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A Steady Hand on the Thriller Guides Author to Best-Sellerdom
Q&A with Shane Gericke
Literary License: What inspired you to switch from journalism
to writing novels?
Shane Gericke: After 25 years in the newspaper business, primarily
at the Chicago Sun-Times, I decided to give fiction a whirl.
I've wanted to write crime thrillers since I read my first
Hardy Boys, and I wrote a crime thriller. I was hooked! Where
else could I create my own world and populate it with characters
I wish I knew in real life? Then share it with thousands of
people around the world? And get paid? It's a kick.
LL: How difficult was it to get your first book published?
SG: It took forever. I spent years writing my first manuscript.
It went nowhere. More years working on No. 2. Again, nowhere.
The third time was the charm. A top literary agent was interested,
and he brought it to 12 big publishers. Eleven said nah, though
they spelled my name right. Hey, take the crumbs you get, and
gratefully! No. 12, Kensington Books, said, "We love this."
So we're off and running. The book became Blown Away,
appeared worldwide in May 2006, and became a national bestseller
with Chinese, Turkish and Slovak translations. The lesson I
learned: Keep trying, and accept rejection as part of the game.
The second in the series, Cut to the Bone, came out in
June 2007, and Kensington wants more.
LL: Cut to the Bone is set in Naperville, Ill., and
involved a wrongful execution. Naperville itself was the center
of perhaps the most controversial wrongful death penalty convictions
in Illinois history. (The Jeanine Nicarico kidnap-rape-murder.)
How did the reality of Illinois' death penalty record shape
SG: It had a strong influence. Illinois politics is breathtakingly
corrupt and small-minded, so frankly, how could we NOT put innocent
people on Death Row? Answer: We can't. Illinois has sprung
scores from the Row because DNA and other fresh evidence proved
they couldn't have committed the crime. That's why I wrote this
novel to show the crimes that politicians commit when
condemning a person to death, and the unrelenting headaches
that gives good cops trying to prevent it.
LL: What advice do you have for authors trying to get publicity
for their books?
SG: First, join Midland Authors. Seriously. You guys are aces
at promoting author members, and the newsletter is gold for
helping you create your own buzz. Second, cultivate every bookseller
and media person you can find. If they like you, they will help
you get out the word. Third, consider hiring a publicist. They
have contacts you couldn't get if you bribed the folks at Fort
Knox. It ain't cheap, but you get the critical exposure
you need to make your launch a success, and you convince your
publisher that you're serious about sales. Finally, join
local and national organizations, both professional and service-oriented.
Networking is just telling a buncha people your stories, and
listening to theirs. It's fun, and it boosts your sales
LL: What's your next project?
SG: I just signed a contract for No. 3 in the series. It will
be on the bookshelves in January, 2010. It's nice being
gainfully employed for another year! Meantime, I'm one
of the directors of ThrillerFest, the annual national convention
of thriller writers, readers, editors, publishers, agents and
other industry folks sponsored by International Thriller Writers
Inc. I run the ThrillerFest Charity Auctions and what we call
AgentFest, a speed-pitching event that allows hundreds of authors
to pitch their book ideas to 45 top New York literary agents.
That combination keeps me incredibly busy, but it's the
best kind of busy.
LL: If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
SG: Whoops, look at the time, gotta go, let's do lunch
real soon, thanks for everything!
Paul McComas' novel Planet of the Dates (2008,
Permanent Press) has just been optioned for a motion picture
by Hollywood producers Jason Koornik (Eye in the Sky Entertainment)
and Michael Henry. Koornik's credits include the 2007 science-fiction
action/thriller "Next" (starring Nicolas Cage). Henry's
credits include "The Best Man" (with Seth Green).
McComas also recently completed a nine-stop East Coast bookstore
tour and visited Midwest locations in May.
Dan Dinello wrote a chapter for a book published June
15 titled "The Wretched of New Caprica" for book called
Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy - Mission Accomplished or
Mission Frakked Up? . . . Chuck Masters, the Society's
new corresponding secretary, received an Illinois State Historical
Society book award for his book, Governor Henry Horner, Chicago
Politics and the Great Depression at the 2008 Annual Awards
Luncheon April 26 at the governor's mansion in Springfield.
"It was an absolutely wonderful event," Masters reported.
