Cover, etc, of my new book, due in August:

I'm sure I'll see some of you at the Anderson's Bookstore Children's Literature Breakfast on the 20th. I've been busily working away on a 900 page book on H.H. Holmes for Sky Horse, simultaneously with a Mysterious Chicago book. Once these wrap I swear I'll get going on more fiction! I don't know about more YA. I want to do more middle grade. That's where the fun is these days.  

Also: want to come see the original Sherlock Holmes film in the very room where it was filmed in 1916? 

Oh, and dig this: Mary E Holland, one of the most famous female detectives of the early 20th century, deserves to reclaim her place in Chicago history. 

Also also: in 1992 I went around to lunch tables in my suburban Des Moines middle school shaking hands and drumming up votes for my 2016 campaign. I came in dead last at the Iowa Caucus, then conceded and made my endorsement on WGN late that night. I lost pretty badly, but, hey, I managed to pull off a joke that was 24 years in the making, and I did it on national radio, and it made the news, so that's pretty good.


- Kinda last notice but 82nd Street will be at Burlington Bar on Fullerton tonight (Dec 6). We'll be playing stuff from the new album, plus some older material. It's the time of year when I break out "Heavy Metal Vomit Christmas Party," after all. Some songs on the cue sheet I haven't played since about the 90s. Including one about Charlton Heston whose shelf life seems like it SHOULD be expired since he's dead and all, but still feels pretty relevant.

- I have seen the cover to Just Kill Me, my new YA novel about a ghost tour guide who makes places more haunted by killing people there. I can't show it to you for a couple months yet though, so nyah nyah nyah. Several archaic synonyms for swear words will be appearing in print for the first time since the 1600s.

- There's gonna be a new cover for Play Me Backwards, too. It'll have a similar feel to the one for Just Kill Me. Which is super cool and reminds me of Pushing Daisies. I can't wait to show it off!

- Oh! I have a whole new company! I parted ways with the ghost tour company I was with off and on for the last ten years. And now I've moved the old Mysterious Chicago blog, started a new podcast, and launched new tours at Mysterious Chicago.com ! Get on the mailing list, subscribe to the podcast, and follow Mysterious Chicago on twitter and facebook!

- There are two tours and one cool event coming up NEXT WEEKEND. I'm teaming up with the Obscura Society to launch....

   A 2.5 hour bus tour about H.H. Holmes, our most popular antique murderer, Sat Dec 12, 1pm. (I'll be at work on a Holmes book all winter - more details coming soon).

   A 90 min specially-priced bus tour of some super-cool Chicago stories I've researched over the years. Sat Dec 12 4pm

   A night of drinks from the works of Charles Dickens (Port negus, rum flip, Rocky Mountain Sneezer, etc) and Victorian-inspired food (whitebait fritters, gruel shooters, mutton meat pie, etc) at Knife & Tine. Sun Dec 13 at 5pm.

  Regular walking tours will start in the Spring. Private tours available all the time.

New album, new tours, new books, new radio appearances!

Been a busy fall!  I've done a lot of radio shows lately, including 10 minutes on the Big John Howell show on WLS 10/27 and the second half of the Patti Vasquez show on WGN the night before (click for podcast links).

I've been running more private tours lately, including some really neat ones for Atlas Obscura, such as "Grave Robbing 101" and "The Darker Side of Taylor Street," and a handful of H.H. Holmes tours for small groups in cars (which allow us to hit a site or two where busses just won't fit).  There's a whole new page for that stuff - adamchicago.com

Advance copies of my new novel, Just Kill Me, should start circulating soon. It's all about a ghost tour guide whose company is making places more haunted by killing people at them. Simon and Schuster is putting it out next year. 

AND, last but not least, after nearly 10 years since the last "Adam Selzer and his Revolving Door All-Stars" album, I just released a new record. The band is called 82nd Street, and the album is called Every Man Has His Price and Mine is $300. It's a rock and roll concept album about a pizza man who picks up a hitch hiker who claims to be a time traveler. You can stream it on spotify, Tidal, iTunes and all of those places. We'll be playing an acoustic set at Windycon on Sunday morning, 11/15.   

Stream/buy links at 82ndStreetRules.com

Ghosts of Lincoln

My new Ghosts of Lincoln book is out from Llewelyn next month; early copies arrived at my door the other day. It's up for pre-order at all of the usual sites, and I sometimes have copies available on tours.

