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Posted September 9, 2011
Contrary to its title "Literally Dead" is as lively a tale as I have read in some years. I lived half my life in Chicago and I can say with authority Mr. Conroy has nailed it cold. I could smell the stockyards, taste the rotgut whiskey, and feel lake breezes on my face throughout the whole story. I never met Ernest Hemingway but after reading "Literally Dead" I feel as if I did and he was exactly what I expected. Same can be said for Sandburg and Algren. Never pondered Millay very much, but she comes across exquisitely in every well-crafted scene. And it's a fine mystery to boot. The story uses some very apropos Depression-era plot twists, but in the economic climate in which we live today, they are striking and all too real. It is rare when both an author's characterizations and plotting are of equal intensity. I'm a historical mystery novel buff. "Literally Dead" is a tour de force of the genre. Congratulations Mr. Conroy and congratulations Knox Robinson for publishing it. Looking forward to more from both of you.
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Posted April 24, 2012
Literally Dead is an engrossing satirical murder mystery set in 1930’s Chicago during the Great Depression - those grand old days of gangsters, corrupt policing, and Prohibition.
At the heart of the story is a poor writer named Amos Jansen who gets wrongly arrested for a murder he doesn’t commit. Supporting him, eager to prove his innocence, are a bevy of real literary figures of the time, among them Ernest Hemingway, Clarence Darrow, and Edna St. Vincent Millay along with a few others. I loved the way the author made Ernest Hemingway come to life – crusty, wily, charismatic, and witty, I could not get enough! It made the story highly entertaining. Along with a fascinating mystery to unravel, there were pleasant laughs along the way.
If you are looking for something different in historical fiction, this rich, enchanting story is sure to entertain you from start to finish. I really enjoyed it and highly recommend it. Exceedingly charming!
Posted April 19, 2012
Chicago, Chicago my kind of town.....but at the moment it definitely wasn't Amos Jansen's kind of town since he is being accused of murder simply because he found his boss, Dwight Eldon, dead at his desk. Amos' only saving grace was that Ernest Hemingway and Carl Sandburg, yes both of those famous authors, came to his rescue and got him out of the interrogation room and out of jail for now.
You will follow the story from present day back to the rioting that caused the death of Amos' father. You will love the characters especially Nelson who is an aspiring author and a real con man who has an answer for any dilemma. Nelson is Amos' best friend, and he even talks Ernest Hemingway into something not above board and gets them both into trouble. Underneath all of this, though, is police corruption and other individuals who are covering up the murder of Amos' father and Dwight Eldon while trying to pin it on an innocent person.
I really enjoyed the book because of the time period, because of the numerous famous authors brought in as characters, and because it made me laugh out loud at some of the antics. It is funny and serious at the same time, and is a great inside look at what life was like in Chicago for law-abiding and non-law-abiding citizens in the 1930's during the depression.
LITERALLY DEAD is a wonderful history lesson with many names you will definitely want to look up to find out what part they played in America's history of unions and civil liberties. Murder mixed with laughter make this book an historical page turner. If you want to laugh and truly enjoy a book's characters, you will want to read this book. 5/5
Posted March 10, 2012
I must have been half-asleep the two or three times I read the blurb before reading the book, because where it says, “with nothing but his wits and a host of great literary figures,” I read it as “with nothing but his wits and THE GHOSTS of great literary figures”. You can imagine my surprise when I started reading and woke up. It was a good surprise, though. I’m not a literary snob, and have read relatively few “classics”, so I know very little about the authors in this book or their work. I feel like I know the authors so well now, though, that I feel guilty about that, and almost want to apologize to them. As none of them are in my author groups, I suppose I’ll have to make due with checking out their work.
The author did a wonderful job of writing a “whodunit” with quite a bit of humor, featuring some of the great figures of the Depression era. I got so wrapped up in the story, I actually cried when the epilogue mentioned Hemingway’s suicide. And yes, I actually did know about that before I read it in this book.
I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Posted March 8, 2012
Literally Dead by James Conroy is a highly entertaining historical fiction that takes real historical figures and puts them in the middle of a fictional story. The result is a fun story that’s full of great characters, mystery, action, and suspense.
Amos Jansen works as the secretary for the Chicago literary society. It’s not a high paying job, but it is a job, and during the Great Depression that was a big deal. He and his wife Anna are getting by and he hasn’t had to resort to working at his father-in-law’s company stuffing sausages. The literary society hired none other than Ernest Hemingway to come and do a reading, and as secretary for the society, it’s up to Amos to take care of Mr Hemingway’s needs and make sure the event goes off without a hitch. But, when Amos’ boss turns up dead, Amos has his whole word turned upside down. With the help of some new friends he needs to find out what really happened, if they can all stay out of trouble, and stay alive long enough to do it.
I very highly recommend this book! The writing is excellent, with a story that hooks you and keeps you glued to the pages. Then the author adds in this marvelous cast of characters that add so much more to the story. I truly love the way the author takes real historical figures such as Ernest Hemingway, Carl Sandburg, Clarence Darrow, and several more, and puts them in the middle of this fictional story. There’s some great historical detail blended in with fiction to create a highly entertaining story. I was hooked from the very beginning and could not put it down. The story is fast-paced with lots of mystery and suspense to keep you turning the pages, and there are some good twists and surprises. If you enjoy historicals and mysteries, I think you’ll love this one.
