“Spare any change?” and “I don’t know nothing” were the watchwords on Chicago’s Skid Row in the 1960s. Located on Madison Street, a little west of the city’s bustling and prosperous downtown, Skid Row was home to hustlers, winos, addicts, bums, lost souls, ripoffs, and kickbacks. Everyone, it seemed, had a secret.
Into this shady society steps Dr. Mel Greenberg, who describes himself as “fresh out of dental school, very idealistic, and very poor.” He opens his new dental office “to help the downtrodden,” he says. Instead, he finds himself in a world for which his working-class upbringing never prepared him, where a day might bring anything from a philosophy-quoting patient to a knife held at his neck. Eventually, he finds himself a suspect in murder.
Based on a true story, Murder on Skid Row is the first novel by Chicagoan Charlene Wexler. Told from Dr. Greenberg’s point of view, Murder on Skid Row takes the reader back to a place that was an integral part of Chicago for decades—but one today’s public officials and city-beautiful boosters would rather have us believe never existed.
In the pages of Murder on Skid Row, you’ll meet:
Ace, who “could flick a billfold from a pocket faster than a squirrel could pluck a nut from a tree.”
Darlene, a ghetto girl torn between the better life working in Mel’s office can provide and her boyfriend’s world of gangs and drugs.
Tyrone, Mel’s “bodyguard” and more dangerous than Skid Row itself.
Jim Bones, a Vietnam vet forever scarred by the horrors of war.
Abe, whose pharmacy was one of the last thriving businesses left on Skid Row—but whose secrets held fatal consequences.
Plus a host of other characters who made up the tattered tapestry of Skid Row life.
Toss in humor, pathos, and a murder mystery, and you have a gripping historical thriller. Chicago’s Skid Row is long gone, but Wexler brings it back in Murder on Skid Row.