Today, Diversion Books reissued 5 mystery novels written by WRD faculty member Michael Raleigh. Originally written in the 1990s, these novels are traditional private eye stories following a detective who focuses on missing persons cases.
Set in 1980s Chicago, Raleigh provides readers with images of Chicago in the not-so-distant past. To effectively communicate the look and feel of a Chicago from days gone by, Raleigh’s novels are full of visually interesting street scenes featuring Uptown and Argyle Street, the Maxwell Street Market, and the now closed Riverview Park—an amusement park which operated from 1904 to 1967 near Belmont and Western Avenues.
Along with vivid descriptions of the city landscape, Raleigh’s writing places an emphasis on major and minor character development. According to Raleigh, a key way he communicates such development is through dialogue. As a writer, Raleigh says he always ensures that dialogue arises out of a particular scene in his stories. His characters don’t just talk for talking’s sake; rather, dialogue reveals details about his characters while also spurring the plot forward.
In order to portray dialogue in the most authentic way, Raleigh does his research. This often means conversing with the types of people found in his novels. “I’m interested in people not in the 9 to 5 world,” says Raleigh. As a result, he often has conversations with waiters and waitresses, bartenders, and even circus workers to prepare for his writing.
When sitting down to write, Raleigh prefers to write his novels in sections. He’ll often get an idea, let it sit (sometimes for a year), collect information and conduct research, and then finally start writing. While Raleigh says that writing a story in sections and then connecting each part might not be the best writing process for everyone, it does seem to work well for him.
Of Raleigh’s 8 published novels, all but one – a novel about a traveling circus in the 1920s – are set in Chicago. Later this year, Diversion Books will publish his next novel, a coming-of-age tale about the unlikely friendship between a young drifter and an eccentric private detective. Stay tuned!