As you can see by the cover of ebook version of Northcoast Shakedown, the book’s setting is Cleveland. In fact, since it’s original publication, I’ve been identified with the city. Despite almost three years of My Town Monday posts about my current home, Cincinnati, I still get asked about how things are in Cleveland.
Honestly? I don’t know. I moved out of the Greater Cleveland area in 1988 and arrived in Cincinnati in 1991. A few years ago when I was going through a divorce, I contemplated leaving Cincinnati and starting over. I’m sorry to say Cleveland was not on my list of possible new hometowns. No, I was looking at Chicago or San Francisco. (Then I met this cute blonde who gave me a very compelling reason to stay put: She said yes to my marriage proposal. Suddenly, Chicago wasn’t in the cards.)
So why Cleveland?
Well, let’s consider my current home. It’s a sleepy, conservative Ohio River town with more in common with Memphis and St. Louis than Cleveland or Columbus. It took me over a decade to really embrace my adopted home. During that decade, I still pined for the shores of Lake Erie. Cleveland has about as much in common with the city on the other end of I-71 as New York has with Los Angeles. They’re both American cities of similar size. And that’s it.
Cleveland has a patchwork ethnic mix more like those in Chicago or New York than Cincinnati and Columbus. The architecture is different. The music is different. Once upon a time, Cleveland was one of those cities where you needed a following in music if you ever hoped to break big in New York or LA. The city is rough, often and gleefully crude, and unabashedly earthy in its attitudes and language. It’s biggest rival is Pittsburgh, a rivalry that has forged a bond through economic hardship and common ethnic, religious, and political makeup. Besides, it’s two hours away on the Turnpike.
And Cleveland has never taken the worst blows anyone can deal it lying down. It’s river caught fire. It’s baseball team was a laughingstock for three decades. Someone kidnapped its football team, but the city forced the NFL to leave the records, the team name, and the franchise in place while they built a new home for the Browns. Hit hard with the housing collapse, Cleveland, like Detroit to the west, simply bulldozed the abandoned neighborhoods and pressed on with a decades-long plan to remake the lakefront.
Cleveland takes its share of abuse, much of it unfair, and yet it’s still there.
And while Cincinnati has a lot to offer and certainly enough character to support yet another crime series set here, telling stories in Cleveland is like stepping into a smokey blues bar and hearing Buddy Guy or the ghost of Stevie Ray Vaughan making that guitar cry.