Tell us a little about your book.
The book revolves around reporter Charley Hubbs, a die-hard Cubs fan who has landed in Wrigleyville after leaving behind a mysterious past in California. While trying to start a new life in Chicago, he becomes embroiled in a murder mystery. When he is charged with killing his flamboyant neighbor, he enlists the aid of a seductive, whip-smart bartender in a daring courthouse escape. From that point on, Charley finds himself caught in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse through the streets of Wrigleyville. I can’t tell you much more than that without spoiling the ending.
This is a mystery set in Chicago that revolves around Wrigley Field - how did you first get the idea to write a baseball-focused mystery?
Well, there’s the adage “Write what you know,” and, unfortunately, I know a lot of pain and suffering from being a die-hard Cubs fan. When I first started writing the book, I was living in Wrigleyville, so I was pretty much living and breathing the ballpark and the neighborhood that surrounds it. The book is a thriller but I also wanted to make it fun. I actually wrote the book with the idea that it would follow the heart of a Cubs fan, using the protagonist, Charley Hubbs, as the thematic heart. So in some ways, if you are a Cubs fan, you know what to expect. There is futility and there is hope, and I lighten the story with all of those Cubs-related anecdotes and trivialities. There is a character wearing the costume of a black cat. There are references to the curse of the billy goat and to the infamous trade of Brock-for-Broglio. If you are a true Cubs fan and you pay close enough attention, there is a big clue that will tip you off as to the identity of the killer. Hopefully the book is entertaining for those who are not Cubs fans too, but it should be especially fun for those who are Cubs fans.
What inspired the story?
In the mid-1990's, when Lost is set, I was living in a studio apartment that is basically the studio apartment that the protagonist Charley Hubbs has stumbled into at the onset of the story. Like the apartment in the book, my studio bordered Wrigleyville and Boys Town, two very different neighborhoods living, somewhat uncomfortably, next to each other. While I was living on the border of these two divergent neighborhoods, there had been a spate of hate crimes - or gay bashing incidents - against gay men in Boys Town. Against that backdrop, a neighbor of mine died in his apartment. Initially, there had been rumors that he had been killed. Then the story was that he had committed suicide. Eventually the story became that he had died of a drug overdose. I knew very little of this neighbor other than that he was gay and threw some pretty wild parties - at least they were wild in my imagination, as I had only overheard them through the thin apartment walls. After moving out of that apartment, my neighbor's death kept gnawing at me. My overactive imagination got me wondering about other scenarios. What if he really had been murdered? And what if signs began to point to his quiet, unassuming, new neighbor as a suspect in his murder? With those thoughts in mind, the seed was planted for what would become Lost in the Ivy.
What inspired the title?
The title of this book derives from a quirk of Wrigley Field’s ivy-covered wall. On rare occasions, a baseball gets stuck or lost in the ivy. In such a case, the outfielder is supposed to throw up his arms as a signal to the umpire that the baseball can’t be recovered. If the umpire accepts the outfielder’s posi¬tion, it becomes an automatic ground-rule double.
The book’s title serves as a double entendre. The protagonist has lost his identity and is desperate to get it back.
This is a revised edition of a book that was originally released in 2005. Why did you re-issue the book?
Let me count the reasons...
The No. 1 reason is that the original version of Lost in the Ivy is dead. It is out of print and is only available through resellers. Last I checked, you can find 27 new and used copies on Amazon, prices ranging range from 39 cents (plus $3.99 shipping) to $188.70 (no, that isn’t a misprint). No book should die. If someone out there in the world wants to read it, they should be able to find it – and not just in a resale shop.
The No. 2 reason is that the publishing landscape has changed dramatically since I originally published Lost in the Ivy in 2005. The Kindle had not yet been introduced to the world, and ebooks existed in only rudimentary form. I saw this evolution occurring, and even became the first to donate a free ebook to what was then Chicago’s Underground Library. The beauty of ebooks is that they don’t ever have to die. All books should be able to live forever as ebooks. By reissuing Lost in the Ivy, I’m giving it that chance at timelessness it never had. Eckhartz, by the way, will be releasing Lost in ebook format in early summer.
The No. 3 reason is that while I still like the original version, I don’t love it. I’ve grown a lot as a writer since it was issued, or at least I would like to think I have. I also made many naïve rookie mistakes in terms of my publishing choices that first at bat. By reissuing it, I am able to correct all those missteps.
The No. 4 reason is that there was an opportunity. Eckhartz Press, the publisher of my last novel, Cheeseland, expressed an interest in it. That this season happened to be the 100th birthday of Wrigley Field seemed like kismet, that this was meant to be at this time.
In conclusion, I’m not reissuing this for those who read and enjoyed the original version. I certainly appreciate their support and would obviously love it if they did pick up the new edition and shared it with their own circles of friends and families. But I don’t really expect them to buy it and read it all over again. I’m reissuing it for those who haven’t read it, and not just for those living today but for my son’s children and their children. I also am reissuing it for myself. We don’t always get second chances, and this was my second chance, to issue the book the way that I want it to be and to live on for eternity.
How is the new edition different from the original? How much has been changed?
The answer is a little and a lot. The basic elements of the story and the characters remain the same but the structure is different, new chapters with new intrigue have been added to it, I’ve tried to give more depth to the relationship of the main characters, and I’ve tightened the writing so that it hopefully reads better.