Books Set in Illinois – Free eBooks – Novels Set in Chicago


Books set in Illinois, mostly by Illinois writers. Many genres, including historical fiction, published from the 1800s to the 21st Century.

Find the Directory for 90+ pages in this collection at History of the Great Lakes States.

 

Hint: When a book you want to borrow at Internet Archive is already checked out, go to the Internet Archive’s ‘Search’ box, check “Search Metadata”, and search for the book’s title. Quite often they have two or more copies.
 

Illinois Fiction Collection

Numerous free online books at the Internet Archive, resulting from a search for books on “Fiction – Illinois”. Be patient as the page loads.

Chicago Fiction Collection

Numerous free online books at the Internet Archive, resulting from a search for books on “Fiction – Illinois – Chicago”. Be patient as the page loads.

The Man with the Golden Arm

Algren, Nelson
Doubleday 1949       

“Set in the slums of Chicago, the novel, which won a National Book Award in 1950, tells the story of Frankie Machine (Francis Majcinek) who is said to have a ‘golden arm’ because of his sure touch with pool cues, dice, his drumsticks, his heroin needle, and his deck of cards. Unable to free himself from his slum environment, Frankie is finally driven to suicide.” -Reader’s Ency.

The Free Rangers: A Story of Early Days Along the Mississippi

Altsheler, Joseph A.
NY: Appleton 1934

Joseph Alexander Altsheler (1862 – 1919) was born in Kentucky, worked on a Louisville newspaper and later for the New York World. He published the first of over 50 books and numerous short stories in about 1896. The Riflemen of the Ohio is the sixth in an 8-volume series called “The Young Trailers”. He also published a six-volume series called “The French and Indian War series”.

A story of early days along the Mississippi. Continues the fortunes of the boys whose achievements were set down in “The Forest Runner”, and tells of their journey down the Mississippi to New Orleans whither they go to present to the Spanish Governor-General the true state of affairs between the American settlers in Kentucky and the emissaries of Spain. After numerous encounters with their old enemy, Braxton Wyatt, and a traitorous Spanish agent, they accomplish their object and help thru the safe voyage of a supply fleet from New Orleans to Kentucky.
– Book Review Digest

Over 120 magazines free and online, from the early 1800s to today, at Read Old Magazines Online

Wicked Nell, A Gay Girl of the Town

Andrews, Shang
Chicago: Comet 1878

Hearts Undaunted; A Romance of Four Frontiers

Atkinson, Eleanor
NY: Harper. 1917

Eleanor Stackhouse Atkinson (1863 – 1942) was born in Rensselaer, Indiana, taught school in Indianapolis and Chicago, and wrote for the Chicago Tribune.

This story follows the forward movement of the frontier from northern New York to Chicago. The heroine, Eleanor Lytle, spends her childhood as a captive among the Indians. As a little girl of three, she attracts the attention of Chief Cornplanter, who kidnaps her and makes her an honored member of his tribe. She is grown to young womanhood before she is returned to her sorrowing mother. To make up to her for the years of suffering, Eleanor marries the man who is her mother’s choice, but later, after his death, she marries one she loves and goes westward with him, as a pioneer to the new frontier.
– Book Review Digest

Also see:
– Atkinson, Eleanor, Johnny Appleseed: The Romance of the Sower in Ohio Novels and Historical Fiction
;
Atkinson, Eleanor, Boyhood of Lincoln in Abraham Lincoln: Free online Books & other Resources

A Man for the Ages: A Story of the Builders of Democracy

Bacheller, Irving
Indianapolis: Bobbs: Merrill. 1919

“A story of the youth and early manhood of Lincoln. Opening in Vermont In 1831, the story carries a typical pioneer family across the country to Illinois, the land of plenty. The Traylors settle In New Salem where they meet the lean, gaunt youth known as Abe Lincoln. They become friends and the friendship stands the test of shared joys and sorrows in the primitive frontier community. The conditions of the time are pictured and the growth of the anti-slavery sentiment, although the narrative, ending with Lincoln’s departure to take his seat in congress in 1847, does not take in the active conflict. The “underground railroad” too has a part in the story. A concluding chapter in the form of a memoir sketches the later years of Lincoln’s life.”
“The Abraham Lincoln of Irving Bacheller’s new novel is not the half legendary figure of popular imagination or even of some biographers. It is a re-creation of Lincoln, the fellow human being.”
– The Book Review Digest

Also see: Abraham Lincoln: Free online Books & other Resources

Find 14 more subject pages of books and articles about Illinois at the History of the Great Lakes States Directory.

The Prairie Schooner: A Story of the Black Hawk War

Barton, William E.
Boston: Wilde. 1900

Rev. William Eleazar Barton (1861-1930) was born in Sublette, Illinois. As a minister, he served in parishes in Tennessee, Ohio, and Massachusetts, and finally in Oak Park, Illinois. He became one of the early twentieth century’s most prominent writers and lecturers on the life of Abraham Lincoln.

See the resources on this site for: The Black Hawk War of 1832

Female Robinson Crusoe; A Tale of the American Wilderness

Bell, Jared W., ed.
NY: Bell. 1837

No information was found on the author. Supposedly it was an autobiography by Lucy Ford, who as a child became lost in the forest and survived there alone, although there is some doubt as to its authenticity.

See our collections of Classic Novels & Historical Fiction and Short Stories

The Actual

Bellow, Saul
1997        

“Harry Trellman has been drawn back to his hometown of Chicago after a lucrative business career has propelled him to such locales as Guatemala and Burma. By chance, Harry meets mega-elderly and mega-rich businessman Sigmund Adletsky, who immediately perceives Harry’s ability to discern human nature and enlists him as part of his ‘brain trust.’ This business with the old geezer brings Harry into contact with Amy Wustrin, a woman Harry loved many, many years ago and whom he has never forgotten: thus the emotional tug that drew him back to Chicago in the first place.” Booklist

Dangling Man

Bellow, Saul
1944        

This story purports to be the journal of a young man living in Chicago. who gives up his job, expecting to be inducted into the army. Owing to technicalities Joseph is left dangling for almost a year. His journal explains his psychological reactions to idleness, how he passes his time, his growing unrest, and finally the relief when the call comes.
“The book is an excellent document on the experience of the non-combatant in time of war. It is well written and never dull— in spite of the dismalness of the Chicago background and the undramatic character of the subject. It is also one of the most honest pieces of testimony on the psychology of a whole generation who have grown up during the depression and the war.” -New Yorker

Ravelstein

Bellow, Saul
Viking 2000       

“Ravelstein is a brilliant albeit eccentric professor of political philosophy, many of whose acolytes have come the movers and shakers of today’s world. He has always lived life to the fullest, even when he couldn’t afford to—a point that becomes moot when he publishes, at best friend Chick’s suggestion, a best-selling book outlining his ideas. When he is diagnosed with AIDS (he is, as Chick says. homosexual but not ‘gay’), Ravelstein convinces Chick, a well-known writer in his own right, to become his Boswell.” Libr J
This “might, like the author’s earlier works, be called a novel of ideas, but that is too bloodless a description of Bellow’s signature accomplishment. … It brims with life, thanks to Chick’s that is Bellow’s comic observations on the passing scene.” -Time