At 7 p.m. on June 24, Stephen Kinzer, a columnist for
The Guardian and a former New York Times foreign correspondent,
will be at Yoshi's Café, 3257 N. Halsted St., to
tell over conversation, drinks and/or dinner the story of Paul
Kagame, who grew up as a "wretched refugee" and went
on to become an ambitious head of state. The story is told in
Kinzer's new book A Thousand Hills: Rwanda's Rebirth
and the Man Who Dreamed It.
John Wasik's story for Bloomberg News, "It's
Not Just Money," was a finalist in the news bureau/wire
service/online category in this year's Peter Lisagor Awards
presented by the Chicago Headline Club.
Kristen Laine is an Indiana native and her book, American
Band, is about a marching band at an Indiana high school.
But that didn't stop American Band from recently receiving
the L.L. Winship/ PEN New England award for nonfiction. The
award is given for work with a New England topic or setting
or by a New England author. (Laine now lives in New Hampshire.)
The Winship awards were presented on March 30 at the John F.
Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston.
Kerry Trask and Sean Carroll are are among the
seven new fellows for 2008 named by the Madison-based Wisconsin
Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters.
Arnie Bernstein's book on the Bath School bombing
is finally finished and off to the publisher. He finished in
a flurry this spring "which is why no one has seen or heard
from me." Production is under way for a spring 2009 publication,
which means anywhere between January and June. SMA members Sam
Weller and Paula Kamen have graciously offered to
provide cover blurbs.
The next book by Roderick Townley, who was an SMA finalist
for children's fiction in 2007 and 2008, will be The
Blue Shoe, scheduled for 2009 publication by Knopf.
lain Rita Emmett's manuscript for her fourth book,
(working title: Manage Your Time to Reduce Your Stress), has
been accepted by Walker & Co., New York. If all goes well (and
every author knows that nothing ever goes wrong with the publishing
process) it will be in book stores by December.
On July 20, 2008 at the Topeka (Kan.) and Shawnee County Public
Library, Robert Collins, author of the SMA 2008 Biography
Award finalist Jim Lane: Scoundrel, Statesman, Kansan will
interact with Tim Rues, site curator of the Constitution Hall
State Historic Site at Lecompton, Kan., who will re-enact the
role of Lane. Also, Collins' new novel, Lisa's
Way has just been published as an e-book by eTreasures Publishing.
A print version will follow in four weeks.
SMA board member Jim Schwab, who has become the American
Planning Association's disaster policy expert and now is manager
of its Hazards Planning Research Center, will be on his way
to China and New Zealand this summer. He will head to China
soon to assist with earthquake reconstruction assessment, using
his disaster planning experience to help officials there avoid
big mistakes in the cleanup process that could complicate future
reconstruction. One month later, he'll head to New Zealand where
the Center for Advanced Engineering in New Zealand has invited
him for three weeks of speaking and consulting on disaster policy,
including issues connected with landslides. Jim notes that the
scenery in "Lord of the Rings," filmed on the South
Island, entailed significant natural hazards not only
landslides, but also volcanoes, seismic threats and floods.
Among other things, Jim will be speaking July 29 at the Second
Australasian Natural Hazards Management Conference in Wellington
on "Lessons from the 1993 Midwest Floods." Jim is
at the very beginning of undertaking a new book on that very
topic and just completed his first visit to Iowa May 9 to research
the history of that event. He's also "rethinking the
framework of the book" to include this year's floods.
Carol Felsenthal's latest book was the subject
of the "Chicago Lit" column in the May 18 Chicago
Sun-Times, which referred to Clinton in Exile: A President
Out of the White House (William Morrow) as "a juicy,
can't-put-down new book." And one of her posts about
Bill Clinton on huffington.com was reprinted in the June 4 Sun-Times.
Felsenthal also was scheduled to discuss her book with Jim Warren,
Chicago Tribune deputy managing editor/features, on June 8 at
Charles Wheelan, author of Naked Economics: Undressing
the Dismal Science, was scheduled to address the CFA Society
of Louisville on May 20 during a luncheon about what basic economics
can say about the future.
Nathan Kantrowitz was interviewed for an 8,000-word
mini-biography of the serial murderer William Heirens, "The
Long, Long Life of the Lipstick Killer," that appears in
the June issue of GQ magazine (p.176ff.). In the article, Heirens
mentions in passing just how safe it was to do time in Warden
Joseph Ragen's Stateville Penitentiary. Kantrowitz is author
of Close Control: Managing a Maximum Security Prison-The
Story of Ragen's Stateville Penitentiary (1996), which
details how Warden Ragen controlled the Stateville-Joliet prison
in the 1960s. "[Heirens' comment] is quite an independent
validation of the efficacy of Ragen's unique system of
control," Kantrowitz says. By coincidence, the Chicago
Historical Society this May made public details of the archive
of basic documents and field work notes that detail that control
and lives of Stateville convicts. Go to www.chsmedia.org:8081/,
click on "author/co-creator" and type in Nathan Kantrowitz
to see his contributions to the archive.
