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North and Central

Andy's a bartender on Chicago's West Side in the late 1970s. For years, he's been slinging beers to corrupt cops and fat Zenith employees, but given the neighborhood's ongoing decline, he's starting to wonder how long it can go on. He's serving workers from a dying factory in a dying neighborhood; he sees crime on the rise--and he decides to become a criminal himself. "North and Central" perfectly evokes Chicago in the epic winter of '78-'79--the bleak season of blizzards and disco and John Wayne Gacy--capturing the city in microcosm through the denizens of one blue-collar watering hole. If Springsteen and Bukowski had teamed up to write a story about a Chicago bar, they'd have been hard pressed to do this; it's an anti-"Cheers," a bittersweet story about a place where everybody knows your nickname, and they're tired of you coming around because you're a degenerate. But it's more than just a static portrait; it's a gripping and moving story destined to earn its own place among the classics of Chicago literature.
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This is the Chicago story of my grandfathers and father and uncles. It's as tough and real and bittersweet as an old neighborhood dive. In fact, it might just be one come alive. - Bill Hillmann, author of The Old NeighborhoodIn this memorable and tender novel that brings to vivid life working-class bar culture of 1970s Chicago, Bob Hartley has created a lovable cast of miscreants that brings to mind the great Studs Lonigan novels of James T. Farrell. - Joseph G. Peterson, author of Wanted: Elevator ManIs there a Chicago School? North and Central belongs on the shelf alongside Sister Carrie, Studs Lonigan, Native Son and The Man with the Golden Arm, works that truthfully portray the grit of Hartley's favorite city (and mine). - Noel Ignatiev, author of How the Irish Became WhiteBob Hartley nails late-seventies blue collar Chicago, with jobs going away, bills coming due and cops you can't tell from the robbers. North and Central captures the loyalty, the toughness and the desperation of the shot and beer crowd. - Sam Reaves, author of Mob CopYou're not sure you want to be among these people and're not going to find a good way to leave any of them. - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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