Maud Martha

Brooks, Gwendolyn
Harper 1953       

“Maud Martha is a young colored girl growing up on Chicago’s South Side, who yearns for no more than the common decencies, but who finds her way toward accomplishing them blocked in every direction by the restrictions of the white race. Her life, as viewed in a series of short episodes from childhood to motherhood, is an unremitting effort to find some kind of status and prestige in an environment which gives her nothing but shabbiness, second-class citizenship, and the subtler forms of race discrimination. Her plight is told in prose which has the rhythmic beauty of free verse.” -Booklist

The Auerbach Will

Birmingham, Stephen
Little, Brown 1983       

“Saga of a mail-order-house family dynasty. The central character is Essie, a Lower East Side Jewish immigrant, who falls in love with Jake Auerbach. the ‘renegade son in a prominent New York mercantile family. Sent off to Chicago after a disapproved-of marriage, Jake founds the nation’s first mail-order business under two Christian names (Sears & Roebuck come to mind from beginning to end, though without substantiation). The business flourishes: Jake and Essie—she now a society figure—are restored to familiar respectability but suffer the disenchantments of fading love, mutual infidelities, unhappy children, blackmail, and hollow glory.” Booklist
“Birmingham’s deft handling of the fabric of family life and shifting patterns of deception, and tragedy produces a dramatic narrative. Essie is a wonderfully sympathetic figure, and Birmingham moves her gracefully through her bitter-sweet years from determined young girl to passionate woman to sophisticated grande dame.” Publ Wkly

Tried in the Fire; A story of the Life of Faith

Blanchard, Leone
Boston: Lothrop. 1871

Leone Blanchard authored numerous articles for the Ladies’ Repository; a monthly periodical devoted to Literature, arts and religion. Her works mainly had Christian themes.

The Romantic Woman

Borden, Mary
NY: Knopf 1920

“The story of a Chicago heiress who marries into the British aristocracy. It opens in Chicago, here lightly disguised as “Iroquois,” with the heroine’s own account of her democratic and rather hoydenish girlhood and an introduction to the childhood friends, Louise, Phyllis, Jim Van Orden and Pat O’Brien, who play a part in her later life. Perhaps she should have married Jim and settled down to a conventional and comfortable American life, but traveling with her father In India she falls romantically In love with a handsome cavalry officer, not knowing that he is heir to a dukedom. He, on his part, though genuinely attracted to the girl, Is not unconscious of her wealth. Marriage brings disillusionments and introduces the naive American into a society whose standards are quite incomprehensible. There is considerable analysis of the two contrasting points of view and the story ends with a glimpse of the war.”
“Her picture of that city [Chicago] and its people is one of the very brilliant things in recent literature. Its temper is not harsh, but it has an edge and the edge cuts clean every time. Always she conveys the richness, the distinction, and the vigor of an arresting character and mind.”
– The Book Review Digest

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

Dandelion Wine

Bradbury, Ray
Doubleday 1957       

A novel about one summer in the life of a twelve-year-old boy, Douglas Spaulding: the summer of 1928. The place is Green Town, Illinois, and Doug and his brother Tom wander in and out among their elders, living and dreaming, sometimes aware of things, again just having a wonderful time. Doug’s big discovery that summer was that he was alive.
“The writing is beautiful and the characters are wonderful living people. A rare reading experience.” Libr J

The Wine of Astonishment

Bradley, Mary Hastings
NY: Appleton 1919

“The scene, (with the exception of the last few pages) is laid in Chicago. The reader is introduced to Jim Clarke as a boy of eighteen, drawn by his curiosity to see the red light district under the guidance of a medical student, and impelled by his sense of decency to leave the low dance-hall where the trip ends. Later, he becomes engaged to a charming Smith college girl, Evelyn Day, whose mother, wishing Evelyn to make a wealthy marriage, disapproves of the poor law student. Under pressure Evelyn breaks her engagement, and marries Christopher Stanley. A garbled report of what took place, years before, at the dance hall, influences her final decision. After she has been Stanley’s wife, in name only, for six years, she finds out that she has been lied to about Jim, and decides to ask Christopher to set her free, but on thinking over her indebtedness to her husband, she finally tells him that she will be his wife in reality.”
“When we put the book down we have the feeling that we have been brought very close to life as It manifests itself in two very real individuals.” “The troubled Intensity of young emotions grips the reader. The despair of youth that lacks the money to marry is well portrayed. Then comes the war to solve everybody’s troubles.” – The Book Review Digest

The Hatbox Baby

Brown, Carrie
Algonquin 2000       

“Confirmed bachelor Dr. Leo Hoffman is a pioneer in neonatal intensive care who finances his research into and medical care of destitute babies by charging admission to his educational programs at fairs and amusement parks. During the summer of 1933, while working at his premature baby exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair, he saves the life of a special ‘premie’—and finds love in the process. . . . This is a moving story about complex, interesting characters who love deeply.” -Libr J

Diane: Mississippi Valley

Brown, Katharine Holland
NY: Doubleday 1904

A romance of the Icarian settlement on the Mississippi river: a small body of French colonists with communistic views who had been brought to America by Pere Cabet; the story opens in 1856, when most of them were thoroughly tired of him. . . . But the schisms of the commune pale in interest beside the affairs of the American abolitionists who come into the story. … ln one chapter Robert Channing is carrying runaway slaves to safety; in the next Pere Cabet is preaching his flock into rebellion. The petty affairs of the Icarians and the quarrel that shall shake the states run side by side. Their separate currents meet in the loves of Robert and Diane.” – Book Review Digest

Little Caesar

Burnett, W. R.
Dial 1929       

“This is the inside story of a Chicago gang, told from the gangster’s point of view and in his language. Rico and Sam Vettori fight for leadership and Rico wins. He is little Caesar to the gunmen who obey his orders without question. During a night-club hold-up Rico kills a policeman. The gang is broken up—one turns state’s evidence, another is shot as a squealer— and Rico himself becomes one of the hunted, until a policeman’s bullet cancels the score against him.” -Book Rev Digest
“The book is full of sordid details of gang life which make it unpleasant but exciting reading.” -Booklist

In the Boyhood of Lincoln: a Tale of the Tunker Schoolmaster and the Times of Black Hawk

Butterworth, Hezekiah
NY: Appleton 1893

The adventures of a pioneer Dunkard schoolmaster serve to illustrate the life of a newly settled country as well as the hardships and manly struggles of the future statesman. Collects many Indian romances and cabin tales of the Illinois settlers, and gives a warmly sympathetic view of Indian character.

Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine

Campbell, Bebe Moore
Putnam 1992       

“In Ms. Campbell’s story, a young black man, Armstrong Todd. visiting from Chicago in 1955, is murdered in Hopewell, Miss.. by a white man. Reporters from New York are secretly summoned by an influential citizen of Hopewell, and as a consequence of the resulting news media attention there is, uncharacteristically, a trial. After the trial, the novel follows the lives Of Armstrong’s relatives in Mississippi—and in Chicago, where Armstrong’s mother, Delotha Todd, starts a new and difficult life, raising another son. The novel also follows the lives of the murderer. Floyd Cox, and his family.” -N Y Times Book Rev
“Written in poetic prose, filled with masterfully dawn and sympathetic characters that a less able hand might have rendered in stereotypes, this first novel blends the irony of Flannery O’Connor’s fiction and the poignance of Harper Lee’s.” -Publ Wkly

The Illini; a Story of the Prairies

Carr, Clark E.
Chicago: McClurg. 1912

The author attempted to portray a number of real people who were significant in Illinois history by placing them in fictional situations. He says that, “The work might be called a drama in which characters appear upon the stage in connection with events in which they acted.” He has divided the volume into three ‘books’;

Book 1 – The Pioneer
Book 2 – Political Upheaval
Book 3 – In War-time

Some of the historical figures in the book are: Stephen A. Douglas, John Wentworth, Owen Lovejoy, Abraham Lincoln, John Hay, Lyman Trumbull, David Davis, Norman B. Judd and Richard J. Oglesby.

A story of the prairies, written from the memories of over half a century lived in Illinois. The author has endeavored to present his views of the position and influence of Illinois among the states, to give an estimate of events, and of those Illinoisans who were conspicuous actors in them, from 1850, the year in which the Fugitive-slave law was enacted, to the opening of the Civil war.
— Bookman

Collection of Illinois Biographies & Memoirs

My Mortal Enemy

Cather, Willa
Knopf 1926       

“In Myra Henshawe, Miss Cather has painted another portrait of a lady seen, Pike Marian Forrester, thru the eyes of an admiring yet clear- sighted friend of a younger generation. Myra Driscoll was an orphan brought up by her rich great-uncle in the fine old Driscoll home in Parthia, Illinois. The price the willful, high-spirited girl paid for her runaway marriage was the omission of her name in her uncle’s will and a lifelong discontent. Love was not enough. Myra was, by her own confession, a greedy, selfish, worldly woman who wanted success and a place in the world. The young girl who narrates the story saw her on three occasions, once when Myra was visiting in Parthia, a woman of forty-five with a strange fascination about her, again in New York and finally, ten years later, in a shabby West Coast hotel where ministered to by her devoted, if ineffectual husband, she was dying alone with her ‘mortal enemy,’ her inescapable, turbulent self.” -Book Rev Digest

Old Kaskaskia: a Novel

Catherwood, Mary Hartwell
NY: Houghton, Mifflin. 1893

Mary Hartwell Catherwood (1847 -1902) was born in Luray, Ohio and as an adult lived in several cities in the Midwest. She developed a signature style of incorporating Midwestern culture, dialect, and local color into her texts. Although most of her novels and stories are set in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, some are also based along the American border with French Canada and on colonial Mackinac Island.

See more of Catherwood’s works at: Great Lakes Novels and Historical Fiction and Michigan Novels and Historical Fiction

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

Spanish Peggy; a Story of Young Illinois

Catherwood, Mary Hartwell
Chicago: Stone. 1899

“A short story of early Illinois, containing an attractive picture of Lincoln as a young man.” – Guide to Historical Fiction, 1914
See the biographical note on the Catherwood novel on this page; Old Kaskaskia.

The Spirit of an Illinois Town, and The Little Renault; two stories of Illinois at different periods

Catherwood, Mary Hartwell
Boston: Houghton, Mifflin. 1897

See the biographical note on the Catherwood novel on this page; Old Kaskaskia.

The House on Mango Street

Cisneros, Sandra
Arte Publico 1984       

Composed of a series of interconnected vignettes, this “is the story of Esperanza Cordero, a young girl growing up in the Hispanic quarter of Chicago. For Esperanza, Mango Street is a desolate landscape of concrete and run-down tenements, where she discovers the hard realities of life—the fetters of class and gender, the specter of racial enmity, the mysteries of sexuality. and more.” Publisher’s note
“Although content is at times amateurish, the volume, a composite of evocative snapshots that manages to passionately recreate the milieu of the poor quarters of Chicago. is a pleasurable read.” Commonweal

The Two Circuits; a Story of Illinois Life

Crane, J. L.
Chicago: Jansen, McClurg. 1877

According to the dedication in this volume, James L. Crane had been a chaplain in the Union army during the Civil War. This novel is about the humorous adventures of a young preacher who has recently begun riding the circuit.

Good Cop, Bad Cop

D’Amato, Barbara
Forge 1998       

“A Tom Doherty Associates book” In 1969 Chicago, “Nicholas Bertolucci was a rookie cop assigned to raid a Panther hideout. Three innocent victims died in the shootout, but the story was quickly hushed up. Years later, Nick has become Chicago’s police superintendent. and his older brother, Aldo, a down-on-his-luck cop and a perpetual screwup, is filled with hate for his successful brother. When Aldo discovers a terrible secret from the past that could topple Nick and leave the CPD in tatters, the reader is left to watch in horror as the juggernaut rolls inexorably toward an explosive climax.” -Booklist

Books and articles about work, medical care, business & industry, etc. at Illinois Economic History

A Shortcut in Time

Dickinson, Charles
Forge 2003       

“A Tom Doherty Associates book”
“Josh Winkler’s settled life changes when he chooses a shortcut to town and ends up 15 minutes in the past. On the same path, he meets Constance, another bewildered time traveler from the year 1908. No one believes them, especially Josh’s doctor wife, who orders neurological tests. To validate their experiences, Josh researches Constance’s disappearance in the local library’s newspaper archives and discovers that Constance’s boyfriend, a suspect in her disappearance, was hanged by an angry mob; Constance needs to find her way back to 1908 to prevent his death.” Libr J
“Dickinson conjures a notably mundane environment, then makes it extraordinary” -Booklist

Reign in Hell

Diehl, William
Ballantine 1997       

“Illinois state attorney general Vail is called upon by President Lawrence Pennington to seek a trial case against one of the largest militia outfits in the country. The leader of this outfit, Gen. Joshua Engstrom, just happens to be an old adversary Of the president, putting Vail in the middle of a dangerous situation. Vail must also relive the past when unwillingly faced with his nemesis from years ago, serial killer Aaron Stampler, who has now become blind Brother Transgression. The meshing of these storylines is intricate yet easily followed as the tension mounts.” -Libr J

A Little Girl in Old Chicago

Douglas, Amanda M.
NY: Burt. 1904

Amanda M. Douglas (1831-1916) was raised in New York city and lived as an adult in New Jersey. This novel is one of many in her “Little Girl” series; stories set in various U.S. cities for young audiences. Among other books, she also authored a “Helen Grant” series which was more of a ‘college girl’ genre.

Sister Carrie

Dreiser, Theodore
1900       

“A powerful account of a young working girl’s rise to the ‘tinsel and shine’ of worldly success, and of the slow decline of her lover and protector Hurstwood.”

