They said he was “untouchable” — but it only went so far.
Elliot Ness, the Treasury agent who went after Al Capone in the bad old days in Chicago in the 1920s and 1930s couldn’t be bribed with money or booze or any other gangster goody around back then. He and the men he worked earned the name “untouchable”.
Turns out, though, according to author Michelle Regan, who has written a romantic thriller, calledChasing Elliot Ness, that Ness was a hands on type of guy when it came to the ladies.
Regan says it’s not so much that Ness was on the prowl, but that the ladies saw something in the aggressive lawman that made them swoon. “He was never lacking for female company,” Regan said.
Regan’s book takes you back to the Chicago of the Great Depression and, along with her heroine, Grace, we get a tour of the city and surrounding areas.
I’m a sucker for things about Chicago back then, and I had a lot of fun picking out the named landmarks and the unnamed ones.
Some are still around today.
Though gone but not forgotten, we get to shop a little at Marshall Fields, where Grace worked for awhile in the book. Fields is still there, but the name has been changed to Macy’s insult the memory.
We get a meal at the Berghoff, in the Loop, which is the city’s oldest continually operating restaurants. I could imagine some schnitzel and brats and a liter stein of dark beer while Grace narrated her struggle to survive in those desperate and hungry times.
There is a tour of the Field Museum, which, in Chasing Elliot Ness, is a date with Grace and her –shall we say– boyfriend. This is the same era of another fictional character, Indiana Jones, so I can imagine a figure dodging between the mummies and a whip cracking now and then.
Another mention in the book is the “Century of Progress” World’s Fair, which took place in 1933. Millions attended, as did a character in the book.
Regan’s Grace is an innocent girl from the sticks. The sticks in those days are the suburbs today, but Regan strips away the eighty years of progress and takes the reader back to an old road house called, in the book, “The Gardens”. This is really code for a place that is well known to those who dwell on the south side and south burbs of Chicago. A hint… this now respectable restaurant and steakhouse was a favorite chow place of Mayor Daley da First.
Yes, it is Jack Gibbons Restaurant! This former roadhouse is a country mile or so from Grace’s childhood home town, and a million miles from the innocence that she left.
If you go there today you will see it pretty much as Grace and her dubious boyfriend saw it back when cars as much metal as today’s tanks.
It’s not an easy task to go back in time and have it ring true. Regan does a “swell” job in recreating the times.
Everything is accurate to me, a casual buff of the times, including the two now Hilton Hotels that enjoy their place in the pages. We tour the Palmer House in the Loop and then wander over to the old Stevenson Hotel, overlooking Grant Park, which at the time, and for along time, was the biggest hotel in the world, room wise.
The hotel where Grace is being kept (yes, “kept”, but you’ll have to read the book) is the old Capone hangout, the Lexington Hotel. Not too many people got inside the hotel back in the day, but thanks to Regan we get to lounge around in the property and scuff up the furniture. This is the only way you’ll see the Lexington, too, so don’t go looking for it. It was “curtains” for the Lexington a long time ago. I’m not sure, but there is probably a parking lot or a 7-Eleven where it used to stand.
I’ve digressed a bit. Elliot Ness, who is always in the background, and in the thoughts and imaginings of Grace, is interwoven throughout the book. He is a knight on the white horse that is always going to swoop in and take care of Grace. And he… well, I won’t tell you. Read the book, pal.
Ness was untouchable, but that didn’t mean he didn’t get a nice hug or more in real life and in the book.
This book is jake as far as I’m concerned, and written by a swell dame.