The blog of Chicago-based freelance writer David Johnsen.
Saturday, February 07, 2009
It Ain't Pretty But It's Real
When I moved to Chicago, I couldn't read enough about it. Although I grew up in the metropolitan area, it wasn't the same as calling the big city my home. Alas, after nearly 15 years, much of that enthusiasm has disappeared. Now I've joined the majority of Chicagoans that I once scorned -- the kind who don't visit the museums, marvel at the architecture, or study the city's vivid history. Heck, I haven't even read Erik Larson's The Devil and the White City, surely the best known Chicago book in recent years, though my wife bought me a copy long ago.

So I guess it was out of character for me to be attracted to It Ain't Pretty But It's Real, the second book written by longtime WBBM-TV (Channel 2) newsman John Drummond (the first, which I have not read, being Thirty Years in the Trenches).

Most of the stories in the book are from my lifetime, but I didn't know much about them (I've been a news junkie since at least 1980, but I was more interested in national and international affairs). Drummond digs into the seedy side of Chicago, particularly organized crime. It's colorful stuff, such as the tale of a failed mob hit at a golf course. There are chapters about boxer Tony Zale, tough cop Frank Pape, bank robbers, missing persons, American Nazis, and more, but mobsters dominate, especially later in the book. I didn't know much about the latter-day (i.e., post-Giancana) Chicago Outfit, and this book provides a good introduction. Overall, it is an entertaining, gritty collection from one of Chicago's most famous news reporters.

Current tally: 11 books finished, 9 books acquired

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