Michael Hainey, author of After Visiting Friends, makes appearances in Chicago | Bleader

Michael Hainey, author of After Visiting Friends, makes appearances in Chicago

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Michael Hainey
The column I recently wrote about Michael Hainey's new book, After Visiting Friends, ran three weeks before Hainey was due to Chicago to promote it, and therefore—in the view of his Scribner publicist—two weeks too soon. When the time comes, I'll get back to the book on my blog, I told her.

Here I am. Hainey's father was 35 and the night copy desk chief of the Sun-Times when he died suddenly and mysteriously in the spring of 1970; Mike Hainey, who was six years old then, grounds his book in his quest to learn what really happened. I joined the Sun-Times about six weeks later, and because I've always known what Mike Hainey wanted so badly to find out, and because I remember everyone from the paper whom he tried to find out from, I finished his book feeling not just moved but proprietary. I wanted to introduce After Visiting Friends to Chicago. And if I could write intelligently but not reveal the mystery—well, I'd set an example.

Articles about the book that I've read since have followed suit. That includes Janet Maslin's New York Times review last week, which wisely raises the possibility that Mike Hainey was in no big hurry to get to the bottom of his mystery because it was so gratifying to explore it. "Mr. Hainey's parents met when both worked at The Chicago Tribune in 1957," Maslin writes. "His mother, Barbara, who wore pointy bras that won her the nickname 'queen of the Maidenform Mafia,' had been there five years by the time Bob arrived. Theirs was the world of 'crusty old guys with cigarettes singed to their lips and half-drained bottles rattling in their desk drawers.' Maybe that doesn’t sound like a romantic atmosphere, but After Visiting Friends is full of love for the lost world of nocturnal newspaper work and after-hours boozing."

It sure is—and by "after hours," think 2 AM. I'm wondering if Mike Hainey (he's deputy editor of GQ) can make his Chicago stops this week, read from his book and discuss it, and not give away too much. He's here to sell books, after all. But if he slips, his audience should understand that there is much more to After Visiting Friends than its uncovered facts. In search of the father he never really knew, Mike Hainey re-creates that "lost world" Bob Hainey lived in as it reconstructs the last hours of his life. Skeleton night staffs still knock off work at the dailies after the rest of the city is in bed—but not, I fear, with the same swagger. Back then they felt they owned Chicago's empty streets—they were its dark knights.

Mike Hainey has appearances tonight at 6 PM at the Harold Washington Library, tomorrow at 7 PM at the Book Stall in Winnetka, Wednesday at 7:30 PM (joined by his mother, Barbara) at Women & Children First, Thursday at 7 PM at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, and Friday at 7 PM at the Lake Forest Book Store.

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