As way of introduction my name is Mike. I've been a reader of this fine blog from its inception and Shuttsie was kind enough to ask me for a humble weekly contribution. So here we go.
We'll start with one of my all-time favorites, the Studs Lonigan trilogy. James Farrell (1904-1979) is one of many Chicago authors who is now all but forgotten from the modern consciousness. If this town was true to its history and its artists Farrell would be taught in every high school in the city. But his stuff can be a little tough to swallow so to not be controversial the kids get John Knowles instead.
Anyway the Lonigan books are the signature works of Farrell's career. They describe the childhood of the character Studs Lonigan, an Irish-American youth on the south side of Chicago over a 14 year period ending during the Great Depression. Studs is such a sympathetic character to me probably because he reminds me of many kids I knew growing up. Sadly he reminds me of myself as a teenager as well. Farrell has the inner monologue of messed up teenager down pat. Its also a look at a city in a much different point in its history. I agree wholeheartedly with the review posted on Amazon regarding some of books' disturbing content. However its this content that gives the books and its characters such sad authenticity. So anyway give it a look if you have any interest in Chicago social history. It is fiction, but it is set in Farrell's neighborhood and populated by characters drawn from his own childhood. If you really like it you can move on to Farrell's five "Danny O'Neil" novels, set in the same time and place but based on his own life.