Illinois! Illinois! is a 2233 item bibliography of fiction about Illinois. It is arranged by five chronological chapters covering pre-statehood years through 1997, and there are author, title, and subject indexes.
Many of Chicago’s greatest writers are represented – Sandburg, Ade, Fuller, Anderson and Garland. But it is the lesser stars in the literary heaven that I find most interesting in this bibliography. I am most intrigued by what I don’t know. For example:
“The first people John Gaynor and his daughter Ruth encounter when they arrive in Chicago in 1842, are the Hayne family; and from the moment they meet, the lives of the Gaynors and the Haynes become inextricably intermingled. Ruth is sought by four of the five Hayne sons; loves Norman, marries Dan. The story is by no means original, and the outcome is obvious. Yet, Norman Hayne and Ruth Gaynor relate such a fascinating and entertaining social history of 1840s Chicago, that, once started, a reader will continue enchanted to the end. Their narrative captures the enormous enthusiasm of Chicago’s early settlers, and tells how their fantastic plans are brought to fruition. The construction of a canal to connect the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan, the draining and filling in of the sloughs on which Chicago is built, the beginnings of the city water system, and many other dreams of Chicago’s founding fathers are put into historical perspective by discussions of presidential elections, discovery of gold in California, and war with Mexico; while Indian legends, stories of the massacre at old Fort Dearborn, and a liberal sprinkling of proverbs and folklore have a humanizing effect and add local color, A Little Girl In Old Chicago is truly an amazing combination of fact and Fiction.”
To my chagrin, I had no idea who Amanda Douglas was. Now I want to read her books and this is just one example of the treasures that can be found on the lists. While there are no links in the bibliography to digitized versions of the listed books, many are available, as the above example illustrates. Internet Archive is a good place to start if a particular book catches your eye. Serious students of Chicago literary history will find this bibliography invaluable.
A recommended companion book is Chicago in Story: A Literary History by Clarence A. Andrews, Midwest Heritage Publishing Co., 1982. The book contains almost 1500 novels, films, plays, short stories and anything else that has a setting, characters, incidents, or themes pertaining to Chicago. Unfortunately, a digitized version of the book is not available at this time. Modestly priced (less than $10.00) used copies are, however, available on Amazon.com