Please visit our collection of 2,000+ selected online magazine and newspaper articles on 40 subjects, plus online map & vintage photo collections, at Century Past History Resources

The Konkans

D’Souza, Tony
Harcourt 2008       

“Narrator Francisco D’Sai descends partially from a small group of Konkans, former Hindus converted to Catholicism by the Portuguese in the 16th century. His American mother, Denise, met and married his father, Lawrence, while working as a Peace Corps volunteer in the 1960s. The couple moves to Chicago, where Francisco is born and where Lawrence is obsessed with assimilation and achieving the American dream. In contrast, Francisco’s uncle Sam, whom Denise insists they sponsor to America, is a much more soulful man who retains his Indian identity. Sam tells fabulous tales of Konkan culture and is adored by both Francisco and Denise, whose infatuation with India persists even as her love for Lawrence dwindles.” -Publ Wkly
This is “more than an ethnographic study—D’Souza stays character-focused throughout the novel, gently mixing irony and fatalism with a warm affection for humans and the stupid things they do.” -Washington City Paper

I Sailed with Magellan

Dybek, Stuart
Farrar, Straus 2003       

The “episodes that intersect and surround young Perry Katzek’s upbringing in the Polish-Mexican ghetto of Chicago’s South Side are simultaneously daring and compassionate, intimate in detail and mythic in scale. Dybek has the rare ability to dart back and forth in time and slide around recklessly in space while carrying the reader effortlessly with him.” -Washington Post Book World

The Graysons; a Story of Illinois

Eggleston, Edward
NY: Century. 1887

“Another detailed picture of the turbulent life of the pioneers; the scene is Illinois, and Abraham Lincoln is introduced as counsel in a trial for murder. He convicts the leading witness of perjury and brings the guilt home to him.” – Guide to Historical Fiction, 1914′
Edward Eggleston (1837-1902) was born in Vevay, Indiana. He was both a novelist and a historian, authoring several texts of U.S. history.

More of Eggleston’s novels are at: Great Lakes Novels and Historical Fiction and Indiana Novels and Historical Fiction

Studs Lonigan; a Trilogy

Farrell, James T.
Vanguard 1935       

Contents: Young Lonigan (1932); The young manhood of Studs Lonigan (1934); Judgment day (1935). A trilogy “about life among lower-middle-class Irish Roman Catholics in Chicago during the first third of the 20th century… As a boy, William Lonigan (always referred to as ‘Studs’) makes a slight effort to rise above his squalid urban environment. However, the combination of his own personality, unwholesome neighborhood friends, a small-minded family, and his schooling and religious training all condemn him to the life of futility and dissipation that are his inheritance.” -Merriam-Webster’s Ency of Lit

The American; a Middle Western Legend

Fast, Howard
Duell 1946       

“Biographical. novel based on the life of John Peter Altgelå, who was a midwestern politician, governor of Illinois, from 1893-1897, a friend of the working man, and a lawyer and judge. The book begins with his poverty-stricken youth, describes his painful rise, his successes and failures, and his death.” -Book Rev Digest
“Told with distinction and with barely enough fictional trimmings to justify calling it a novel.” -New Yorker

So Big

Ferber, Edna
Doubleday 1924       

Winner of the 1925 Pulitzer Prize. “Selina DeJong would look up from her work and say, ‘How big is my man?’ Then little Dirk DeJong would answer in the time-worn way, ‘So-O-o big!’ And he was so nicknamed. Though So Big gives the book its title his mother is the outstanding figure. Until Selina was nineteen she traveled with her gambler-father. At his sudden death she secured a teacher’s post in the Dutch settlement of High Prairie, a community of hardworking farmers and their thrifty, slaving wives—narrow-minded people indifferent to natural beauty. Soon Selina married Pervus DeJong, a plodding, goodnatured boy. With her marriage the never-ending drudgery of a farmer’s wife began. Through all the years of hardship she never lost her gay indomitable spirit. Unfortunately. she was unable to transmit these qualities to her son.”

Collected Maps & Gazetteers for Historic Illinois

Journey in the Dark

Flavin, Martin
Harper 1943       

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, 1944. “Against the sweep and growth of sixty years of American life, Martin Flavin tells an impressively moving story about a ‘successful’ man. ‘Journey in the Dark’, this year’s Harper prize novel, is the story of Sam Braden but it is also the story of the little town of Wyattville, Iowa, where he was born in 1883, and the story of Chicago, where he amassed his wealth. The town changed, the boy changed, the great city of the West changed, the years putting their mark on all of them. America was on the march, carrying with it the strong and the ambitious, and Sam Braden was both strong and ambitious.” -NY Herald Tribune Bk R

Can Such Things Be? A Story of a White Slave

Gleeson, William
Chicago: 1915

An early book about the trafficking of girls and women in the U.S. – specifically, in Chicago.

Struck a Lead; an Historical Tale of the Upper Lead Region

Goodhue, James M.
Chicago: Jameson & Morse. 1883

James M. Goodhue (1810-1852) was born in New Hampshire and migrated west as a young man. He lived about three years in Plainfield, Illinois and then was a lawyer and newspaperman in Lancaster, Wisconsin. When Minnesota territory opened for settlement he moved to St. Paul and established the first newspaper in Minnesota. He was well-known for a lively writing style.

Black Partridge, or, The Fall of Fort Dearborn

Gordon, H. R.
NY: E. P. Dutton. 1906

Col. H.R. Gordon was one of many pseudonyms used by Edward Sylvester Ellis (1840-1916). Ellis authored dozens of adventure stories for boys.

“Auric Kingdom, a Fort Wayne lad, his chum, Jethro Judd of Fort Dearborn and Black Partridge, the Pottawatomie chief and friend of the white man, are the most prominent figures in this story which culminates in the destruction of Fort Dearborn. The book is full of adventure, of bad Indians, brave settlers, and the woodcraft dear to all boy hearts.”
– The Book Review Digest

Books and articles on Native American tribes in historic Illinois

Ascent Into Hell

Greeley, Andrew M.
Warner 1983       

“A Bernard Geis Associates book”. Second volume of the author’s Passover trilogy begun with Thy Brother’s Wife.
“Hugh Donlon fulfills his parents’ wish that he become a Catholic priest. He then wrangles with his superiors, impregnates a nun and leaves the active priesthood to marry her, has numerous extramarital affairs, gets rich in commodities trading. becomes an ambassador, is jailed for shady financial dealings, and finally must decide whether to return to the active ministry or marry the woman he has always loved.” Libr J
“The narrative is packed with substance, strong characterizations and startling insights into Catholic politics, doctrine and attitudes.” Publ Wkly
Followed by ‘Lord of the Dance’

Irish Lace

Greeley, Andrew M.
Perennial Classics 2XXX       

“A Tom Doherty Associates book”. One of four novels featuring Nuala McGrail; previous titles Irish gold published 1994, latter titles Irish whiskey and Irish mist, published 1998 and 1999 respectively. This novel “finds the winsome 20-year-old recently transplanted from Ireland to Chicago. Nuala is romantically involved with Dermot Coyne—just the back-up she requires, given her penchant for attracting dicey situations. Nuala’s ‘gift,’ experiencing visions from the past, allows the plot to careen back to Camp Douglas. a Union prison in Civil War-era Chicago. From thence the story proceeds. . . . to envelop a contemporary art theft, Irish terrorists, and corrupt city officials.” Libr J
“Moving effortlessly between the (fictional) conspiracies of 1864 and 1995 Chicago, Greeley is at his top page-turning form, throwing in a few stinging words about racism and xenophobia and delivering a rousing defense of the Bill Of Rights.” Publ Wkly

Airport

Hailey, Arthur
Doubleday 1968       

“In the space of a single night at the Lincoln International Airport nearly every imaginable man, machine or function goes wrong. One of the worst snowstorms in history has been raging over the airport for three days. The longest and widest runway is blocked by a mired Boeing 707. A traffic controller is suicidally depressed. And a Rome-bound flight lifts off with a man carrying a bomb in his briefcase. How Airport Manager Mel Bakersfield and a score of other characters cope provides the (plot of this novel).” -Time
“Here are many minor conflicts—of love, sex, business, and psychological problems—all building up to the tremendously exciting scenes of a shattered transoceanic plane trying to make its way back to the airport, and a runway that can’t, but must, be cleared.” Publ Wkly

The Wilderness and the War Path

Hall, James.
NY: Wiley. 1849

James Hall (1793-1868) lived in Ohio and Illinois, editing a magazine in Cincinnati. He authored many stories of adventure on the western frontier and at that time was considered one of the most talented writers in the ‘West’.

