Raleigh, Michael 1947–
Raleigh, Michael 1947–
PERSONAL: Born April 8, 1947, in Chicago, IL; son of Bernard J. (a store manager) and Mary T. (a cashier; maiden name, McHugh) Raleigh; married Katherine Ann Powell (a teacher and homemaker), March 21, 1981; children: Sean, Peter, Caitlin. Education: De Paul University, A.B., 1969; Michigan State University, M.A., 1971. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Roman Catholic.
ADDRESSES: Home—1415 W. Addison, Chicago, IL 60613. Office—Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave., Chicago, IL 60640. Agent—Jane Jordan Browne, Multimedia Product Development, Inc., 410 S. Michigan Ave., Room 724, Chicago, IL 60605. E-mail—[email protected].
CAREER: Truman Community College, Chicago, IL, instructor in English, 1980–; part-time English teacher at De Paul University and Roosevelt University. Has worked variously as a bank teller, a librarian, a clerk, a microfiche camera operator, a charity fund raiser, a bartender, and a program manager for a federally funded social service agency.
MEMBER: International PEN, Mystery Writers of America, Private Eye Writers of America.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fellow of Illinois Arts Council, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1989.
"PAUL WHELAN" MYSTERIES
Death in Uptown, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1991.
A Body in Belmont Harbor, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1993.
The Maxwell Street Blues, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1994.
Killer on Argyle Street, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1995.
The Riverview Murders, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1997.
In the Castle of the Flynns (novel), Sourcebooks Landmark (Naperville, IL), 2002.
The Blue Moon Circus (novel), Sourcebooks Landmark (Naperville, IL), 2003.
Contributor of poems and stories to magazines.
SIDELIGHTS: Michael Raleigh's hard-boiled detective character Paul Whelan dogs murderers in Chicago. A critic for Publishers Weekly described Whelan as "a grungy, moral and pleasingly anachronistic shamus working the ethnically diverse, economically bruised neighborhoods of Chicago's Uptown district." Whelan's adventures contain, wrote Wes Lukowsky in Booklist, "an agreeably low-key protagonist; plenty of vivid Chicago atmosphere; and a well-rounded portrayal of mean streets and the often very decent people forced to inhabit them."
In The Maxwell Street Blues, Whelan is called in when a street vendor goes missing. When the missing man is found shot dead, and other vendors start dying as well, Whelan must track down a killer who has vengeance in mind. Marilyn Stasio in the New York Times Book Review noted that Whelan "manages to conduct a very thorough investigation by winning over grumpy bartenders, crabby waitresses and wary old men on benches. He likes these people—and that's good enough reason to like him."
Killer on Argyle Street involves a missing teenaged boy whose petty criminal friends have turned up dead. Whelan is brought in to find the missing boy, and soon finds himself in the middle of a violent family blood feud. "Raleigh has a thing for losers," Stasio remarked, "characterizing them with compassionate care that spills over into his affectionate studies of bartenders, waitresses, and the owners of a slew of delis, bodegas and restaurants…. Although this walk-and-talk book is awfully light on action, there's lots of life on these streets and plenty of curb traffic."
When an elderly man is murdered in The Riverview Murders, Whelan is hired to locate the man's business partner, who went missing some thirty years before. The Publishers Weekly critic maintained that "Raleigh's latest tale demonstrates his knack for fashioning living, breathing characters out of his tough urban settings." Lukowsky found the novel to be a "riveting private-eye yarn" and "a solid entry in an underappreciated, carefully crafted series."
In 2002, Raleigh branched out from his Whelan mysteries to publish In the Castle of the Flynns, a fictional memoir that tells the story of Danny Dorsey, an eleven-year-old boy whose parents are killed in a car crash. When asked in an interview posted at the Sourcebooks Web site if the characters in the novel were based on his own family, Raleigh explained that the novel is "largely a fictional story wrapped around actual incidents and family legends." After his parents' death, Danny goes to live with his eccentric, extended family, and begins to discover his family and their Irish Catholic heritage. According to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, this book is "an engrossing tale that … is filled with fine writing and compassion."
Raleigh's next book, The Blue Moon Circus, focuses on Lewis Tully, a down-on-his-luck former circus manager who reenters the circus world when he gathers a peculiar band of misfits and sets off to reestablish his show. Tully has also recently gained custody of a nine-year-old orphan named Charlie, who comes along on the adventure. Despite obsolete circus equipment and an aging cast of performers, the circus meets some successes along the way. One Kirkus Reviews contributor considered this book to be "beguiling, wise, and wonderful."
