"Behind-The-Scenes" With Author Charlie Donlea and His Latest Thriller —Some Choose Darkness
Updated: Jun 8, 2019
Inspiration Behind Some Choose Darkness
I grew up in Chicago, and like many in my generation I did things as a kid that are unfathomable today.
My friends and I walked everywhere. And if we didn’t walk, we rode our bikes for miles to reach our destination. In the city, these miles took us across busy streets, over dangerous bridges, and through questionable underpasses. We did all of this unsupervised and without cell phones. Our mothers simply assumed we made it to our intended endpoint; there was no checking in once we arrived. The greatest tab my mother kept on me was expecting me home “when the street lights came on.” It was part of growing up in the city. I knew no other way of life.
I played baseball in the street. Our main intersection offered a perfect combination of four sewers as bases, and a fifth manhole coved in the middle of the street as a pitcher’s mound. Playing in the street kept us off lawns and was welcomed by the neighbors who lived next door.
We put a Slip n’ Slide on the sidewalk, and used a swimming pool cover for padding. Why? Because there was not a strip of grass large enough to handle the twenty feet of slippery plastic.
The above ground pool in my postage stamp backyard was filled each year by fire hoses borrowed from the local firehouse and attached to the corner hydrant. The hydrant was opened with a huge monkey wrench the firemen gave us when they handed over the hoses. Since the power of the water was tremendous, the stream would topple the side of the pool if sprayed directly at it. To avoid this catastrophe, three volunteers would climb into the empty pool with a card table that they’d use as a shield and break the force of water shot from the fire hose, which rested across the shoulders of three other volunteers as they aimed the rush of water into the pool and held on for dear life. This routine worked every year, and if any adults supervised the process, I don’t remember them.
Alas, I survived the miles of bike travel, the street ball, and my swimming pool.
Things are much different today. Technology and hyper-parenting (of which I’m guilty beyond a reasonable doubt) has allowed us all to keep much greater tabs on our own kids. Is this good? I’m not so sure. But one thing is for certain: my kids are living a different existence in the suburbs today than I led at their age.
This became startling obvious to me when I took my kids on a tour of my Chicago neighborhood—something my friends and I call the “old neighborhood.” Everyone who grew up in the city has an “old neighborhood.” Many of my childhood friends still live there. As we drove through the neighborhood, my kids asked some interesting questions:
“Why are the houses so close together?”
“Because they’re bungalows. Long, narrow homes with barely enough room to ride your bike between them. They make up many Chicago neighborhoods. And if you’re lucky enough to live next door to your best friend, simply opening the window at midnight gave you instant access to each other.”
“Why are the front yards so small?”
“Because they’re in front of bungalows, I just explained this. And you don’t need a big yard when you have a perfectly good street to play ball in.”
“What happened when a car drove down the street while you were playing baseball?”
“You played around it, and sometimes caught the Wiffle Ball when it ricocheted off a windshield. It still counted as an out as long as it never hit the ground.”
“Did the drivers get mad?”
“Sometimes, but not usually. They’d blow their horn a lot, but were usually gone before the next pitch was thrown.”
I fielded these questions with great delight as I showed my kids where I grew up. But when I drove up to my childhood house, my kids asked a bizarre question that caught me off guard. They pointed to the alley behind the house.
“Why is there a little road behind the house?”
Dear God, I thought. My children don’t know what an alley is.
“It’s an alley,” I answered in a dejected voice.
I didn't know how to explain that it was a little road, but it was so much more, too.
Alleys were the quintessential part of my upbringing.
They were where my friends and I hung out. They were where we hid during games of tag (chase, as it was called in the old neighborhood). Alleys were shortcuts and hiding spots and escape routes. Alleys were where our garage doors opened to, and where our father’s hung out on Saturday mornings completing projects that were perpetually unfinished and occupying the garage. And alleys were where we kept our garbage cans, and where kids had to venture at night (always at night!) to deposit black plastic bags filled with trash.
