Books by Richard Whittingham

THEIR KIND OF TOWN by Richard Whittingham
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: June 30, 1994

A routine hit for the Chicago Outfit erupts in a salvo of violence and stupidity as the survivors scurry to protect themselves from each other and race the cops for an all-important witness. Capo Aldo Forte has asked his buddy Joe-Sep Alessi to bring in a pair of wiseguys from New Jersey to lean on Manny Peters, a soldier who hijacked a kilo of coke. Joe-Sep sends along rising star Angelo Franconi, his daughter's new boyfriend, to keep an eye on the proceedings, and what an eyeful Angelo gets: While the wiseguys are taking care of Manny, Angelo catches sight of a potential witness and points him out to the killers, who duly whack him too. But the dead witness was only a kid, a 13-year-old named Rayfield Tees whose cause is promptly taken up by rabble-rousing alderman Rev. Lorenz Hunter and ambitious reporter Holly Stokes. Word leaks out that Rayfield's murder was witnessed by his girlfriend, Latrona Meek, who's vanished from under the noses of the task force headed by homicide cop Franco Norelli and burned-out Violent Crimes veteran Joe Morrison (State Street, 1991). All this puts Angelo in a very delicate position, because he's really an FBI informant who can't afford to blow his cover. As Morrison negotiates with a dead-eyed drug lord for information about Latrona's whereabouts, Joe-Sep's lieutenant, Jimmy Pagnano, is engaged in an equally distasteful deal with witless out-of-towner Vaughn Swayze to supply a corpse for a fly-by-night insurance scam- -laying the groundwork for a ghoulish surprise when this subplot finally hooks up to Angelo's frantic attempts to cover himself while he's tying up all the loose ends for Joe-Sep. The plotting is dogged and overelaborate, like Joseph Wambaugh after a sleepless night, but Whittingham's Chicago backgrounds are as richly reeking as ever. Read full book review >
NON-FICTION
Released: Sept. 11, 1992

The lowdown on how NFL teams obtain college players; by Whittingham, a novelist (State Street, 1991) and sportswriter (Saturday Afternoon, 1985, etc.). Meat—talented meat—has always been the indispensable athletic ingredient, and, Whittingham explains, each graduating college class is that year's prime source, via the draft. As the author follows the Chicago Bears through their draft, he clearly and accurately describes its elements—the scouts and scouting combines, the computerized evaluation of players, the role of intuition, the strategies that evolve, and the security precautions that resemble the protection of major industrial or military secrets. Whittingham also catches the wheel-and-deal mood of coaches and managers as they trade ``picks,'' try to read opponents' minds, and play computerized ``mock-draft'' war games based on what other teams are expected to do. Finally, the team must sign the player, and while, Whittingham says, this is very much a business, it's one in which the tone is set by the high testosterone levels, sometimes augmented, of participants on and off the field. Unpredictability is a constant, and when Notre Dame's #1 choice, Raguib ``Rocket'' Ismail, dodged the draft and shot off to Canada for $18 million last year, his move was not so unprecedented—holdouts are common, and a draft pick might decide not to turn pro at all. (Or a player might decide to play both football and baseball, as Bo Jackson did.) The vignettes are memorable: William ``Refrigerator'' Perry eating six chickens at a sitting and cutting a deal with McDonald's for each day's leftover hamburgers, or George Halas scooping Red Grange out of his undergraduate Illinois uniform for the Bears back in the 20's. Definitive work for couch-potato grid fans but—as it grinds through the endless details of the 1991 draft—too much of a good thing. Read full book review >
STATE STREET by Richard Whittingham
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Sept. 15, 1991

Sportswriter Whittingham (Saturday Afternoon, 1986) turns to fiction with this gritty, overplotted Chicago procedural. Ex-homicide cop Joe Morrison, now with the Sixth Precinct's Organized Crime unit, takes on all the activities appropriate to his genre—getting divorced by his wife, going back on the streets to investigate a homicide with personal overtones (the robbery/murder of his father's longtime pharmacist friend Theo Warner), finding a promising new romance (Linda Tate, former mistress of commodities trader Dennis Courtland, a suspect in the Warner killing), tangling with organized crime (Rudy Facia, the capo who refuses to press charges when his daughter is raped—but wants the police to let him know the minute they have any leads), and putting the squeeze on known lowlifes (like Tommy Bates, who looks even better than Courtland for the Warner job, and Vinny Salerno, a wonderfully witless stoolie). Morrison does all of this with energy (if an occasional lack of direction) while he's waiting for his partner Norbert Castor to get shot—and it's no surprise when the Mafia daughter's rape peters out (though Whittingham manages one neat twist even after the case seems dead) in the excitement of nailing Castor's assailant and wrapping up the Warner case. Smart pace and authentically nasty atmosphere and detail enliven this somewhat lumpish descent into the bowels of the Windy City. Read full book review >