Ghosts of Lincoln takes all the stories about Lincoln haunting the White House, predicting his own death, attending seances, etc and attempts to trace them back to their sources. I couldn't believe some of the stuff I found - I ran into earlier sources on his famous "Who's dead in the White House" dream" than have previously been examined, and found previously un-studied independent verification that he attended at least one seance in the White House (he thought the whole thing was a joke), and lots of new data on the story that he once rode on a flying piano (which I really want to believe is true).  I even found time to examine the provenance of tales about his grand plan to poop in Austen Gollaher's hat. .

Over the fall I'll be making several radio appearances talking about it, in addition to my usual fall schedule of ghost tours.  I'll also be doing a few new historical walking tours for Atlas Obscura - details coming soon.  And on August 20th, I'll be on a "Ghost Hunting" panel at WizardWorld in Chicago.

And for a hint of what's coming next, head on over the Derelict Theater.com ...  or 82ndStreetRules.com  ...

Some News

1. I've turned in the last draft of Kill Me Now, my next novel, to my editor at Simon and Schuster. Due out next fall.

2. My Ghosts of Lincoln book is out Sept 18!

3. I've been playing music around town under the name 82nd Street. Our next gig is Friday, July 24, at The Mutiny in Chicago. I last played there about ten years ago. There are demos up on the soundcloud page.

4. Now that the novel is turned in I'm back in earnest at the Mysterious Chicago Blog. There was a new post about a nun who turned to stone the other day, and this week there'll be five new posts about the Eastland disaster, including some new-to-the-internet photos.

Flickering Empire All Over the News!

In all these years and all these books, I've never had anything LIKE the response that Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the US Film Industry has received. Mike and I have recorded a handful of radio interviews (we're about to do another this afternoon!), and the book is being written up in major press outlets.   Just today, Chicagoist said "Smith and Selzer clearly did their homework, and the result is a book that immediately joins the ranks of essential film references."   Wow!

It also got written up today in The Chicago Tribune, and was also recently featured on a Turner Classic Movies blog.

Mike and I recently sat and chatted about it with Andy Miles of Transistor - hear it here.   We also chatted with Patti Vasquez on WGN. 

Our launch party is Saturday night at Transistor (3400 block of N. Broadway in Chicago) at 8pm - we'll be talking and screening some very rare films.  Look out for more events, lectures, parties and talks soon!

Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the US Film Industry

"...a book that immediately joins the ranks of essential film references." - Chicagoist.

Hi, everybody! Just a quick plug here - today, Jan 20th, Flickering Empire, my new book on Chicago silent film, is available through the film studies branch Columbia University Press. Though I try to cite my sources and hold myself up to reasonable academic standards in even my most down-to-earth work, this is my first "scholarly" book, written in collaboration with Michael Glover Smith.
Our 2011 podcasts exploring old silent film studios here and here

Chicago's role in the early film industry is largely forgotten today, but for a few years there we were a prototype Hollywood, producing early examples of serials, color films, feature-length films, and a whole host of other things that had never been seen before. Flickering Empire is the first book-length study of Chicago's role in the nascent industry, from the moving pictures that were (and weren't) on display at the 1893 World's Fair to the collapse of the local industry a quarter of a century later.   To research the book I traveled the country seeking out the handful of films that survive, met with relatives of major players in the industry, and generally had a blast!

Thoughts on "Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play"

Let’s say that seven years ago, a series of melt-downs and fires killed 99% of all people. Electricity is gone. Cans of Diet Coke are a rare commodity, even though, statistically, they donn’t seem like they should be (there were a LOT of Cokes in the world vs few people surviving, right?) Forgetting for a moment that batteries and some ingenuity OUGHT to make it possible to rig up a TV now and then, let’s say that every bit of recorded media - TV, CDs, computers, etc - are just as gone as most of your loved ones, and no one’s seen a bit of television or heard a rock song in seven years. 

Living in that world, when you went out for entertainment, which would you really rather see - a Shakespeare play, or a theatrical recreation of one of your favorite Simpsons episodes, complete with commercials? Sure, they get some scenes wrong and the costumes are awful, but imagine how much more of a comfort food a sitcom could become in that world. Besides being funny and brilliant enough to remind us that humanity did some good things before, and could do so again…well, don’t tell me you never spend an afternoon watching old commercials from your childhood on youtube. Nostalgia would be important in that world - theatrical recreations of TV shows wouldn’t just bring back memories, they would assure that not everything was lost. We still had the stories. 

