Saturday, August 8, 2009
For some reason, I thought about Jimmy Flannery.
Robert Campbell's books about the Chicago sewer inspector Jimmy Flannery were low key mystery stories with interesting names like Hip Deep in Alligators, The Junkyard Dog and Nibbled to Death by Ducks.
Flannery was a politician who worked his way up through the system thanks to his mentor Chips Devlin. By and large, the books were a non-noir portrayal of the Chicago patronage system.
In a way, these books reminded me of my father. My father used to say he was born the day after his mother got off the boat from Italy. (I was never sure whether it was exactly that soon. That's a story I'll tell you some time if I haven't.) But he used to describe the role of low level politicians in the town where he grew up--Patterson, New Jersey. They looked out for those who were struggling. After all, those people were votes. If your family was ill, they brought food and saw that you got medical care.
My dad always looked on books like The Godfather as sheer fiction, just entertainment. In his growing up, so-called organized crime figures took care of the little people, the new citizens with their fresh new votes.
That's Jimmy Flannery.
The Flannery books also had good personal relationships. I remember Flannery's love for and relationship with his wife.
These books lived in that mid-place between edgy and cozy. In so far, as I know, I read them all. I especially liked the earlier ones where Flannery was still scraping to work his way up.
One interesting sidelight about Campbell: He was an Academy Award nominee for his work on "The Man with a Thousand Faces."