See more works by James Hall at: Ohio Novels and Historical Fiction; and
– a biographical chapter about James Hall in Venable, William H., Beginnings of Literary Culture in the Ohio Valley; Historical and Biographical Sketches in Great Lakes Region Cultural History

Books and articles about everyday life, women, ethnic groups, social issues etc. at Topics in the social history of Illinois

If This World Were Mine

Harris, E. Lynn
Doubleday 1997       

“Members of a monthly journal-writing group, four African American friends from college days who all live in the Chicago area, help each other through the dramas of their respective lives. They’re all approaching 40 and looking for answers: Riley Woodson, a self-proclaimed Black Princess immured in a stultifying marriage; Yolanda Williams, a media consultant; gay psychiatrist Leland Thompson; and Dwight Scott, a computer engineer simmering with hatred for white people. . . A supple raconteur, Harris explores the intimacies of friendship with a sensitive eye.” Publ Wkly

The Secret

Hoffman, Eva
Public Affairs 2002       

“The time is 2022, the place is Chicago, and Iris Surrey has an unusually close relationship with her chilly mother, Elizabeth. At 17, Iris is wearying of the odd stares she triggers in others, especially when her look-alike mother is with her. Iris wants to learn the identity of her father, which, alas, is not possible; the reader will figure out before Iris does that she is the product of genetic engineering. When Iris uncovers the truth, she goes on an emotional rampage, intent on tracking down any blood relatives in the hope that they will make her feel more authentic.” Libr J
This work “is compelling throughout for Hoffman’s prose, for her insights on identity, for her reflections on history.” -N Y Times Book Rev

Old ‘Kaskia Days

Holbrook, Elizabeth
Chicago: Schulte. 1893

Elizabeth Holbrook was from Randolph county, Illinois, the home of Kaskaskia. Her novel is said to have closely followed what was known about the town’s history.

See also: Schlarman, J.H. PhD., From Quebec to New Orleans: The Story of the French in America in Great Lakes General History

A Desperate Woman

Holmes, M.E.
Chicago: Laird & Lee 1886

Ella Lincoln, or, Western Prairie Life. An Autobiography

Hopkins, Eliza A.
Boston: French. 1857

Eliza Ann Woodruff Hopkins (1813-1878) was born in New Jersey. In 1837 she married Charles Hopkins and went with him to the western frontier. He went further west to California in 1850 to search for gold and did not return for 13 years, leaving her to raise their children. In Illinois she wrote for the Joliet Signal and the True Democrat, then moved east to Pennsylvania and later Boston, where she continued to write, primarily for newspapers.

The Mississippi Bubble; How the star of good fortune rose and set and rose again, by a woman’s grace, for one John Law of Lauriston

Hough, Emerson
Indianapolis: Bowen-Merrill 1902

Emerson Hough (1857-1923) was an American author best known for writing western stories and historical novels. Raised in Newton, Iowa, he graduated from the University of Iowa and was admitted to the bar in 1882. He lived in New Mexico for a time, which helped him with the background for his westerns. After he married a Chicago woman in 1897 he moved to Chicago permanently.

Hough was a conservationist who, among other causes, worked for creation of a national park system. He also wrote an out-of-doors column for the Saturday Evening Post. The Mississippi Bubble, one of the best-selling of his many books, is a historical novel that revolves around the story of John Law and an economic bubble of speculative investment in the French colony of Louisiana.
– Wikipedia entries for Hough and The Mississippi Bubble.

See more of Emerson Hough’s works at: Fiction – Novels from Authors G & H

Homeland

Jakes, John
Doubleday 1993       

First volume in the author’s Crown family chronicles. “In 1892, a Berlin Street urchin named Pauli Kroner, 14 years old, scrapes up steerage fare for America with the help of his dying Aunt Lotte. Pauli is robbed of his papers and what little money he has just before his arrival. But he still manages to pass Customs and make his way to Chicago, where his uncle is one of the city’s leading brewers. . . . Paul yearns to be a painter, but lacks the skill. George Eastman’s recent invention, the Kodak camera, offers him a chance to overcome that problem. When Paul has a chance to assist in the birth of cinematography. his life’s course is set.” N Y Times Book Rev
“Chockfull of fascinating period detail, Jakes’ captivating story brings to life the sounds, smells, and tastes of turn-of-the-century America.” Publ Wkly
Followed by American Dreams

Books and articles on War in historic Illinois

An Unfinished Season

Just, Ward
Houghton Mifflin 2004       

“Set in 1950’s Chicago during a single summer, this novel recounts the story of the owner of a printing company, the narrator’s father, who is on the management side of a vicious union dispute and begins to carry a gun. Wilson Raven, his son, takes a summer job at a scandal rag, where no amount of ink on his sleeves lives down the day he arrives at work wearing his bowed dancing shoes from debutante balls on the ritzy North Shore.” -Economist
“Even if the setting of Just’s . . novel is the Midwest instead of Washington, Saigon or Paris, the territory is familiar: it’s the world of memory tinged with regret. It’s the early 1950s, the dawn of the cold war and the Red scare. . . This is vintage Just: elegant writing that captures the wounded spirit of the times.” -Newsweek

Zury, the Meanest Man in Spring County; a novel of western life

Kirkland, Joseph
Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1887

“Illinois in the pioneer days, portraying the homely, colourless life of the prairies, and the moral forces that were destined to act powerfully in the next generation. Lincoln appears.” – Guide to Historical Fiction, 1914

Joseph Kirkland (1830-1894) was a businessman in Chicago and a Union officer in the Civil War. He founded a Midwestern literary periodical called Prairie Chicken, and also worked as a lawyer. In addition to the two novels on this page, he authored The Story of Chicago.

The McVeys (an episode)

Kirkland, Joseph
Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1888

Sequel to “Zury, the Meanest Man in Spring County”, also on this page.

The Log Cabin; or, The World Before You

Lee, Hannah F.
Philadelphia: Appleton. 1847

Hannah Farnham Sawyer Lee (1780-1865) also wrote a history of the Huguenots, biographies of Pierre Toussaint and Thomas Cranmer, and sketches of the lives of famous painters.