This is the setup for Act 2 of Mr Burns: A Post Electric Play, now in previews at Theater Wit on Belmont here in Chicago. Having read about the show when it first premiered, I bought a ticket for the very first preview. After a sort-of meandering first act, in which a group of survivors huddled in the woods shortly after some sort of nuclear holocaust compare notes, trade rumors, and amuse themselves by trying to remember every detail of Cape Feare (the episode where the Simpsons go into Witness Protection while fleeing Sideshow Bob),  Act 2 picks up 7 years later, following the members of a ragtag theatrical troupe who specializes in Simpsons episodes. Some of their recreations are better than others. To fill the gaps, they buy “lines” from people who remember them (or claim to), they envy troupes with enough batteries to use flashlights on “A Streetcar Named Marge,” debate whether they should produce a shitty “The Springfield Files” just because people remember loving the episode, and help each other cope - with PTSD, with ever-present fears of brain damage or more fires, and with the constant threat of violence and dwindling resources. It’s a brilliant set-up, and I only wished it were longer. This concept of post-apocalyptic repertory theatre is so richly presented, so vividly imagined, that I wanted this troupe to have its own TV series. 

Even in this world, though, in the first years after the grid came down when authenticity in scripts is still currency, the stories are starting to evolve in tiny little ways to fit the changing needs of the audience.

Moving up 75 years in the timeline, the third act is another troupe’s version of “Cape Feare,” an odd kabuki Gilbert and Sullivan panto in which the story is barely recognizable. Few alive by this time can probably remember actually seeing an episode of The Simpsons, and the story has changed with the times. Now, The Simpsons are fleeing nuclear fallout, not Sideshow Bob, and the villain has become Mr. Burns (an obvious symbol for the nuclear plants that had something to do with the holocaust).It’s a hilarious, utterly strange, terribly disturbing, and finally uplifting melange of second-hand pop culture references - besides The Simpsons there’s some Eminem, Return of the Jedi, Night of the Hunter, and other snippets that have survived and simply become a part of a new generation’s consciousness. We can see many of the layers of purpose this version of the show holds for its intended post-apocalypic audience: comfort, a connection to the past, memory of a trauma still felt, even second-hand, and the power of music, stories and love to inspire resilience in terrible circumstances.  Even when the changes from the source material seem bizarre, we understand how they evolved. 

And hell, maybe these stories have already evolved. During the recent “Every Simpsons Ever” marathon I sat parked in front of my screen for days, feeling like my life was flashing before my eyes and seeing parallels between characters in The Simpsons and characters in The Pickwick Papers, which previous generations knew as well as we know The Simpsons. My rambles on it went on long enough to fill half a book.

Mr Burns: A Post Electric Play is one of the strangest plays I have ever seen, and one of the most thought-provoking in its commentaries on the power and purpose of narrative and pop culture.  The sense of camaraderie one sometimes senses in the characters felt as though it extended into the audience; I’ve seldom seen a play inspire so much friendly chatter among strangers between acts. It’s not a perfect play, but it’s certainly one I’ll never forget.

My Time Out Chicago blog (and other news)

Time Out Chicago, a local magazine, asked if I'd like to create a blog for them about odd and interesting Chicago history stuff.

So I now have a Time Out Blog that I'm referring to as "Adam in the Archives," since most posts will involve me digging obscure stories from old newspaper archives. I have two posts up so far, with one or two per week coming up.

Christmas Tragedies recounts a few tales of woe from the papers of a century ago (when taste and propriety were not exactly the order of the day).

Chaplin's Censorship in Chicago tells about how we actually had a government group that censored movies in Chicago 100 years ago - it seems timely given all the fuss over The Interview, which I take pretty personally - many of my books are satirical in nature, and I'm on the "banned books list." I don't care if the movie is any good or if Sony is milking it for publicity; if some country had hacked General Motors we'd have bombed them by now. But even before the release was (briefly) shelved and the President started talking about it, I kept seeing people saying "Well, Spider-Man 3 sucked, and I think Franco is annoying, so go, North Korea, go." This bugged me a lot. If you can't make fun of Kim Jong Un, who can you make fun of? If the answer is "no one," we may have reached some sort of Twitter-era singularity.

