Richard C. Lindberg, A Chicago Writer
Richard Lindberg is a lifelong Chicagoan, an author, journalist,
and research historian who has written and published seventeen books
dealing with aspects of city history, politics, criminal justice,
sports, and ethnicity. He is a past president of the Society
of Midland Authors. Writing has been his avocation since
age eleven, when he began keeping a journal. It is a lifelong practice
inspired by an early reading of The Diary of Anne Frank.
Rich has been researching and uncovering forgotten Chicago history
for over 30 years. He has been featured on History's Mysteries,
Cities of the Underworld, Justice Files, Mobsters,
American Justice, Masterminds, and many television and
radio programs of local and national origin including WBEZ, the
local NPR affiliate in Chicago; In Search of History; plus
Lost Worlds; two documentaries about Chicago gangland for
the Travel Channel; a documentary about Chicago gambling boss Mike
McDonald for Irish public television; two episodes of Evidence
on Discovery plus numerous appearances on Milt Rosenberg's thought-provoking
Extension 720 program, heard nightly on WGN Radio.
Rich broke into print in 1977, beginning as a free-lance reporter
for the Lerner Community Newspapers of Chicago, a talent incubator
for many local journalists. He spent his nights covering sports,
community events, fraternal associations, and political gatherings
across the greater Northwest Side of Chicago.
"WHISKEY BREAKFAST: MY SWEDISH FAMILY MY AMERICAN
PUBLISHED IN THE FALL OF 2011
Rich's cathartic memoir of growing up, The Whiskey Breakfast:
My Swedish Family, My American Life, a book project he worked
on for the better part of 22 years, was published in September 2011
by the University of Minnesota Press. It is a poignant, often heart
rendering, multi-generational family tale inter-woven with the Sweden-to-America
saga, the tragedy of divorce, financial hardship, abandonment, and
the tormented boyhood world of bullies Rich was forced to endure
at William J. Onahan School in Chicago during the 1960s.
Media Praise for the Whiskey Breakfast
"Lindberg serves up captivating historical tidbits and
offers a window into the immigrant experience."
"Deep, introspective and somber, this is by far Lindberg's most
personal book to date."
— Kirkus Reviews
"Whiskey Breakfast, in its way, a chilling title for what is
ultimately a chilling, remarkably honest and redemptive story."
— Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune and
the host of "The Sunday Papers" on WGN Radio
“Whiskey Breakfast” won the 2012 Society of Midland Authors
Finalist Award for Best biography of 2011.
| Dust jacket and catalog text from The Whiskey
My Swedish Family, My American Life
Clark Street was the city’s last “Swedetown,” a narrow
corridor of weather-beaten storefronts, coal yards, and
taverns running along the north side of the city, and
the locus of Swedish community life in Chicago during
the first half of the twentieth century. It represented
a way-station for a generation of working class immigrants
escaping the hardships and deprivation of the old country
for the promise of a brighter new day in a “halfway house”
of sorts, perched between the old and new lands. . For
Richard Lindberg, whose Swedish immigrant parents and
grandparents settled there, it was also the staging ground
for an intensely personal, multi-generational, coming
of age drama about the struggles of two disparate families—their
dreams and their depravities, their victories and their
The Whiskey Breakfast is Lindberg’s captivating
tale of life as a first generation “Baby Boom” Swedish-American,
caught between the customs of a land he had never been
to and the desire to conform and fit into a troubled existence
tragically scarred by his parents alcoholism, their divorce
and the schoolyard peer abuse that he endured. But it
is also a powerful and intimate portrait of his immigrant
parents, their two families, and especially of his father,
Oscar—a contractor and master builder who helped build
Chicago’s Post-World War II suburbs. A paradoxical man,
known to some as a socialist, an anarchist, and a serious
drinker, Oscar would carry with him to the grave a 62-year-old
family secret, a secret that for Lindberg lies at the
very heart of the great Swedish unrest that drove his
father and countless other men and women out of Sweden
and onwards to America.