Posted March 8, 2012
I absolutely adored this book! The setting was one that I enjoy reading about and the characters were perfect! Their wit, humor and manner of interactions were just what the story ordered. I loved the writer's style, too. It was quick, to the point and easy-to-read. You couldn't ask for a better combination. This book is a must read!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted March 7, 2012
Ernest Hemingway shot himself in the leg while hunting shark. Carl Sandburg wrote a wonderfully evocative poem of “We the people.” Nelson Algren won the first ever National Book Award with The Man with the Golden Arm. Meanwhile the fictional Amos Jansen lived and worked in a literary society in 1930s Chicago, till his boss was murdered. After that, where the money will come for the rent seems almost as important as who-dun-it, and a truly fascinating, thoroughly enjoyable tale ensues.
The era, people and place all come to life in James Conroy’s literary mystery, Literally Dead, from the treatment of Hemingway’s dysentery and the fight for employees’ rights. The voices of old movies sound in the ear from pitch-perfect dialog. Dark streets, corrupt police, madly rushing cars, and gambling joints distract the eye. Politics and corruption seem sadly contemporary, and the main character’s musings evoke an honest sympathy for unions and the call to social justice.
Particularly impressive is the way the author avoids any semblance of delivering a message while powerfully evoking an era where message was needed. The lives of these characters seem real and true, and form a convincing background to those famous depression-era writers. Plus there’s a mystery with convincing red herrings, plot and counterplot, dark murder and cover-up.
Literally Dead is a literary mystery of the Depression, smoothly written, easily read, and deeply intriguing, historically, sociologically and literarily.
Disclosure: I received a free ecopy of this book from the publisher, Knox Robinson, in exchange for my honest review.
Posted March 5, 2012
I love a murder mystery with twists and this book has them. What I enjoyed most was the use of historical literary figures. It was a pleasure seeing them come to life and be involved in the solving of a mystery.
Set in Depression-era Chicago, the book is vibrant with corrupt cops, struggling immigrants and a constant struggle to ensure right wins out over wrong. Amos is in the midst of one such struggle ... and not because of anything he's done, but because of simply who he is.
When he realizes his father was murdered, Amos feels the need for revenge. It's revealed to him through some friends that an investigation on his father's murder had already been started by a former colleague of his. Amos uses that information and continues to dig until the murderer, or murderers, is/are revealed. With the cops being corrupt, it's difficult going for Amos to prove the guilt of any persons involved with his father's murder.
I would recommend this book to any person who enjoys a suspenseful murder/mystery. The addition of historical literary figures does make this story an enjoyably unique read that will have you turning pages to the end.
Posted December 6, 2011
James Conroy¿s Depression-era mystery, combining a whodunit with a story of Chicago political corruption, is a fun read¿mainly because major literary personalities of the age, including Carl Sandburg, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Nelson Algren, H.L. Mencken, and most importantly Ernest Hemingway, play an important part in the proceedings. Amos Jansen is a clerk and aspiring writer, but he carries the legacy of his father, who, before he was killed in a riot, was an important leftist organizer. As the employee of a Chicago literary society, he befriends the author Ernest Hemingway (¿call me Hem¿) just before he is arrested for murdering the society¿s vice-chairman. Hemingway and his famous writer pals rally to help Amos figure out who¿s behind the murder and what link there might be to his father¿s death, years before. Conroy paints a colorful picture of 1930s Chicago, with details that will be startling to those of us used to modern-day police procedurals. In those pre-Miranda days, cops routinely took in whomever they wanted, and roughed them up with impunity. Communists and anarchists organized openly and pitted themselves against an equally shameless political machine and corrupt police force. The novel is sprinkled with colorful language straight out of old gangster movies, like ¿You coppers got nothing on me,¿ and ¿I always knew you was a chiseling little coward¿yellow-bellied stooge.¿ The literary greats¿ colorful personalities liven up the plot, with quirks of personality that are very believable, like Algren¿s inveterate gambling, Hemingway soldiering on through a reading of his works while nursing a ¿perforated leg¿ (gunshot wound) and dysentery relapse, and St. Millay informing Amos he¿s to call her Vincent, not Edna¿as her friends do. With the literary greats along as company, it¿s a lot more fun getting to the bottom of this mystery.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 6, 2011
James Conroy gives a great description of the 1930¿s in Chicago in the book ¿Literally Dead¿. This book, which is a historical work of fiction involving great authors in an interesting plot of murder, suspicion, intrigue and history, was a wonderful quick read. James Conroy gives definition to the history of the 1930¿s, while adding in the movement of Communism that was happening back during the depression years.
This was a fun and interesting storyline involving not only some famous authors as characters but introducing us into a world of underworld crime, gambling, crooked cops and the spectacular world of literature. James Conroy did a great job of making all the characters jump off the page making you feel that you were right there in the thick of the action and suspense. It was packed full of fun, entertainment, history, and great writing. I would recommend this book to anyone including those who are not into history.
Posted September 30, 2012
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