Tag Archives: les roberts

CLE Reads: Les Roberts’ Whiskey Island

October’s CLE Read

A bit of a blog fail: We’re still in catch-up mode from Hurricane Sandy and one of the things that got pushed back was my October CLE Read originally scheduled for mid-week. Better late than never, though.

For my second CLE Read, I picked Les Roberts’ Whiskey Island, a book that brought together two passions of mine – mysteries and (of course!) Cleveland.

Starting with Murder She Wrote and Encyclopedia Brown, I was raised on a steady diet of mysteries since I was 5. My mom is an avid murder mystery fan and everyday after school I would watch crime procedurals with her. Years later, we still swap the latest mystery novels we’re reading.

So last year when I read my first Milan Jacovich mystery The Cleveland Creep, I couldn’t wait to share a Cleveland-written and -based murder mystery with her.

Whiskey Island, recently published through Gray and Co., is the next installment in Roberts’ Milan Jacovich series.

Jacovich is a blue-collar guy in a blue-collar city. After growing up in the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood, he attended Kent, served in Vietnam and became a Cleveland cop.

Now he’s a tough P.I. with a love of Strohl’s solving some of the more ghastly crimes committed in Roberts’ (semi-)fictional Cleveland.

While he often sees the grittiest sides of Cleveland, make no mistake – Jacovich loves his city. In Whiskey Island, Jacovich describes the best part about Cleveland:

My town is full of nice people. They are open, warm, sometimes funny – huge sports fans, great music lovers of both classical and rock, and dedicated supporters of art, theater and dance. They’re generous; even when times are tough, charities do well here. And Clevelanders love to eat; great new restaurants open here all the time.”

And in part that’s a reflection of the author’s own passion for Cleveland. Roberts came here after a 24-year career in Hollywood where he wrote for the Hollywood Squares, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

He was asked to create a lottery game show for Ohio, which ultimately became Cash Explosion Double Play and moved back in 1990 where he’s lived since – spreading his love for Cleveland in his mystery novels and other writings.

Les Roberts on the cover of his memoir

In Whiskey Island, Jacovich is tasked with finding out who is trying to kill Cleveland councilman Bert Loftus.

Loftus’ proclivity for food, call girls and bribes has put him at the center of an FBI investigation that’s set to bring down many city officials and invested individuals.

Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Although Roberts got his inspiration from recent scandals, the turns of Whiskey Island should keep you guessing on who’s going to ‘get it’ and who’s guilty.

I enjoy Roberts’ mystery novels because there is a classic PI sensibility to them – reminiscent of the crime novels that first hooked me.

And as usual, it was a treat to read the spot-on Cleveland cameos from downtown to the suburbs. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the city I don’t think the worldbuilding bogs the story down.

In Whiskey Island specifically, Roberts’ descriptions show why Jacovich would fight for Cleveland in the face of so much ugliness.

The addition of a partner for Jacovich also sets this apart from previous installments. With his age catching up with him, Milan brings on young vet Kevin “K.O.” O’Bannion.

Splitting the narrative between the two gives a more well-rounded perspective and made it more enjoyable to piece the puzzle together.

You can purchase Whiskey Island and other Les Roberts books online from Cleveland publisher Gray & Company. It can also be found at many of Northeast Ohio’s local bookstores: www.grayco.com/stores/index.shtml.

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This is the latest in my CLE Read series. Check out the first installment:

If you’ve read Whiskey Island or have a suggestion for a Cleveland book I should clue into, leave a comment or send me an email at clueintocleveland (at) gmail (dot) com.

I’ll be back later this month with Rust Belt Chic The Cleveland Anthology.

All I Want for Cleve-Mas, Part 3: Lost in a Good (Cleveland) Book

With holiday shopping now in full swing, it’s time for part 3 in my All I Want for Cleve-Mas series.  Previously I talked about events that make it easy to shop local this season, as well as what’s on stage in Cleveland for the holidays.

Today, it’s all about books!

I wish I had more time to read and am very slowly working my way through a stack of books I bought over the last year. Besides being on a big Neil Gaiman and Jasper Fforde kick lately, I’ve also been catching up on my Cleveland reading.

For the “bookworms” on your list, Gray & Co. Publishing offers books about Cleveland and by Cleveland authors – from biographies and food to travel and mystery.

Here are a few of the books I’ve read or have on my to-read list. What books would you recommend for a Cleveland-centric holiday gift?

Dick Goddard’s Six Inches of Partly Cloudy

With the snow we get every year, Clevelanders need to follow the weather forecasts closely. So it’s not too surprising that Fox8 meteorologist Dick Goddard is as much a Cleveland institution as the Rock Hall. As their chief meteorologist since 1966, he has been forecasting the weather for over 40 years and was twice named most popular local television weatherperson in America.

As someone who’s not originally from Cleveland, I’ve observed that people’s love for Goddard doesn’t just come from our need to know about the city’s ever-changing weather, but also because of his personality and dedication to local causes.

Six Inches of Partly Cloudy features personal tales shared by Goddard, cartoons, fun facts, and essays about weather, pets, Ohio history and the TV business. Goddard’s friends and colleagues tell stories of the legend as well. 