Ongon: A Tale of Early Chicago

Loux, Dubois H.
NY: 1902

Children of the Market Place

Masters, Edgar Lee
NY: Macmillan. 1922

Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950) grew up in Lewistown, Illinois and moved to Chicago in 1892, where he was a law partner of Clarence Darrow. He is mainly known for his poetry, especially for his best-selling collection Spoon River Anthology. He published approximately 40 books during his career. While this one is ostensibly the story of an English immigrant to Illinois in pioneering days, it presents Stephen A. Douglas as representative of the American spirit. 1833-61.

An historical novel In the form of a fictitious autobiography of an Englishman who, as a youth of eighteen, came to America where his father had preceded him and, dying, had left him an estate in Illinois. He landed in the New York of 1833 and traveled by canal, lake and stage to Illinois, finally taking up his residence in Chicago. His life develops with the growth of this pioneer region and, thru his early meeting with young Stephen Douglas and life-long friendship with him, becomes a panorama of the history and politics of the country in the stormy period which led up to the Civil war. The canvas is so broad that a full cross-section of history is shown. The story of Douglas rather overshadows the hero’s own. Lincoln, too, Is shown, appearing out of obscurity, encountering the “little giant,” coming into the presidency. And then the war! A brief epilogue brings the book to the beginning of this century, with a rapid summing-up of America’s new problems, social and political. – Booklist

The Glenns: A Family History

McConnel, John Ludlum
NY: Scribner. 1851

McConnel (1826-1862), son of a prominent pioneer in Jacksonville, Illinois, was considered by the eastern literary establishment to be second only to James Hall (see above) as an early Illinois writer of fiction. He served as a captain in the Mexican War, where he was seriously wounded. McConnel focused most of his energy on his legal and political career but continued to write short stories until his untimely death at 36 – a result of his battle wounds.

Western Characters, or Types of Border Life in the Western States

McConnel, John L.
NY: Redfield. 1853

See the note at McConnel’s book above.

Gentle Ann: A Tale of the Sangamon

McNamar, Myrtle
NY: Beacon. 1943

Myrtle Leoan Garrison McNamar (1884-1969) was born in California and became the editor of her husband’s newspaper in Cottonwood, CA. In addition to writing a number of novels and a history of the state of Oregon, she was a family historian. Her husband was a direct descendant of the McNamar in Gentle Ann.

The Totem of Black Hawk: A tale of pioneer days in northwestern Illinois & the Black Hawk war

McNeil, Everett
Chicago: McClurg. 1914

Henry Everett McNeil (1862-1929) was born in Stoughton, Wisconsin and was a leading author of novels for young people in the 1910s and 1920s.

A story of pioneer life in northwestern Illinois in the eighteen-thirties. The Clays, father, mother and three children, are among the first settlers in the Rock river valley, and the story follows all the incidents of the making of a frontier home, the building of the log house, the hunt for meat, and so on. Later comes the outbreak of the Black Hawk war, the capture of Mrs. Clay and the children, and their escape from death by virtue of the little image worn by Ruth—a little black hawk carved in stone which had been given her by an Indian girl she had befriended.
– Book Review Digest

See the resources on this site for: The Black Hawk War of 1832

Prairie Avenue

Meeker, Arthur
Knopf 1949       

“Prairie Avenue on Chicago’s south side was once a scene of wealth and display, where newly rich Chicagoans enjoyed the naive ostentation of their homes and social life. Ned left there with an aunt in 1885, returned again and again until 1918 to see the changing scene, to learn gradually of some of the pettiness and vice carefully concealed under Victorian propriety, and to appreciate the simple goodness also. The young people moved to other, more fashionable, locations and the grandeur faded, for the makers of Chicago were gone and ‘it was the strong old roosters and their spectacular wives who had set the pace.’ Fictional social history of more than local appeal.” -Booklist

The Distinguished Guest

Miller, Sue
HarperCollins 1995       

“The guest of the title is a woman who in her seventies wrote a celebrated memoir about being the wife of the radical minister of an integrated church in Chicago, and who eventually split with her husband over issues of black separatism and militancy. Now in her Parkinson’s-afflicted eighties, she is visiting her architect son, whose view of his mother is necessarily different from her public image. This novel, as full of rich domestic detail as Miller’s previous books, is, like them, a work of consolation informed by a psychotherapeutic perspective—very literal, yet also highly readable.” -New Yorker

Please visit our Century Past Free Online Library, with thousands of books to read online or download

Family Pictures

Miller, Sue
Harper & Row 1990       

This novel chronicles “forty years in the lives of the Eberhardts, a Chicago family. David and Lainey’s third child, Randall, is autistic. ‘According to the experts of the ’50s, the fault is Lainey’s for unconsciously rejecting her infant son; David—himself a psychiatrist—agrees with them. A few decades later science will absolve her, but the shock and pain of her husband’s betrayal throw a curse on their relationship that is never quite dispelled.” Newsweek
“‘Family Pictures’ is a novel that might have intrigued and startled Woolf—profoundly honest, shapely, ambitious, engrossing, original and true, an important example of a new American tradition that explores what it means, not to light out for the territories but to make a home, live at home and learn what home is.” -N Y Times Book Rev

The Deep End of the Ocean

Mitchard, Jacquelyn
Viking 1996       

“When 3-year-old Ben Cappadora disappears from a hotel lobby in Chicago, a presumed kidnap victim, nothing positive ever comes from his loss. The family he leaves behind is ruined. Ben’s father, Pat. a kindly restaurateur, develops cardiac problems—the victim of a literal broken heart. His mother, Beth, becomes an emotional zombie. Vincent, the 7-year-old who was watching Ben when he disappeared, grows into a high-I.Q. juvenile delinquent. Baby Kerry has lived in a mournful. hostile house for so long she thinks it’s normal.” -N Y Times Book Rev
“One of the most remarkable things about this rich, moving and altogether stunning first novel is Mitchard’s assured command of narrative structure and stylistic resources. Her story about a child’s kidnapping and its enduring effects upon his parents, siblings, and extended family is a blockbuster read.” -Publ Wkly

Knock on Any Door

Motley, Willard
Appleton 1947       

“The story of Nick Romano, who began as choir boy, and dreamed of one day becoming a priest, but whose life instead brings him to the electric chair. In reading this book we understand why this happened, what omissions and commissions of our society bring this tragedy.” – Literary Guild

Alice Ashland, A Romance of the World’s Fair

Neville, Edith
NY: Collier 1893

Calumet City

Newton, Charlie
Touchstone 2008       

“Confrontational and uncompromising Patti Black, Chicago’s most decorated cop, gets caught in a web of murder and betrayal. When several unrelated cases threaten to reveal her horrific childhood as an abused runaway and teenage rape victim, Patti defies everybody to find Roland Ganz, her béte noir, who she suspects is behind the crimes; she must also locate the son she put up for adoption whom she thinks Roland is seeking. Accompanied by her sometime friend and rugby teammate, newspaper reporter Tracy Moens, she frantically follows a trail from Chicago to nearby Calumet City, the Arizona desert and back.” -Publ Wkly
“An atmospheric shocker. Newton certainly has all the hallmarks and above all the classic noir tone urban and nocturnal, stealthy and smoky, grim determination doing its two-step with gallows humor.” -Chicago Sun Times

