Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Q&A with "1001 Train Rides in Chicago" author Richard Reeder

The book "1001 Train Rides in Chicago" by Richard Reeder comes out this week on Eckhartz Press. What is it about?

Nearly a century has passed since Ben Hecht wrote the last of his 1001 Afternoon in Chicago columns for the Chicago Daily News in the early 1920s. Now in 2018, Richard Reeder pays literary homage to Hecht in 1001 Train Rides in Chicago, sixty-four short fiction vignettes of ordinary people who ride the eight rail lines of the CTA. Reeder creatively weaves a written social tapestry of contemporary Chicago depicting its heterogeneous population and diverse neighborhoods. Leonid Osseny’s illustrations add a striking impressionistic dimension to the book.

We recently caught up with Reeder to talk to him about the book...

EP: I gather from the title of the book that you are a big fan of Ben Hecht. Is that true, and did that inspire more than just the title of this book?

Richard: Yes I am a great admirer of Hecht in so many aspects of his life. His short, crisp and clean writing style, with just the right touch of irony, has had a significant impact on my own writing. Hecht remains a hero of mine for his efforts to rescue Jews from Europe during the Holocaust. This book is an homage to him.

EP: In the introduction you detail your own life long relationship with the Chicago elevated train system. Which color lines are you most familiar with, and which ones required the most research?

Richard: I have been a rider of mostly the Red, Brown, Green, Yellow and Purple lines. I had to do the most research on the Blue, Orange and Pink lines.

EP: You made a really interesting choice about how to profile the people who ride these train lines. Why did you make that choice, and what are the advantages of doing so?

Richard: I wanted to take a snapshot of these people as they were going to or coming from specific places in the course of the day. I hope that these short pieces will allow my readers to emotionally connect with these riders My selections of people profiled in these stories reflect the diversity of the city.

EP: To us, this book is nothing less than a socio-economic profile of Chicago itself. How do you know so much about so many different types of people from such a diverse socio-economic spectrum?

Richard: I have been fortunate that my very interesting and multifaceted career of fifty plus years has allowed me to interact with folks of all races and from many cultural and socio-economic groups. Not only as clients and colleagues, but as friends as well.

EP: Who do you consider to be the audience for this book?

Richard: Although my primary audience will be adults, I would like to see my book used as a learning resource in high schools.

EP: You have a book launch party coming this week. Tell us about that.

Richard: The book launch party is this coming Sunday, July 15, at the Ice House Gallery, a cool art space in Evanston at 609 South Boulevard, just steps from the South Boulevard Purple Line stop. Try to stop by and say hello, and maybe even buy a book.