David Mendell's was the first title mentioned
in a June 6 Associated Press story on works about Sen. Barack
Obama planned for the summer and fall. Carla Cohen, co-owner
of the Politics & Prose bookstore, based in Washington, D.C.,
told AP "there has been interest in some previous books,
including David Mendell's Obama, a biography published
by HarperCollins last year and recently out in paperback."
Joel Greenberg received a grant last year from the
Illinois Humanities Council to put on a show with two musicians
based on material in his new book. "We call it Voices of
the Land." His Chicago appearance will be at Lincoln Park
Antioch (Ill.) Community High School's "one book,
one community" initiative this summer picked Scott Turow's
Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing
With the Death Penalty.
Martha Modena Vertreace-Doody, distinguished professor
of English and the poet-in-residence at Kennedy-King College
in Chicago, was scheduled to give a reading of her work June
16 at the annual meeting of the Governor Duncan Association
in Elgin, Ill.
Fran Baker is the best-selling author of 10 novels,
including The Lady and the Champ (1993, Doubleday/Bantam),
The Widow and the Wildcatter (1996, Bantam) and Once
a Warrior (1998, Delphi Books). Publishers Weekly said:
"Her descriptions of war, particularly the WWII battles,
are grimly honest."
Michelle Boisseau, author of the poetry books Trembling
Air and Understory, was born in Cincinnati and teaches
at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. In 1989 she received
a National Endowment for the Arts poetry fellowship, and in
1990 her first book of poems, No Private Life (Vanderbilt
University Press) was published. Understory (Northeastern
University Press), was chosen by Molly Peacock as the 1996 winner
of the Samuel French Morse Prize. Her poems have won the Lucille
Medwick Award, the Cecil Hemley Award, and were a finalist for
the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award; she has also received the
Stanley Hanks Poetry Chapbook Award and first prize in the National
Poetry Competition from the Chester H. Jones Foundation. Her
next book of poems, A Sunday in God-Years, will be out
in early 2009 from the University of Arkansas Press.
Ray E. Boomhower, author of "One Shot":
The World War II Photography of John A. Bushemi, is senior
editor of the Indiana Historical Society Press's quarterly
magazine Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History. He is also
author of The Sword & the Pen: A Life of Lew Wallace;
Robert F. Kennedy and the 1968 Indiana Primary; Gus Grissom:
The Lost Astronaut; The Soldier's Friend: A Life of Ernie Pyle;
and Fighting for Equality: A Life of May Wright Sewall.
Emily Calvo is author of How to Succeed in Advertising
When All You Have Is Talent (1994, National Textbook Co.);
25 Words or Less (relationships, 1998, Contemporary Books);
First Comes Love (humor, 2004, Publications International)
and Friends Wit, Wisdom and Fun (Publications International).
She was the 1999 and 2003 National Poetry Slam's marketing director
and works as a freelance writer, specializing in marketing.
She has performed her poetry at the Around the Coyote Arts Festival,
the Cook County Fair, the Green Mill and numerous other venues,
including civic events in France. She has been interviewed on
NPR regarding today's poetry scene and published in After
Hours and Roosevelt University's Oyez Review.
William Farina is author of Ulysses S. Grant 1861-1864:
His Rise from Obscurity to Military Greatness (2007, McFarland)
and De Vere as Shakespeare (2006). He was born and reared
in LaPorte, Ind., where he attended the public schools. He earned
a B.A. in English and philosophy, then a law degree, from Valparaiso
University, where he attended as an undergraduate student on
a baseball scholarship. Soon after, he made his home in the
Chicago area and became a member of the Illinois bar. Since
1979, he has enjoyed a successful career in the real estate
consulting industry. Bill and his wife, Marion Buckley, live
in Evanston, Ill. His third book, Perpetua of Carthage: Portrait
of a Third-Century Martyr will be published soon.
Patricia Kummer has written about 60 books, mostly
biography, history and geography for children and young adults.
She was born and raised in Minneapolis, has a B.A. and M.A.
in history and is a former middle school social studies and
language arts teacher. She also is a former social studies editor
at Laidlaw Brothers in River Forest, Ill. She was an elected
trustee on the Lisle (Ill.) Library District board from 1999
to 2007 and now teaches continuing education writing courses
at the College of DuPage.
