I’m not much for venturing out in the cold, but this Sunday I trekked to Madison Street with the 50 mile-per-hour winds blowing snow in my face to attend the Midwest Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America holiday party at Centuries & Sleuths Bookstore. Although I don’t write mystery myself, I’d been invited by Centuries & Sleuths owner Augie Aleksy and my editor Katie Drews here at the Review encouraged me to attend, thinking it would make an interesting column.

Oh, how right she was. Forest Park, I have a major scoop for you!

Now, I’m just a columnist and my background is creative writing – not journalism. But I felt a little like gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson as I struggled down the icy street in pursuit of my story, except you know, he infiltrated the Hell’s Angels and mystery writers are a tame breed by comparison… or so I thought.

The holiday party seemed normal at first. Good spread of food. Two Roosevelt music students, Max Benson and Geoff Luk, set the mood with a fine jazz performance. I had a little bit of a writerly fan-girl moment when I learned that author Sara Paretsky would be attending. Ms. Paretsky and Augie Aleksy will both be honored by the Mystery Writers of America in 2011. Sara Paretsky has been chosen to receive the Grand Master Award while Augie and Centuries & Sleuths will be recognized with the Raven Award for contribution to the mystery community.


I was indulging in some hot apple cider when things took a strange turn. A man by the name of Lieutenant Rick, who claimed to be with the Chicago Police and had the Chicago accent to prove it, started aggressively questioning the party guests about a mystery writer named Tammy Diamond, who’d been brutally attacked in the store earlier that afternoon while preparing for a signing. Rick eyed me very suspiciously when I admitted that I’d been in the shower at the time of the incident and the only ones who could confirm my alibi were my cats. Later, to my great embarrassment, he revealed to the mystery writers, whom I’d only just met, that I had been arrested three weeks prior.

My crime, I’m ashamed to admit, dear townspeople, is that I’m the kissing bandit-that crazy girl who jumps on stage at rock concerts or runs across the field at sporting events and kisses unsuspecting musicians and athletes. I have no recollection of this. It must have happened when I was treating my insomnia with Ambien.

Fortunately, Sara Paretsky overlooked this character flaw of mine and was still willing to talk to me about Centuries & Sleuths, describing our local bookstore as “a warm and welcoming place. The mystery community is grateful for Augie Aleksy’s support of local writers. Although,” she confided, “I did pick him for Tammy Diamond’s killer.”


Proving that Ms. Paretsky knows her way around a mystery, Lieutenant Rick reemerged and stopped the party to accuse Augie of this heinous crime. “This is what happens,” Augie warned the gathered authors, “if you don’t agree to do a signing at my store.”

Lieutenant Rick, who moonlights for an organization called Killer Dinners, did not arrest Augie, so you can still swing by Centuries & Sleuths to do some holiday shopping and congratulate him on the Raven award. I wouldn’t mention his crime though.

If you’re interested in writing mysteries, check into joining the Mystery Writers of America. The Midwest chapter meets at Centuries & Sleuths monthly, and as I discovered through fine investigative journalism, they throw a heck of a holiday party.

• Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.