The Pit

Norris, Frank
Doubleday 1903       

The second volume of the author’s unfinished The Epic of Wheat trilogy “is a story of manipulations in the Chicago Exchange. Curtis Jadwin, a stock speculator, is so absorbed in making money that he neglects his emotionally starved wife Laura. Into this situation steps Sheldon Corthell, dilettante artist, to console her. Laura loves her husband, and postpones for a while going away with the aesthete. Meanwhile, Jadwin engages in a struggle with the Crookes gang of speculators. He beats them, but is crushed by fluctuations in wheat production. He and Laura effect a reconciliation.” –Haydn. Thesaurus of Book Dig

Ghost Country

Paretsky, Sara
Delacorte 1998       

Chicagoans “Harriet and Mara Stonds have been raised in luxury by heir grandfather, famous neurosurgeon Abraham Stonds. Harriet is the apple of her grandfather’s eye—tall, blond, successful at everything she does, always the good girl. Mara plays the role of ugly stepsister, at least to her grandfather, who has told her for years that she’s lazy, stupid, and ungrateful. But things are about to change for the Stonds family. A drunken opera singer, a softhearted psychotherapist, a group of home- less women, and a mysterious visitor who performs miracles will each play a key role in opening the eyes of Harriet and Mara to a world they’ve never imagined. This book is rich, astonishing, and affecting.” -Booklist

The Man with the Iron Hand

Parish, John C.
Boston: Houghton, Mifflin 1922

About Henry de Tonty and his fellow French explorers, based on historical letters and documents of Tonty, Father Marquette, Joliet, La Salle and others.

See the resources on this site for: La Salle the Explorer

The Devil’s Own: A Romance of the Black Hawk War

Parrish, Randall
NY: Burt. 1917

George Randall Parrish (1858-1923) grew up in Kewanee, Illinois and began a legal career in Wichita, Kansas. In the early 1880s he left his law practice and worked at a number of odd jobs throughout the west, eventually becoming a newspaper reporter. When Wilderness was King (below) was the first of many novels.

The time of the story is the year of the Black Hawk war, and that outbreak has a part in the climax of the tale. It is with one of the problems of slavery, however, that the plot is concerned. In journeying down the river, Lieutenant Knox falls in with Joe Kirby, the gambler. Kirby has been playing cards with Judge Beaucaire of Missouri and has taken from him his home and all his possessions, including his slaves. From Kirby himself, Lieutenant Knox learns that the gambler’s main motive is to gain possession of Rene Beaucaire, the girl reputed to be Judge Beaucaire’s daughter, although in reality she is his granddaughter, the child of his son and a quadroon girl. Technically she is his slave. Moved by the tragic fate of this unknown girl, Knox sets out to save her a task which involves the rescue also of Eloise Beaucaire, the judge’s real daughter. – Book Review Digest

See the resources on this site for: The Black Hawk War of 1832

We have a good selection of books about food, including large collections of historic cookbooks, in Books on Food and Drink

A Sword of the Old Frontier; A Tale of Fort Chartres and Detroit, being a plain account of sundry adventures befalling Chevalier Raoul de Coubert, one time Captain in the Hussars of Languedoc, during the year 1763

Parrish, Randall
Chicago: McClurg 1905

See the biographical note for Parrish at his novel above.

A plain account of sundry adventures befalling Chevalier Raoul de Coubert, one time captain in the Hussars of Languedoc, during the year 1763, in which he gallantly draws his sword for France and his English lady-love in the stirring times of Pontiac’s conspiracy. Meeting with treachery from both white men and red, he takes desperate chances, escapes from his enemies and wins honor, wealth, and love. – Book Review Digest

When Wilderness was King: a Tale of the Illinois Country

Parrish, Randall
NY: Burt. 1905

“During the second war with England. Scene, Old Fort Dearborn (site of modern Chicago); main episode, the massacre of the garrison by Pottawottomies and Wyandotte Indians, acting as allies of Great Britain; historical characters, Captain Nathan Heald and his officers, Kinzie, frontier trader, Major Wells, and several Indian chiefs.” – Guide to Historical Fiction, 1914

See the biographical note on Parrish above. “Mr. Parrish writes with colour and spirit, and his ingenuity in devising new variations in adventure is admirable.” – The Book Review Digest

From Timber to Town: Down in Egypt

Perley, T. E.
Chicago: McClurg. 1891

No information about Mrs. T. E. Perley or any other works by her were found. From Timber to Town Down in Egypt was written in local dialect and for that reason can’t be read quickly, but is very entertaining.

Prisoner’s Dilemma

Powers, Richard
Beech Tree 1988       

“The present of the novel is late 1978. Edward Hobson’s recurring fainting spells have worsened, and two of his children—Artie, a 25-year-old law student, and Rachel, a 23-year-old actuary—have come home to DeKalb to see him, their mother, and two children still living at home, the just-divorced Lily and high school senior Eddie. During this weekend visit and a Christmas reunion in Chicago, the family tries to decide what to do about Edward’s health.” -New Repub
“Prisoner’s Dilemma is a paradigm for the nuclear game, the only door left ajar by Hobbes’s enlightened self-preservation, the dictates of right reason. Or, is Artie’s last oracular pronouncement on his father’s legacy the hard answer: ‘What we can’t bring about in no way releases us from what we must.’ We finish this novel, as we do all grand fiction, ready to figure on. Prisoner’s Dilemma is magnificent.” -Nation

Bolanyo; A Novel

Read, Opie Percival
Chicago: Way & Williams 1897

A Yankee from the West

Read, Opie Percival
Chicago: Rand, McNally 1898

The Shadow of Victory: A Romance of Fort Dearborn

Reed, Myrtle
NY: Knickerbocker 1903

A story of this frontier fort and the Indian wars; strongly anti-English and imbued with the Monroe doctrine.

Hardscrabble, or, the Fall of Chicago; A Tale of Indian Warfare

Richardson, John (Major)
NY: de Witt. 1856

Major John Richardson (1796-1852) was a Canadian who fought as a British soldier alongside Indian forces led by Tecumseh in the War of 1812. After leaving the army about 1818 he divided his time between England and Canada, publishing newspapers and writing a number of military adventure stories.

Wau-nan-gee, or, The Massacre at Chicago. A Romance of the American Revolution

Richardson Major
NY: Long and Brother 1852

See the biographical note on Richardson at his other novel, above.