Richard C. Longworth is a retired Tribune reporter
and a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
He is a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at DePaul University,
an adjunct professor of international relations at Northwestern
University and lectures regularly at Columbia University. He
is author of Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in
the Age of Globalism, just published by Bloomsbury, and
Global Squeeze: The Coming Crisis for First-World Nations.
Kevin Mattson is Connor Study Professor of Contemporary
History at Ohio University and a faculty associate at the Contemporary
History Institute. He is author of Upton Sinclair and the
Other American Century (2006), Intellectuals in Action:
The Origins of the New Left and Radical Liberalism, 1945-1970
(2002) and other books. He is a fellow at the Center for American
Steven Simoncic, who grew up in Detroit, is author
of Heat Wave (2008, Pegasus Players) and also a playwright
and adapter. He has a degree in finance from the University
of Michigan, an MFA in writing from North Carolina's Warren
Wilson College and an MLA degree (concentration in philosophy)
from the University of Chicago. His fiction has appeared in
New Millennium Writings, Drift Magazine, the Chicago Reader
and Spork, and his play "Broken Fences" will be produced
off Broadway in New York in April.
Ruth Spiro lives in Illinois with her husband and two
daughters, who provide endless inspiration for her writing.
She graduated with a B.S. in advertising from the University
of Illinois in 1986 and worked for advertising agencies in both
broadcast production and account management. In 1990 she earned
an MBA from Loyola University Chicago.
Her articles and essays have appeared in Child, Woman's
World, Redbook, FamilyFun and Chicago Parent. Her stories have
also been published in popular anthologies, notably The Right
Words at the Right Time, Volume 2: Your Turn, edited
by Marlo Thomas and several Chicken Soup for the Soul titles.
Her picture book, Lester Fizz: Bubble Gum Artist soon
to be published by Dutton was a winner in the Writer's
Digest 72nd Annual Writing Competition, and was named Best Contest
Entry in the Kay Snow Writing Contest sponsored by the Willamette
Writers in Oregon.
Victor R. Volkman is president of Loving Healing Press,
which has 60 titles in print and publishes 15 a year. He is
a former part-time instructor at Washtenaw (Mich.) Community
College and now serves on CIS Faculty Advisory Board. He also
is author of Beyond Trauma: Conversations on Traumatic Incident
Reduction, 2nd Edition and two other books. Modern History
Press, an imprint of Loving Healing Press, is republishing F.N.G.
by Donald Bodey (See New Books).
Longtime SMA member Mary Radmacher, former chief librarian
at the Skokie (Ill.) Library, died June 9 at St. Joseph Hospital
in Chicago at age 92.
Miss Radmacher, which is how her staff referred to her,
was born Nov. 24, 1915, in Monmouth, Ill. She attended Monmouth
College and graduated from the University of Illinois.
Her first job was as children's librarian for Warren
County in Monmouth.
She also worked at libraries at the University of Illinois
and Gary before taking over in Skokie.
As chief librarian from 1956 through 1985, Miss Radmacher
was a key player in the building of the village's new
library at 5215 Oakton St. She recruited a library board that
obtained funding, helped select an architect and provided
input on the building's interior and exterior design.
During her 29-year career at the Skokie Library, Miss Radmacher
also oversaw a major expansion of the building in 1972.
While Miss Radmacher was chief librarian, the Skokie Library
introduced bookmobile service, began automating the card catalog
and equipment and implemented staff training to help people
with vision impairments and other disabilities access library
When she retired, the Skokie Village Board named Sept. 29,
1985, Mary Radmacher Day in Skokie.
Private services were held in Monmouth. A public memorial
service will be held in the Mary Radmacher Meeting Room of
the Skokie Library at 1 p.m. on Sunday, July 13.
Richard "Tim" Unsworth, a longtime member
of the Society of Midland Authors and a former treasurer of
the Society, died April 30 at age 78 after a long illness.
Mr. Unsworth was the author of five books a sixth
coincidentally went to the printers on the day he died
and a longtime columnist for the National Catholic Reporter
who became the unofficial voice for liberal Chicago Catholics.
He was a frequent guest on Chicago television stations as
a commentator on Catholic issues.