Anyway, no foreign nations launched attacks on us over Charlie Chaplin's Hitler-bashing The Great Dictator in 1941, but Chaplin ran afoul of local censors in 1914 over a two-reeler in which he spends about half the film pantless. This week marks exactly 100 years since Chaplin moved to Chicago; it was supposed to be a long-term move but only lasted a few weeks.

This ties neatly into a plug for Flickering Empire: How Chicago Invented the US Film Industry, which I co-wrote with Michael Glover Smith. I'll be out Jan 20 and, being published by the film studies arm of Columbia University Press, it's my first "scholarly" book.  That's Chaplin in the center of the cover photo, during his brief time at Chicago's Essanay studios.

Bitter and cynical old cuss that I am regarding publishing (a process that I describe as "95% misery and humiliation, 5% free food,") the books seems to be selling pretty well! As of this writing it's #6 in its category on Amazon and in the top 70k overall, which is a number I think I only ever hit with my novels when one of them is getting banned in Idaho.

While I'm making this rambling post (to show off my page's new look), there've been a couple of nifty posts over on The Mysterious Chicago blog lately:

The Mystery of Zanzic tells the story of an odd Chicago house set up to run fake seances in 1893 - according to a story Houdini retold years later, one customer died while doing it with what he thought was the ghost of his dead wife. Tough story to verify, but it's reasonably to imagine that if you were a magician getting rid of a body after something like that, you wouldn't fill out much paperwork.

The Strange Death of Lazarus Averbuch tells of the time the Chicago police chief shot a guy dead because he looked like he might be an anarchist. There were and are plenty of questions as to why the guy had really come to the chief's house, and plenty of reason to suspect that the chief just shot the guy because he thought he looked scary and panicked. But you can probably guess whether he was ever indicted.

And in William Duvol: Chicago's Only Revolutionary Soldier? I dig into a mysterious grave at Rosehill Cemetery that may or may not be the grave of a revolutionary soldier (he'd be the only one buried in the city that we know of; most revolutionary vets were long dead by the time Chicago began to grow).

That's about all of the news from here in Chicago. Jan 10th I'm the "paranormal guest" at an indie pro-wrestling event in Minneapolis, and I'll be at the ALA convention here on February 1st, signing VERY early advance copies of my Ghosts of Lincoln book at the Llewellyn booth.  My recent novel Play Me Backwards is up for a "funniest YA book" award over at YA Books Central, and I'd like to quickly plug The Wormhole, 1462 N Milwaukee Ave, where I've been coming to write every day. It has a full-size Delorean, a working Nintendo, and all sorts of 80s toys as decorations all over. I love it here.

Heavy Metal Vomit Christmas Party

Here's a little number I tossed up recently in the Caribbean:

 (recorded with The Back Row Hooligans and re-released as part of the PLAY ME BACKWARDS: A Novel For Young Adults Who Worship the Devil companion EP.)

Christmas with the family, my wife and kids are here
The fire is warm oh what more could I want
but there's something missing, I'm tugging at the strings
of my sweater, which has reindeer on the front
  they're fuzzy in their splendor, but don't bring back the glow
  that christmas with my family brought me all those years ago
     so can we have a heavy metal vomit christmas party please?
     if no one pukes, it doesn't feel like christmas time to me
   You'd better not cry, you'd better not pout I'm getting my dokken tapes back out
    let's get a mosh pit going all around the christmas tree

Every year my cousins would dub each others tapes
as we played them on my grandma's stereo
we'd beat up on my brother, and act like youth gone wild
burning things, and making demons in the snow
   We'd see how hard we could bang our heads against the wall
   I'm bleeding in the shots of me with santa at the mall
      oh can we have a heavy metal vomit christmas party please
      the smell of vodka makes it feel like christmas time to me
      when the grown-up table began to pray, the kids table knocked the night away
     shouting at the devil all around the christmas tree

  I believe we need a heavy metal vomit christmas party please
     I want my kids to know what what feels like christmas time to me
     heedless of the wind and weather, let's all shout "no life til leather!"

     I sold my soul for rock and roll around the christmas tree

Adam's New Book: Sept 2013