My favorite part of this book, though, isn’t the stories or the illustrations, but the fact that all income from it is being donated by Goddard to the cause he’s most well-known for supporting – animal charities.

Les Roberts’ Milan Jacovich Mysteries

Raised on a steady diet of Columbo, Murder She Wrote, Rockford Files, and Quincy M.E. episodes, I am a huge fan of murder mysteries. I share this love with my mom – as we have a long-standing tradition of  trading mystery novels back and forth.

I know what I’ll be getting her this year after learning about Les Roberts’ series of Cleveland-based mystery novels. I was first introduced to Roberts’ writing at a Meet the Author event over the summer.

It was in honor of his recently released novel The Cleveland Creep, the 15th installment in a detective series focused on the fictional character Milan Jacovich.

In addition to capturing the gritty seediness I like in my mystery novels, Roberts’ novels also embrace the city of Cleveland as their setting. Although some of the places in the book are fictional, many of the region’s neighborhoods are brought to life on the page and Roberts takes inspiration from local people and events.

While I was at the meet-and-greet, I also bought his memoir We’ll Always Have Cleveland. His story of coming to Cleveland for a job, but finding a life-long home is something I’m proud to share. This book is sitting on my table at home – next up on my reading list.

Big Chuck!

Before Scott and I moved to Cleveland, we visited the city one weekend to check it out. While we were getting ready to go apartment-hunting, we flipped on the tv in our hotel room and stumbled upon an episode of the Big Chuck and Lil’ John Show. 

We were quickly drawn into the offbeat movie-and-skits show. I remember they were playing Weird Al’s UHF and had a handful of bizarre but endearing sketches – looking back, that was one of the moments that made us realize how well we fit in here.

Sadly, right after we moved, Big Chuck announced his retirement and the show stopped airing that year (though I just read they started running their classic skits again on Fox 8 so I’ll have to set my dvr).

Having missed the heyday of Big Chuck and Lil’ John, I was excited to check out his bio. Big Chuck! features stories from his decades in television, not just on the show that bears his name, but also through his collaboration with Ernie Anderson on the infamous cult classic, Ghoulardi.

Laura Taxel’s Cleveland Ethnic Eats

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know how much I love Cleveland’s food scene. There’s a lot to discover – not just from the city’s assortment of exciting restaurants recently popping up, but also from the smaller ethnic restaurants and markets that make up our foodscape.

Food writer Laura Taxel compiled a guide to help explore Cleveland’s diverse cultures in Cleveland Ethnic Eats (8th edition, 2009). She curated information on 356 ethnic restaurants and markets to help readers expand their palate and enjoy authentic meals from more than 60 different countries and cultures.

Detailed listings make it easy to decide where to go for dinner by listing menu items and specialties. And stories and history about the different local businesses add a personal touch as well.

Neil Zurcher’s Ohio Road Trips

One of my goals in 2012 is to explore more of Ohio than just Cleveland. I’ve heard about a lot of great towns which I haven’t visited yet so I plan to be taking at least a couple of roadtrips this coming year to learn more about the state.

Because of this, Neil Zurcher‘s books are on my shopping list. As a journalist and broadcaster whose work has focused on exploring the region (especially through his One Tank Road Trip segments), Zurcher has become an expert on Ohio travel.

In Ohio Road Trips 2nd Edition, he outlines 52 roadtrips to take in Ohio which feature places like a popcorn museum (that has Scott’s name all over it!) and Amish country getaways. And his book Tales from the Road is a nostalgic reflection on the quirky experiences he’s had and people he’s met while exploring the state.

Although he’s been publishing these books for a while, they’re still fresh and helpful for an Ohioan hitting the road for the first time (like me!).

Dan Coughlin’s Pass the Nuts

A list of Cleveland gift ideas would be incomplete without books that feature the city’s storied sports history

From The Brown’s Fans Tailgating Guide to Curses! (A Lifetime of Tough Luck, Bad Breaks, Goofs, Gaffes, and Blunders), these books often humorously look at the ups and downs of Cleveland’s sports teams and share stories about the beloved personalities who have brought us our sports news over the decades.

Pass the Nuts is the latest Cleveland sports-centric book to be published by Gray & Co. It is author Dan Coughlin’s second collection of stories about the unusual characters he has met in four decades as a sports journalist.

The Rocky River native, who traveled with the Browns and Indians, covered five major college bowl games, world championship boxing and international races, writes equally about big names like Steinbrenner and Ted Turner and just-as-crazy everyday moments like death-defying helicopter rides to cover high school football.   

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You can purchase any of these books online at Gray & Co.’s online store, or you can also support Cleveland’s brick-and-mortars by buying these books from places like Visible Voice Books in Tremont or the stores listed here.

Next week, I’ll have my last installment of “All I Want for Cleve-Mas” with a list of places and events that make me actually want to bundle up and enjoy Cleveland’s crisp winter. In the meantime, check out The Chef’s Widow’s post on shopping local this holiday and enter her giveaway for some great CLE swag!

Gray & Co. 411: