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Hypertext Magazine asked Bob Hartley, author of NORTH AND CENTRAL (Tortoise Books), “What question do you wish you’d been asked about your work?”

By Bob Hartley

How does North and Central reflect not only the economics of 1978, but the present economic insecurity experienced by workers?

The community and characters within the book symbolize the tremendous economic downturn that occurred in Chicago’s working-class neighborhoods in the 1970s, a downturn that has never been addressed.  The characters find themselves blaming cheap foreign labor and people of color for that loss (sound familiar?). But we find that they are being exploited by oligarchs, both foreign and domestic, who illegally conspire to dominate the market regardless of the negative impact it has upon workers. So, although most of the characters in the book are certainly criminals, I’m arguing they are the victims of the far greater crime of driving thousands into poverty.  Bringing that forward, I recently read that the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s far West Side, the setting for North and Central, now has an unemployment rate of 24%.  When writing the book, I attempted to examine how, in the wealthiest and most powerful country in the history of the world, such a thing is possible.  In the end, I came to the same conclusion of the screenwriter Abraham Lincoln Polonsky (blacklisted in the McCarthy era) when he said that most crime stories are about capitalism because capitalism is a crime.

Learn more about Bob Hartley HERE. 

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