His books included a biography of the late Cardinal Joseph
Bernardin of Chicago titled I Am Your Brother Joseph (1997);
The Lambs of Libertyville: A Working Community of Retarded
Adults, which Publishers Weekly called a "warmly
told, anecdotal story"; Catholics on the Edge,
(1995); a book about Catholic laity titled Here Comes Everybody,
and a series of portraits about activist priests titled The
Last Priests in America. Excerpts from that book ran in
the Chicago Tribune magazine.
"He had a wonderful sense of humor, and he took delight
in the church, the local church especially," said William
Kenneally, a retired Catholic priest and longtime friend.
"He had a stage to present that [through his column],
and his books were wonderfully written."
Mr. Unsworth's latest book, a collection of columns,
is titled, Tim Unsworth: Articles from the National Catholic
Reporter, said Gregory Pierce, president of ACTA Publications,
which is publishing it.
"He was never mean-spirited," Pierce said. "He
truly loved the Catholic Church, even though he was always
calling it to task, even though he was always wanting it to
The National Catholic Reporter said he was "known for
his wit and keen observation of how ordinary Catholics lived
their faith in the pews and the streets."
Mr. Unsworth, who was born in 1929 in Canton, Ohio, got
his start as a columnist when he wrote a seven-page letter
to Joseph Bernardin, as Bernardin was about to take over as
Chicago's archbishop. The letter, advising Bernardin
not to immerse himself only in the higher circles of Chicago,
but to ride buses, eat in everyday restaurants and get to
know average Chicagoans, was so charming that his wife, Jean,
sent a copy to the National Catholic Reporter. The newspaper
printed it on its front page and hired Mr. Unsworth as regular
contributor, a job he held for the next 24 years.
As a columnist and feature writer, "He wrote a lot
of stories about underdogs lay and clergy who
were doing good but perhaps not getting any credit, or in
fact maybe suffering for it," said SMA member Robert
McClory, professor emeritus at Northwestern University.
The son of a bakery superintendent, Mr. Unsworth attended
Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., and Fordham University
and obtained a master's degree in Spanish in Saltillo, Mexico.
He joined the religious order Christian Brothers of Ireland,
and in 1967 was named principal of Brother Rice High School,
10001 S. Pulaski.
He left the order and in 1970 married Jean Morman Unsworth,
a former member of the Sisters of Mercy, whom he had visited
after she suffered a serious accident. He led the alumni and
development offices of DePaul University from 1970 to 1979,
the University of Chicago for about a year and the former
Northwestern University Dental School from 1981 to 1987.
After hip replacement surgery in September 2006, Mr. Unsworth
suffered a massive infection and never regained his health.
He died of heart failure.
Jean Unsworth, a retired Loyola University professor of
fine arts, said their years together were wonderful, punctuated
by frequent trips abroad and buoyed by Mr. Unsworth's unremitting
sense of humor.
Mr. Unsworth also is survived by a brother, Robert Unsworth,
and several nieces and nephews.
A memorial service followed by a dinner was held May 25
at St. Clements Church.
Elsie Ziegler, author of three historically based books
for young adults and a longtime member of the Society of Midland
Authors, died May 23 in San Marcos, Calif., at age 97.
A winner of several writing awards, Ms. Ziegler also wrote
freelance articles for the Chicago Daily News and other publications.
Her 1961 book Light a Little Lamp told the fictional
story of a young girl whose heroism during the Chicago fire
started her on a career as a social worker. Her novels The
Blowing-Wand (about glass blowing) and Face in the
Stone (about stonecutting) dealt with immigrants and the
trades they brought to America in the 19th century. She also
published stories in Every Woman magazine, Judy's magazine,
Extension magazine, the Toronto Star, Writer's Digest and
the Farm Journal.
Born Elsie Mary Reif on Nov. 15, 1910, Ms. Ziegler attended
Stowe Elementary School in Chicago. She attended high school
first at Tuley High School (since replaced by Clemente High
School) in Chicago and then Oak Park and River Forest High
School in Oak Park, Ill. As a senior, she wrote a story titled
"The Green Velvet Hat," which won the school's short
story contest. Her essay "Who am I?" was one of
six nationwide winners in an Atlantic Monthly contest for
high school seniors and was published in a supplement to the
She studied journalism at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign, where she won a contest by the Gregorian
Literary Society with a story titled "Strange Interloper."
After marrying Norman A. Ziegler, she moved to Park Ridge,
Ill., and then Barrington, Ill., before moving to San Diego
in 1979. She is survived by her three children, Peter Ziegler,
the actress Karen Black (who won an Academy Award nomination
for her role in "Five Easy Pieces") and Gail Duggan,
seven grandchildren and two great-grandsons.
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