Monroe, Steve 1961-
MONROE, Steve 1961-
PERSONAL: Born 1961.
ADDRESSES: Home—Chicago, IL. Agent—c/o Publicity Director, Hyperion Books, 77 West 66th St., 11th Floor, New York, NY 10023.
CAREER: Author. Grubb & Ellis, Chicago, real estate broker. Former newspaper reporter.
'57, Chicago (novel), Talk Miramax Books/Hyperion (New York, NY), 2001.
'46, Chicago (novel), Talk Miramax Books/Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.
SIDELIGHTS: Unlike writers who toil for years before obtaining financial security, Chicago-based Steve Monroe succeeded almost immediately after publishing his debut novel, '57, Chicago. Monroe wrote the book while working as a real estate broker, finishing it after three years. Talk Miramax Books accepted it for publication and also bought screenplay rights, with plans of making Monroe's story into a motion picture.
According to critic Richard Wallace in the San Francisco Chronicle, '57, Chicago is "a throwback novel" in which Monroe "pays dubious homage to the pulp noir thrillers of yesteryear." The fictional tale is set in the world of bookies and gambling in 1957 Chicago. Once a gambler himself, Monroe explained in an interview with New City Chicago.com that he wrote the book in his spare time because he wanted to "put a bookie through the hell that I've been through." In fact, many of the characters in Monroe's book are bookies, including Al Kelley, who plays a significant role. Kelley is an honest bookie whose ethics are tested after he loses big money on an NCAA basketball game. In an attempt to win some of his money back, Kelley gets involved in the betting on a heavyweight boxing match between Junior "the Hammer" Hamilton and "Tomcat" Gordon, two other main characters in the novel. Hamilton, who is black and an up-andcoming fighter, is trained by an ex-con named Eddie "The Lip" Lipranski, who promotes the match in an attempt to jump-start his career. Lipranski thinks Hamilton can beat Gordon, who is white and the local heavyweight contender. However, a number of local bookies, including Kelley, want to fix the fight so that Gordon wins. Although Lipranski and Hamilton initially refuse to go along with the plan, they are ultimately corrupted by the lure of money.
Monroe created a number of secondary characters, including mobsters, boxing commissioners, Lipranski's sexy girlfriend, and a wheelchair-bound police detective named Jack who uses the fixed fight as a way to nab a mob chief he has been trying to catch for a long time. A number of subplots surround the match, and the story comes to a climax with an unexpected plot twist when the fighters step into the ring.
A number of critics lauded 157 Chicago, including Jerry Gladman of the Toronto Sun, who felt that Monroe manages "to cook up enough of a plot twist" to take "this crackling first effort to a higher plain." Gladman, in fact, was one of the critics who felt Monroe was able to draw an authentic picture of 1957 Chicago. The book "resonates with authentic dialogue" and has "very believable characters," according to Gladman. "Monroe does a credible job of capturing the gritty feel of 1957 Chicago's seamier side," wrote a contributor for Publishers Weekly. Bill Ott, who reviewed the book for Booklist, felt that the author had filled the story with "fascinating detail on how to run a sports book." In addition, Ott commended Monroe's dialogue, which he felt "crackles with authenticity." Even critics who found fault with Monroe's novel had kind words for its ability to entertain readers. "Despite its shortcomings, '57, Chicago offers brisk and undemanding entertainment," Mahinder Kingra wrote in a review for the Baltimore City Paper.
Monroe's second novel, '46, Chicago, was published in 2002 and revolves around the "policy rackets, an illegal numbers game."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, February 15, 2001, Bill Ott, review of '57, Chicago, p. 1119.
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2001, review of '57, Chicago, p. 135.
New York Times, July 29, 2001, Tom Beer, review of '57, Chicago.
Publishers Weekly, March 12, 2001, review of '57, Chicago, p. 63.
San Francisco Chronicle, April 29, 2001, Richard Wallace, review of '57, Chicago, p. 83.
Toronto Sun, July 24, 2001, Jerry Gladman, "Thriller Delivers Knockout Punch."
Baltimore City Paper Online,http://www.citypaper.com/ (August 31, 2001), Mahinder Kingra, review of '57, Chicago.
Newcity Chicago,http://www.newcitychicago.com/ (August 31, 2001), "Street Smart Chicago: Lit 50: Who Really Books in Chicago."
Powels.com,http://www.powels.com/ (August 31, 2001), Adrienne Miller, review of '57, Chicago.*