Publishing, $14.95)
The world would be a very different place if the Iraq war had been prevented. This new political thriller is a fictionalized account of the time leading up to the war, placing the protagonist, Hank Siemens in the middle of history, exposed to back room deals, corporate lobbyists and political intrigue.
It’s a compelling story. What if someone had been able to expose the fraud in a legal and effective way? How would they do it? How does a loyal American soldier decide whether it’s more patriotic to tell the truth or support the President?
Intricately plotted and meticulously researched, Code of Honor takes us into the high stakes world of money and power, pitting progressive politics against the neocon agenda. The book is dedicated to the late Senator Paul Wellstone and his wife Sheila for their unwavering ideals and struggle to avert the war—two of the characters are based on the couple’s role in protesting the military action. Other characters are defined by the ruthlessness of power.
Facing the most agonizing decisions in his life, Siemens goes for the moral high ground, risking it all to stop the inexorable drum beats of the build-up to one of the worst decisions in military history. It shows that, indeed, there can be power in a code of honor.— Marilyn Soltis

Published: April 25, 2014
Issue: Spring 2014 Issue