Matt Drew Firefighter and author. (DNAinfo.com)
The Devil in White City the Chicago history we usually get in WTTW specials was made sexy and marketable by posting the core narrative with a sex criminal. The historical packaging was pretty much standard Studs Terkel approved history. That best-selling book is being made into a film.
Chicago Fireman and writer Matthew Drew writes a Chicago saga worthy of Cinerama at the Old Michael Theatre on Dearborn. Within the acute angles of his three subjects, Charlie Comiskey, Big Jim Horan and Mayor Fred Busse, swirl events and personalities with real Chicago spark. No agenda stuffed frauds - Shoeless Joe Jackson was a working-class hero who only stuffed his bibs with Hundos, because the Old Roman was a cheapskate - the Studs Terkel meme.
A few years back serious Chicago scholars like former Fire Commissioner Jim Joyce and former DEA agent Rick Barrett snapped knuckles on the noggins of dozing Chicago's smart set with events, books and press opportunities focused on the valor of Chicago first respond-ers with interest in horrific Stockyard Fire of 1910 and the murder of Police Constable Jeremiah Sullivan. Scholarship on Chicago's actual history seems to be best found in the hands of working men, like Barrett and Joyce. Pretend history is handled very nicely by politicians political columnists and academics - Jane Addams invented the eight hour day, the Baby Ruth candy bar and the can-can.
This summer another working class scholar, Matt Drew published Shadows of Chicago: The True Story of Three Men and the Crimes That Shocked America. Matthew Drew is a Chicago firefighter who teaches firefighting tactics at University of Illinois. The book looks at the lives of three men, a baseball player-mogul.a fireman and a mayor.
The sweep and force of the book comes from the cast of personalities who weave through the lives of these interesting men - Dever, Powers, Powderly, Swift, Capone, Rothstein, Cobb, Harrison, Armour, Dunne, and Buck Weaver. One character that sparks a fire in my little brain-pan was fireman Albert Moriarty ( pp.131-32) the brother of professional baseball players George and William. George, Matt Drew tells his reader, played for Ty Cobb's Detroit Tigers.
George Moriarty is the grandfather of my pal the famed actor, composer, musician and writer Michael Moriarty.
Every Chicago reader, unencumbered by historical miasma that fogs our fabricated Chicago history, will find a connection like the one that I mentioned and breath in fresh ideas. Real history, from Herodatus to Drew, manages to do just that.
Here is fine review of Matthew Drew's fine book.