Thursday, December 30, 2010



So far, my two books, The Chairman, A Novel of Big City Politics and its sequel, The Chairman’s Challenge, A Continuing Novel of Big City Politics, have attracted a wide variety of readers, from those who are hard core Chicago politics enthusiasts to those from out of town who want to learn more about the politics of our town to those who care not a whit about politics but enjoy a good story well told. I am grateful for all my readers and am delighted that the books appeal to an audience with a wide range of interests.

Those readers who have strong backgrounds in the politics of the world’s most interesting political town have told me that, as they read the books, they enjoyed trying to determine who the fictional characters in the books are intended to represent. As I have said before, most saliently perhaps in my 10/16/10 post, ED VRDOLYAK, MEET EAMON DEVALERA COLLINS, while this exercise is engaging, even stimulating, it is ultimately futile because there is no character in either book who is a fictionalized version of one real person. All my characters, even those few who, on the surface, might seem transparent depictions of actual live people, are amalgams of real actors, incorporating characteristics, positive and negative, from ranges of the denizens of the politics of my home town.

Note that the characters in the Chairman series, though, are amalgams of current or past characters. Though I am a good writer and an avid observer of the local political scene, I don’t give myself credit for being able to predict the future, or at least not with any degree of accuracy. However, readers may ascribe to me such powers of prescience if Rahm Emanuel fulfills the fervent hopes of the local and national media and becomes mayor of Chicago. Why? Note that in my 12/23/10 post “…AH, MERCY, MERCY ME, AH, THINGS AREN’T WHAT THEY USED TO BE…”, I referred to Mr. Emanuel as “…the epitome and standard-bearer of the ‘I know everything because I just moved to town from the North Shore’ vote.” Those of you who have read the first book know that description matches Tom Dempsey to a tee, except that Mr. Dempsey had spent more time in town than Mr. Emanuel before rising to prominence in the city’s political power structure.

So is Rahm Emanuel Tom Dempsey? Of course not; The Chairman was written long before Mr. Emanuel made even the faintest of noises regarding his desire to run for mayor and, again, even if that had not been the case, all characters in my books are fictional and none is based on only one living person. But the resemblance of Mr. Emanuel to Mr. Dempsey is uncanny, even to Mr. Dempsey’s creator.

The more interesting question is whether Mr. Emanuel will meet Mr. Dempsey’s fate, broadly speaking. First, of course, Mr. Emanuel will have to become mayor. Though this outcome is far more probable than I had once thought (See, inter alia, my 9/7/10 piece, “LONG LIVE THE KING!”), it is not, despite the fervent and breathless cheerleading described as “observation” and “commentary” among the local and national media and the backing of the Daley family, anything approaching a foregone conclusion; don’t believe everything you read. Second, the guys who run the strong ward organizations in this town would have to have a few aces remaining up their sleeves, even after having been defeated or dealt into emasculation by the Emanuel forces, to be able to do to Mr. Emanuel what Chairman Eamon DeValera Collins did to Tom Dempsey. While the ward guys aren’t what they used to be, they still have a great deal of influence in this town, as evidenced by the landslide election of Joe Berrios to the Assessor’s office (See, inter alia, my 11/2/10 piece, SAY IT’S SO, JOE.), and Mr. Emanuel matches Mr. Dempsey in hubris, ego, certitude, and ingenuousness, the last at least about the politics of this town. Consequently, if Mr. Emanuel does become mayor, The Chairman, A Novel of Big City Politics, may turn out to be more than insightful, informative, and entertaining; it might turn out to be prophetic.

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