I suddenly realized my kids had a lot to learn about the place where I grew up. It occurred to me then that I needed to set a novel in Chicago.
So, to kick off the launch of Some Choose Darkness, and a new character named Rory Moore—a forensic reconstructionist who specializes in cold cases—I thought I’d describe a few of the landmarks that made it into the book.
Maybe my kids will read it when they’re old enough and decide that the dark, dangerous city isn’t so bad after all. Actually, this is a thriller and parts of it are creepy as hell, so my idea of this book turning my kids on to the city will likely backfire.
As opposed to eastern cities, Chicago is organized in a grid pattern of city blocks. These blocks are divided by narrow lanes called alleys. In New York, garbage is piled on street corners, in Chicago it is placed in the alley. In Some Choose Darkness, Rory Moore looks for clues in the alley where a character disappeared forty years earlier, and starts down a road of no return.
A common architectural design of many Chicago homes in the Bungalow Belt neighborhoods. These homes are long, narrow, and spaced close together. They were constructed this way to house the ballooning middle class that was expanding the Chicago population. Rory Moore lives in one of these Chicago bungalows, and it is in her home office where she pins photos of victims of the cold cases she investigates. It’s also where she keeps her antique china doll collection—broken dolls that she restores to perfection and keeps flawlessly lined on shelves. It’s a creepy hobby, but keeps Rory balanced and suits her perfectly.
Grant Park encompasses more than 300 acres and is located in the Loop. The park's centerpiece is Buckingham Fountain, where park goers can sit and enjoy breathtaking lakefront views. The Park is also home to baseball diamonds, tennis courts and acres of gardens. It is in one of these gardens, hidden in a shadowed corner of Grant Park, where a body is found. The mystery surrounding the death sends Rory Moore on the hardest case of her career.
Starved Rock State Park is a wilderness area on the Illinois River about an hour or so outside of Chicago. Sandstone canyons provide the backdrop for beautiful waterfalls and hiking trails. One of these trails leads to Lover’s Leap Overlook, with views of the river and Starved Rock Dam. In Some Choose Darkness, another one of these trails leads to a creepy cabin isolated in the woods. I mean, come on, what would one of my thrillers be without a creepy cabin in the woods?
3 Floyds Brewing Co.
3 Floyds Brewery is actually located in Munster, Indiana, but their beer is a popular adult beverage for many Chicagoans.
Some of their lagers and ales have produced a cultish following. Rory Moore’s favorite is Dark Lord, an imperial stout that weighs in at 15% alcohol and can knock even a seasoned beer drinker on their butts.
Rory drinks it often. It helps her think, especially when she’s staring at the face of a victim whose case is as cold as a Chicago winter night.
I hope you love Some Choose Darkness, and the city in which it is set. It’s a thriller that’s dark and moody, like the beer Rory drinks, the hobby that balances her life, and the haunting cold cases she takes on.
Charlie Donlea is the USA Today and International bestselling author of Summit Lake, The Girl Who Was Taken and Don't Believe It. His fourth novel, Some Choose Darkness to be released May 28, 2019. His books have been translated into more than a dozen languages across fifteen countries. He resides in Chicago with his wife and two young children. Visit his website to learn more.
Some Choose Darkness
For Some Choose Darkness
“In Donlea's skillful hands, this story of obsession, murder, and the search for truth is both a compassionate character study and a compelling thriller.”
“Donlea smoothly mixes red herrings and genuine clues...readers who relish a good puzzle will be rewarded.”
“Donlea’s cinematic style puts readers squarely into the scenes, and his skillful prose takes his work to a higher level.”
—NY Journal of Books
"Named one of the most anticipated thrillers of
“Part 1970s serial-killer thriller and part contemporary Chicago crime novel, this deceptively quick read has something for everyone.”
“A harrowing ride full of twists and turns.”
What Readers are Saying
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