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Richard F. Bales

Born: Milwaukee, Wisconsin 1951
Pen Name: None

Connection to Illinois: Bales studied at Illinois College and received a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree at Northern Illinois University. He currently resides in Aurora.

Biography: Richard F. Bales started writing soon after he became a lawyer. He has written articles for the Chicago Bar Association, DuPage County Bar Association, and Illinois State Bar Association. His book, The Great Chicago Fire and the Myth of Mrs. O'Leary's Cow, served as the basis for an episode of the television series Unsolved History, broadcast by the Discovery Channel in 2003. Currently, he is semi-retired after working more than 40 years in the real estate title insurance profession.


Primary Literary Genre(s): History; Non-Fiction

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers


Selected Titles

The Great Chicago Fire and the myth of Mrs. O'Leary's cow /
ISBN: 0786423587 OCLC: 50129289

McFarland & Co., Jefferson, N.C. : ©2002.

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 swallowed up more than three square miles in two days, leaving thousands homeless and 300 dead. Throughout history, the fire has been attributed to Mrs. O'Leary, an immigrant Irish milkmaid, and her cow. On one level, the tale of Mrs. O'Leary's cow is merely the quintessential urban legend. But the story also represents a means by which the upper classes of Chicago could blame the fire's chaos on a member of the working poor. Although that fire destroyed the official county documents, some land tract records were saved. Using this and other primary source information, Richard F. Bales created a scale drawing that reconstructed the O'Leary neighborhood. Next he turned to the transcripts--more than 1,100 handwritten pages--from an investigation conducted by the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners, which interviewed 50 people over the course of 12 days. The board's final report, published in the Chicago newspapers on December 12, 1871, indicates that commissioners were unable to determine the cause of the fire. And yet, by analyzing the 50 witnesses' testimonies, the author concludes that the commissioners could have determined the cause of the fire had they desired to do so. Being more concerned with saving their own reputation from post-fire reports of incompetence, drunkenness and bribery, the commissioners failed to press forward for an answer. The author has uncovered solid evidence as to what really caused the Great Chicago Fire.

The Short Writings of Nelson Algren: A Study of His Stories, Essays, Articles, Reviews, Poems and Other Literature
ISBN: 1476681325 OCLC:

McFarland 2022

Nelson Algren was a renowned Chicago writer known for his social commentary and his novels like The Man with the Golden Arm and A Walk on the Wild Side. Although he continues to be remembered almost exclusively for his novels, this book aims to highlight the value and influence of his short form works. Before he died in 1981, Algren had amassed a genre-defying body of work, including short stories, articles, poems and book reviews. The present book features a comprehensive analysis and discussion of Algren's lost literature, including everything but his novels. One of the pieces covered is a masterpiece of race relations written in 1950, more than 60 years before the galvanization of the Black Lives Matter movement. Another is a scathing poem about Algren's transatlantic love affair with Simone de Beauvoir. