Reviews and Articles

Selected writings:

“Jack Fredrickson offers another smart mystery in ‘The Black Cage’” Originally published in the Chicago Tribune, Feb. 11, 2020.

“If most crime novels cut sharp, crooked paths to their resolution, this one moves slowly, as if finding its way through a fog. There are no sudden breakthroughs to provide excitement; revelations arrive via the local line, not the express.”

“Purgatory Bay: Bryan Gruley’s Back with More Grim Tales of Michiana. A review. Originally published in the Chicago Tribune, Jan. 28, 2019.

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“Even by Gruley’s irrepressible standards, Purgatory Bay is pretty loopy – a monster movie dressed up as crime fiction.”

Writing is Strong in Peter Orner’s New Story Collection, ‘Maggie Brown & Others’. A review. Originally published in the Chicago Tribune, Aug. 15, 2019.

“These stories, which are frequently as short as a few lines or paragraphs, never seem confined to the pages on which they appear. Though set in different eras, going back to the ’60s, as well as different time zones, they float over and under each other, their recurring characters cutting across time and space.”

‘The Border’: Don Winslow continues his timely, if brutal, ‘Power of the Dog’ series. A review. Originally published in the Chicago Tribune, Feb. 28, 2019.

“Thanks in part to its biting humor, the pages keep turning. The Al Pacino of ‘Scarface’ seems to have been supplanted as a role model for certain narcos by the Al Pacino of ‘The Godfather.’ Upon hearing that two cartels are going to go after each other, Keller thinks of ‘Groundhog Day.’ One faceless massacre gives way to another. The names and places change, but the outcomes all look alike.”

Interesting Things: Jason Isbell’s Slide Into Critical Acclaim. Originally published in Fretboard Journal, Number 41, 2018.

“I learned so much from [Jack Pearson]. He never plays out of boxes or positions. He plays like the kitchen floor caught on fire. He just fired out. He could play anything that popped into his head. I want that kind of fire.”

In New Memoir, Jeff Tweedy Ruminates on Lessons Learned as Songwriter and Family Man. A review. Originally published in the Chicago Tribune, Nov. 14, 2018.

“To sometimes ingratiating effect, he acts as though ‘Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back)’ — a pet expression of his father’s — is being written as it is being read. “I need strings that sound like me, a doom-dabbling, fifty-year-old, borderline misanthrope, nap enthusiast,” he writes, before, as he often does, telling the reader that’s not quite what he meant.”

Crime Fiction to Heat Up Your Summer Reading List. A roundup including capsule reviews of Megan Abbott, Michael Koryta and Val McDermid. Originally published in Chicago Tribune, May 21, 2018.

Walter Mosley’s Latest Novel: All the More Relevant in Black Lives Matter Era. Originally published in the Chicago Tribune, Feb. 26, 2018.

“One of the remarkable things about this novel is how soft-spoken and reflective protagonist King remains in recalling the worst moments of his life, employing humor to deflect the pain. His refusal to engage in bitterness — even when he shoots someone — is a reflection of the strength he has gained from his travails and his determination to define himself not as a ‘broken’ victim, but as a survivor.”

Streaming Now: If You Like ‘Closer,’ or ‘Homeland,’ Try These Series. A roundup including short reviews of “The Bureau,” “Vera” and “In the Dark.” Originally published in Chicago Tribune, Aug. 22, 2017.

Capturing Notes in Words – The Books That Shaped the Music Critic. Originally published on the UK’s Books Combined site, early 2017.

Bill Evans, Another Time: The Hilversum Concert. Lead review. Originally published in JazzTimes, Sept. 7, 2017.

Crime Fiction Can Make for Great TV – Or Sometimes They Get Iced. Originally published in the Chicago Tribune, April 21, 2016.

Jazz vocalist Gregory Porter: A singer who can be both cool and warm has a hot career. A profile. Originally published in the Washington Post, February 28, 2014.

Caffeine 911, Part I. Hangry for coffee at my shrink’s funeral. From my erstwhile blog jazzespress.

‘The Martini Shot’ by George Pelecanos. A review. Originally published in the Chicago Tribune, Dec. 31. 2014

When the Song Does Not Remain the Same. Reflections on 9/11. Originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Sept. 23, 2011.

Joe Henry: Connoisseur’s Blend. Profile. Originally published in DownBeat, February 2010.

Suffering for Cappuccino. Originally published in Huffington Post, February 27, 2009.

The Shaping of Ozarks: Jazz great Charlie Haden’s music spans the American century, from his parents’ country radio show to Ornette Coleman’s harmolodic improvisations, and back. Originally published in No Depression (The Bookazine) #78 Fall 2009.

Howard Jacobson, Kalooki Nights. Originally published in the Common Review, Vol. 6, 2006.

Kalooki Nights is no mere Jewish novel. It is a capital-J Jewish novel, a Jew-squared novel, a J-E-W novel that may play to the Philip Roth crowd. . . . But in locking himself in a haunted house of Jewish identity. . . Jacobson is even more of a provocateur than Roth, and more willing to risk being hoisted on the petard of his own excess.

Rosanne Cash: The LongJourney Home.Cover story originally published in No Depression, February 28, 2003, and included in The Best of No Depression: Writing About American Music, published by University of Texas Press, 2005.


John Prine: To Believe in this Living. Cover story originally published in No Depression, April 30, 2005.

Vengeance as We Know It Takes a Holiday. Reflections on Clint, from “Dirty Harry” to “Mystic River.” Originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 19, 2003.

Tales from a Wild Man. A feature on Ginger Baker. Originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times, April 22, 1999.

Windy City Forecast: Cool but Not Mild. A dual profile of Kurt Elling and Patricia Barber. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times, August 15, 1999.

Nathan Zuckerman’s Alter Ego Speaks Out. A review of The Facts by Philip Roth. Originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times, August 28, 1988.

Haunting Refrains: Sad Truths from Dylan and Holiday. Lady in Satin Meets Time Out of Mind. Originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 26, 1997.

White Bread, Hold the Mustard: Has Jewish Humor Lost its Bite? Beginning with: “When you think of modern Jewish humor, you think of lives of the craziest parties: Sid Caesar hulking clownishly over piddling reality on “Your Shows of Shows”; Mel Brooks cutting raunchy trails in “Blazing Saddles”; Woody Allen dreading the end of the universe and hearing “Jew!” in every “Did you . . .” in “Annie Hall” . . .You think of tumult and risk, outspokenness and revelation – of what Joys of Yiddish author Leo Rosten called “liberating lunacy.” Originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times, March 1, 1992.

Mailer: He’s ‘Not Finished Yet’ – New Epic, Like his Long Career, is to be Continued. Originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Oct. 30, 1991.

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