Masterfully blending memoir with immigrant history, The
Whiskey Breakfast surrounds Lindberg’s family story
with Swedish cultural history and politics, as well as
remarkable Chicago history and how Clark Street and Swedetown
become and in many ways remain a center of their social
and cultural life. Far from a eulogy for an idealized
past, Lindberg has crafted a poignant and sobering memoir
of a young man’s struggle to come to terms with his father
and himself, his immigrant heritage and his native home.
A lifelong Chicagoan, Richard Lindberg has written fifteen
earlier books dealing with aspects of city history, politics,
criminal justice, sports, and ethnicity. A past President
of the Society of Midland Authors and the Illinois Academy
of Criminology, he has appeared on The History Channel,
Biography, The Travel Channel, A&E, and The Discovery
About Chicago – "The Gambler King of Clark Street"
Wins the Society of Midland Authors 2009-2010 Biography Award
and an Award of excellence from the Illinois state historical
Rich's 2009 biography of Michael C. McDonald, Chicago's wily 19th
Century political boss, roué, and roguish gambler, inspired The
Gambler King of Clark Street: Michael C. McDonald and the Rise of
the Chicago's Democratic Machine, was named the winner
of the 2009-2010 Biography Prize from the Society
of Midland Authors. Two weeks earlier, at a special luncheon
held at the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield on April 24, 2010,
Rich’s book - praised for its originality and scholarship - won
a Certificate of Excellence from the Illinois State Historical Society.
The McDonald story, a first-ever biography about this enigmatic
but mostly forgotten gambler who built the foundation of the city's
enduring, and eternally corrupt Democratic Machine still in power
after 120 years today. With swagger and bravado, "King" Mike elected
mayors, consulted with presidents, amassed a personal fortune and
suffered mightily at the hands of two feckless wives who "done 'em
wrong." With swagger and bravado, "King" Mike elected mayors, consulted
with presidents, amassed a personal fortune and suffered mightily
at the hands of two feckless wives who "done 'em wrong."
His tragic personal life is interwoven with the intriguing story
of the rise of organized crime in the Windy City; formulated by
McDonald and his syndicate of gamblers, sharpers, bondsmen, sluggers
and crooked politicians possessing colorful and oblique nicknames,
a zest for the high life, and a gift for larceny on a grand scale.
| Reader Praise for The Gambler King of Clark Street
I finished my re-reading of "The Gambler
King" and it struck me that you put enough labor into this manuscript
to have been awarded a Ph.D. degree in history. The book is
not merely popular history, it represents genuine scholarship
What caused me to read the book the second time was that recent
news stories and political events put me to thinking about how
little things have changed in Cook County. Only the dollar amounts
(adjusted for inflation), names, and calendar dates are different.
Of course, this is a point that you, yourself, made in the text.
Recently, I read the biography of Illinois Governor Len Small
by Jim Ridings. Not too bad of a book, but the author does try
to play up the Al Capone connection, as some authors are fond
of doing, as the name of Big Al endures and exploiting Capone's
name and image still results in sales at the cash register.
Interestingly, Small profiteered, not unlike Varnell at Dunning,
by controlling a state mental hospital in Kankakee. Sadly, Small
never saw the inside of a prison -- his lawyers managed to obtain
an acquittal at his trial (held in Waukegan due to a change
of venue motion) for his misconduct while serving as State Treasurer.
There were serious and credible allegations of jury tampering
that were never pursued. Small was later held to be liable in
a civil suit and made to pay restitution to the State of Illinois
for some of the lost interest earnings, which he had pocketed,
but he never repaid every last dollar and cent from his scams.
It is a rare thing to have produced a book that continues to
impress after a second reading. Well done!
Dan Kelley, Chicago
Mike McDonald (right) in old age, 1907
Also in 2009, Publications International brought out Chicago,
Yesterday & Today, a hard-bound coffee-table edition
with hundreds of vintage photographs, maps and wood-cut drawings
juxtaposed with Chicago history and text supplied by Rich and his
co-author Carol Jean Carlson. For Rich, it is quite a departure
from crime, politics, and sports and a year-long writing project.