Raleigh once told CA: "I waited a long time to see the publication of my first novel. Twenty-one years passed between the day I wrote and sent out my first short story and the day my book Death in Uptown appeared. If nothing else, that experience taught me patience and gave me a great deal of opportunity to think about the kind of writing I most wanted to produce.
"The idea of becoming a writer first occurred to me during college, but a wise creative writing teacher told me that it would be best to find some way of paying the rent and buying food while I was becoming one. I took his advice and spent most of the 1970s and 1980s writing in my free time while working at a succession of unrelated and often unpleasant jobs. I like to think that this period broadened my horizons a bit in terms of subject matter and interest.
"I started out writing poetry, sending my poems to magazines great and small. I succeeded in having half-a-dozen poems published, amassed a magnificent collection of rejection slips in most of the colors of the spectrum, and developed a good enough ear for verse to realize that mine was undistinguished at best. I then turned to the short story, producing tales that demonstrated the influence of a pair of great Chicago writers, Nelson Algren and a wonderful, but now largely ignored, novelist named James T. Farrell. My efforts earned me occasional publication in respectable little magazines and a fresh infusion of new blood into my burgeoning file of rejection slips. I also became, during this time, an admirer of Thornton Wilder and Graham Greene, novelists who seemed to feel, with justification, that a writer could be successful writing any type of book he wanted, about any subject and in any form.
"A novel can be defined as 'a long work of fiction that an author never gets around to starting.' For years I told myself that I was soon going to start a novel, some kind of novel. What forced my hand was a growing frustration at the incredible length of time it can take a magazine to reject a single story and the realization that, for me at least, the short story held no promise of success in the foreseeable future.
"Between 1986 and 1990 I wrote three novels and started at least two others, whose unfinished remains lie moldering somewhere in my desk. Two of the novels that I completed were what might be called 'offbeat comedies,' and the third was an urban detective novel. In the course of marketing the first, I earned numerous rejections from both editors and agents, but I received enough encouragement to continue sending out my manuscripts. Eventually I found an agent who seemed to think that I was publishable, and it was with her invaluable assistance that my first detective novel was published in 1991.
"My primary interests as a writer lie in several areas. My first love is comedy, far and away the most satisfying type of writing to me, and I hope to continue to pursue this interest in a number of offbeat projects. My second area of interest is the mystery. My mystery novels feature Chicago detective Paul Whelan, an idiosyncratic man with unorthodox methods, acute instincts, and a quirky sense of humor, and his friend and occasional nemesis, the belligerent Al Bauman of the Chicago Police."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 1994, Wes Lukowsky, review of The Maxwell Street Blues, p. 27; September 15, 1995, Wes Lukowsky, review of Killer on Argyle Street, p. 144; August 7, 1997, Wes Lukowsky, review of The Riverview Murders, p. 1886; December 1, 2001, Joanne Wilkinson, review of In the Castle of the Flynns, p. 630.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2001, review of In the Castle of the Flynns, p. 171; February 15, 2003, review of The Blue Moon Circus, p. 264; May 1, 2003, review of Killer on Argyle Street, p. 1514.
Kliatt, September, 2002, Maureen K. Griffin, review of In the Castle of the Flynns, p. 54.
Library Journal, April 1, 2003, Michele Leber, review of The Blue Moon Circus, p. 130.
New York Times Book Review, November 6, 1994, Marilyn Stasio, review of The Maxwell Street Blues, p. 41; October 22, 1995, Marilyn Stasio, review of Killer of Argyle Street, p. 35.
Publishers Weekly, January 18, 1993, review of A Body in Belmont Harbor, p. 452; August 1, 1994, review of The Maxwell Street Blues, p. 74; August 14, 1995, review of Killer on Argyle Street, p. 74; May 12, 1997, review of The Riverview Murders, p. 61; November 26, 2001, review of In the Castle of the Flynns, p. 37; May 6, 2002, review of In the Castle of the Flynns, p. 22; April 7, 2003, review of The Blue Moon Circus, p. 45.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), May 4, 2003, review of The Blue Moon Circus, p. 2.
Curled up with a Good Book, http://www.curledup.com/bluemoon.htm/ (April 7, 2003), Mary B. Stuart, review of The Blue Moon Circus.
Maxwell Street Market Home Page, http://www.openair.org/oldmax/oldmax.html/ (January 9, 2006), "Enjoy a Mystery with Maxwell Street as the Backdrop."
Sourcebooks Web site, http://www.sourcebooks.com/ (September 7, 2005), interview with Michael Raleigh.
Truman College Faculty Directory, http://www.trumancollege.cc/directory/employeesearch2.php/ (January 3, 2005).