See our many selected magazine and newspaper articles on both military and home-front aspects of World War II

When the World was Young

Romano, Tony
HarperCollins 2007       

A “novel about an immigrant family during the 1950s features Angela Rosa and Agostino Peccatori, who still long for the sight of the Apennine Hills ringing their Italian hometown. With five children, however, they have no time for self-indulgence. Angela Rosa is constantly cooking and cleaning, while Agostino puts in long hours running the family-owned corner tavern. Their oldest son, Santo, is longing for a girlfriend and a job that would give him some independence, while 16-year-old Victoria, feeling suffocated by her family’s strict rules, has begun to smoke and flirt with bad-boy Eddie Milano. But when their baby brother, Benito, succumbs to a high fever, the entire family seems to come apart, each nurturing a private grief.” -Publ Wkly
‘The complexities and mysteries Of familial bonds are brought into sharp, agonizing focus. . . Romano’s tale emerges into surprising and satisfying territory.” -Chicago Sun-Times

Person of Interest

Schwegel, Theresa
St. Martin’s 2007       

“Chicago PD detective Craig McHugh is deep into an undercover investigation of a deadly batch of heroin allegedly being peddled by the Fuxi Spiders, a powerful Chinese gang. Hoping to gain their trust, Craig burns through his department allowance and his own funds playing at a Fuxi card game. Meanwhile, Craig’s sullen teenage daughter, Ivy, is dragged home from a party by his police colleagues after being caught with ecstasy. Unaware of her husband’s undercover assignment, Craig’s wife, Leslie, is convinced he’s having an affair, and she soon begins flirting with Ivy’s handsome jazz-playing boyfriend.” -Publ Wkly
Schwegel “creates a portrait of a family in crisis, and her vivid characterizations — stressed husband, yearning wife, floundering daughter — lift the thriller plot of Person of Interest to literary-novel status.” -Entertainment Wkly

I Left My Back Door Open

Sinclair, April
Hyperion 1999       

“Gun-shy after several catastrophic relationships, Chicago deejay Daphne (Dee Dee) Dupree is an outwardly successful African-American woman aching for self-realization. Sassy from the safety of her broadcasting booth, the heavy-set 41 -year-old jauntily offers her weight as the cause of a recent breakup. In reality, Dee Dee struggles with the shame of being fat and bulimic. She yearns for mature love and the self-confidence she’s sure will accompany finding the right man.” Publ Wkly
“Many readers will respond to this novel’s honesty, to its colloquial humor and to its exacting exploration of Daphne’s relationship woes” -N Y Times Book Rev

The Jungle

Sinclair, Upton
Doubleday 1906       

“Jurgis Rudkus, an immigrant from Lithuania, arrives in Chicago with his father, his fiancée, and her family. He is determined to make a life for his bride in the new country. The deplorable conditions in the stockyards and the harrowing experiences of impoverished workers are vividly described by the author.” -Shapiro. Fic for Youth

Dynasty; A Novel of Chicago’s Industrial Evolution

Sklovsky, Max
Americana House 1958

The Lemon Jelly Cake

Smith, Madeline Babcock
Little 1952       

“A humorous, affectionate portrayal of family life in a small Illinois town at the turn of the century. The story revolves around two inquisitive eleven-year-old girls who take a personal interest in all neighborhood activities.” -Booklist

Racer of Illinois

Somerville, Henry (Mary Gay Humphreys)
NY: McClure, Phillips 1902

Mr. X

Straub, Peter
Random House 1999       

“From childhood, Ned Dunstan has experienced precognitive visions. Summoned home to Edgerton, Ill., by a premonition of his mother’s death on the eve of his 35th birthday, Ned finds himself implicated in a tangle of felonies and murders, all of which point to someone strenuously manipulating events to frame him. Digging into local history, he finds reason to believe that the mysterious father he never knew, or possibly a malignant doppelgänger, are pulling the strings. . . [Straub’s] evocative prose, a seamless splice of clipped hard-boiled banter and poetic reflection, contributes to the thick atmosphere of apprehension that makes this one of the most invigorating horror reads of the year.” Publ Wkly

The Throat

Straub, Peter
Signet 1994       

In this conclusion to the author’s trilogy “the citizens of Millhaven, Ill., thought they had overcome the unsolved serial murders that plagued the town in the 1940s – the killer had scrawled the words ‘Blue Rose’ near the bodies – but another resident has just fallen prey to a new Blue Rose. The victim’s husband, John Ransom, enlists the aid of Tim Underhill, a high school buddy and fellow Vietnam vet who has written a book about the murders. Although Tim thinks of his hometown as ‘oddly interchangeable’ with Vietnam. he returns to join forces with famed local sleuth Tom Pasmore to solve both the earlier and the later murders. Painted from a darkly colorful palette. Straub’s characters inhabit a razor-edged world of unremitting suspense.” Publ Wkly

See our collected books on Ships, Boats & Sailing

Ray Burton: A Chicago Tale

Train, M.
Chicago: 1895

1929

Turner, Frederick W.
Counterpoint 2003       

“A brilliant cornet player with an amazing ear, (Bix Beiderbeck] drank himself to death at the age of 28 with illegal Prohibition liquor. . . Turner offers a fictional take on Beiderbecke’s life, giving readers a . . picture of what life was like for jazz musicians in the years leading up to the Great Depression.” -Publ Wkly
‘ ‘Written in a period-appropriate overheated, romantic prose, and incorporating memorable appearances by Capone, Bing Crosby, Maurice Ravel, Paul Whiteman, and Clara Bow, the book is by turns corny, intoxicating, and ineffably sad, like the ‘hot’ music it is designed to evoke.” -New Yorker

Mary Wollaston

Webster, Henry Kitchell
Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill 1920

“Two emotional situations complicate this novel. One is the triangular relationship involving Mary, her father, and Paula, her beautiful stepmother. The other grows out of the fact that Mary, while engaged in war work in New York, has had a casual love affair with a young soldier bound for overseas. Once she tries to tell her brother, but he will not listen. Again she tries to tell her father, but he refuses to believe, thinking that Mary in her innocence doesn’t know what she is talking about. Finally she flings the truth in the face of young Graham Stannard, who in asking her to marry him, persists in treating her as a whited saint. The situation is saved by Anthony March, who listens to Mary’s story, understands it and loves her none the less for it. Anthony also resolves the difficulty in the other situation. Anthony is a composer of genius and Paula is an opera singer, and there is much musical talk in the story.”
“This will be pronounced immoral by some readers. The analysis of women’s thoughts and emotions is illuminating; a book that women rather than men will read.”
“This novel has both the faults and the merits of its subject-matter, which is a representative cross-section of American metropolitan life in the immediate wake of the great war.”
“The most interesting thing about ‘Mary Wollaston’ and the chief reason for reading it is that it is so accurately contemporary. The young generation seem to be frightening their elders in these days, and perhaps this novel will explain the fear without allaying it.”
– The Book Review Digest

The Russells in Chicago

Wheaton, Emily
Boston: Page 1901

Native Son

Wright, Richard
Harper & Brothers 1940       

Bigger Thomas is black. He is driven by anger, hate, and frustration, which are born out of the poverty that has dominated his life. When he gets a job with the Daltons, a white family, he is confused by their behavior and misinterprets their patronizing friendship. Tragedy follows when he accidentally kills Mary Dalton and escalates when Bigger murders his black girlfriend, Bessie.” -Shapiro. Fic for Youth

 

Of nearly 250 webpages of books and other resources at Century Past History,

over 90 pages are in the group History of the Great Lakes States.

 

You can find more works like these at our other History of the Great Lakes States ‘Fiction’ pages.

Great Lakes Fiction

Indiana Fiction

Michigan Fiction

Ohio Fiction

Wisconsin Fiction

We have 300 more works of fiction from the late 19th and early 20th centuries on our Century Past Free Online Library at the Fiction Directory.


Your comments and feedback are welcome!