It is available online and in bookstores everywhere.
IN APRIL 2011
Heartland Serial Killers: Belle Gunness, Johann Hoch and Murder
for Profit in Gaslight Era America, profiling Gunness and Hoch,
two early 20th Century serial killers who placed advertisements
in the lonely hearts columns of ethnic newspapers advertising for
desperately lonely men and women to marry…swindle…and ultimately
murder, was published by Northern Illinois University Press in DeKalb,
IL, in April 2011. Belle Gunness carried out her bloody work in
a rural farm house outside of LaPorte, Indiana from 1900-1908. Hoch,
the lesser known fiend, was an apprentice to Dr. H.H. Holmes, the
"master of murder castle" (more famously known as the "Devil in
the White City") in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago during
the 1893 World's Fair. Hoch struck off on his own after his mentor,
H.H. Holmes, was captured and hanged. Hoch, this squat, balding
killer married 35 women in his time - about ten of them ended up
in graves once their dowry and insurance policies were safely in
his hand. Hoch and Gunness were contemporaries but they did not
work together, nor did they know each, but if they had, one would
have cancelled out the other.
third edition of Total White Sox – Rich's definitive
675-page history of the South Side team was also published in the
spring of 2011 with complete updates through the 2010 season and
many new photos and entries. Chicago-based Triumph Books is the
The White Sox
in Chapter and Verse…
Rich interviews former White Sox manager
Tony LaRussa at old Comiskey Park, April 1980
photo: Chick Moorman
Rich knows White Sox baseball. He grew up listening to the late-night
broadcasts of Sox baseball by Bob Elson and Red Rush on WCFL and
WMAQ Radio, and suffered the anguish of two blown pennants in 1964
In the late 1970s Rich began filtering historical statistics and
tidbits of information to Don Unferth, the team's director of media
relations, based on his exhaustive exploration into Sox history.
Gradually a role evolved for Rich as their "White Sox Team Historian"
supplying historical data—lost for many decades—articles for team
publications and various other projects. In 1988, Rich was on location
in Indianapolis for the shooting of Eight Men Out. For months
he had provided historical interpretation and tidbits of information
to actors John Cusack, Gordon Clapp and D.B. Sweeney while assisting
with the technical aspects to the cinematic re-telling of the "Black
Sox Scandal." He even appeared as an on-camera extra in the movie—a
Chicago police officer, appropriately.
Helping the White Sox
Build the "Legacy Plaza"
Legacy Plaza sculpture outside of Gate 4
at U.S. Cellular Field.
In May 2008, the White Sox unveiled their "Legacy Plaza" - a historic
commemoration of the first 109 years of team history outside of
Gate 4 at the new U.S. Cellular Field. Rich provided the White Sox
Marketing Department with a "timeline" of 200 of the most historic
and significant events in team history that was to form the baseline
of 200 bricks, each with a famous moment inscribed and laid out
in the shape of a baseball diamond.
In all, Rich has written five detailed White Sox histories including
the 600-page Total White
Sox, The 2011 update to Total Sox came out in
Tower (NOW WILLIS TOWER) Mural
In 2000, Rich provided a historic timeline of major events
in Chicago sports history for the interactive mural on the
observation deck of the Sears Tower.
Sears Tower Skydeck
- Listed in Who's Who in America, 1998 -
- Frederic Milton Thrasher Award recipient from the National
Street Gang Crime Research Center, August 2001
- Distinguished Alumni Award from Northeastern Illinois University,
- Robert Zegger Memorial Award, Phi Alpha Theta Honor Society,
Pi Gamma Chapter,1988
- Inducted into the William Howard Taft High School (Chicago)
Alumni Hall of Fame, May 2000
- Morris Wexler Award recipient from the Illinois Academy of Criminology,
- Society of Midland Authors 2010 Award Winner for Biography:
"The Gambler King of Clark Street"
- Illinois State Historical Society 2010 Award for Excellence:
"The Gambler King of Clark Street"