Lay aside what you think you know about this city from sensational internet headlines of violence and crime. Put aside the misconceptions you may have from watching movies, or television shows, that portray the City of Big Shoulders as a gang-infested rat hole of a place that might well benefit from having another cow kick over an unsecured lantern, and re-building the place from the ground up.
While it’s true we have our share of violence, like any other large city—not to mention a storied history of mafia families running those Prohibition speakeasies and gambling joints–it’s so much more than the sum of these criminal parts.
Chicago is, first and foremost, a city of neighborhoods. Diverse communities where families are raised, livings are made, and the American dream, no matter how battered and bruised it may be for many, is still pursued. In this city, people face problems head-on with a steely resolve to find a way through most anything.
Aside from the fact that it’s Home Sweet Home for me, the resiliency, strength, and diversity of the city is one of the reasons why WATCH THEM DIE is set here. One of the settings is Humboldt Park, an area on the West side of Chicago that is home to the city’s largest Puerto Rican community. It is home to our main female protagonist, TERESA ORTIZ, newly promoted to detective after losing her hero cop father in the line of duty. Finding a way to hold her grieving family together—including her opinionated Italian mother—while working to find a deviant serial killer stalking the city, is the biggest challenge of her young life.
Humboldt Park is vibrant and alive with salsa music, amazing food, block parties, and the annual Fiestas Puertorriqueñas, one of the country’s largest Latin festivals. Most importantly, the strong community ties of the families that make up its neighborhoods feed it.
Welcome to Chicago. Stick around for a while, and enjoy the food and the music. For a taste of Ortiz’s world, and Humboldt Park, check out the companion short story BEER WITH PAPI, an exclusive for readers who subscribe to my author newsletter.