Synopses & Reviews
Six-year-old Michael Halligan longs to be a hero. Submerging himself in the world of Big Little Books, he imagines himself as "Mike Steele," righter of wrongs, friend to Dick Tracy, Buck Rogers, and the Lone Ranger. But reality pops him on the jaw when his mother dies unexpectedly in the winter of 1934. Michael is left in the custody of his gangster father, Paddy, where he tragically loses his faith in the power of good over evil.
So begins Michael's obsessive quest through the city and suburbs of Chicago to recapture the purity and comfort that defined his boyhood. As he attempts to track down a copy of every Big Little Book in existence, Michael begins — perhaps unintentionally — to also search out unconditional love, security, and stability in an arbitrary and unkind world.
An dazzling tale featuring a colorful cast of heroes, villains, and damsels in distress — both real and make-believe — Dream City poses the most dangerous of questions: What happens when we finally discover what we've spent our entire lives searching for?
"Short's sprawling and mostly successful debut novel packs in 72 years of one family's troubles. In Depression-era Chicago, six-year-old Michael Halligan relishes the times his mother, Elizabeth, reads to him from the funny pages, full of heroes he imagines coming to his rescue. His hired thug father, Paddy, dreams of owning a gas station outside of the city even if, in the meantime, one of the people he has to 'take care of' is his deadbeat father. Elizabeth, meanwhile, dreams of running away from her family with the leader of a cultish religious group. A pregnancy threatens to interfere with her plans, and she opts for an abortion that leads to her death and robs the novel of its most complex character. With Elizabeth out of the way, the narrative falls on an adult Michael, who, when not cataloguing in his journal his many nights spent with prostitutes, goes to some fairly outrageous lengths to collect every Big Little Book a series of pulpy books starring characters from the funnies he can find. Short doesn't bring much new to the family saga potluck, but a bevy of eccentric characters and some tense moments should keep readers in the fold. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[A]n impressively mature first effort....Short manages to turn the outwardly dreary, uninteresting Michael into a character who is not only sympathetic but complex and compelling....Highly recommended." Library Journal
A dazzling tale featuring a colorful cast of heroes, villains, and damsels in distress — both real and make believe — Dream City poses the most dangerous of questions: What happens when one man finally discovers what he's spent his entire life searching for?
About the Author
Brendan Short holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas. His fiction has appeared in several literary journals, including The Literary Review and River Styx, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. From 2000 to 2001 he was Writer-in-Residence at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. He lives with his wife and daughter in Oak Park, Illinois. Dream City is his first novel.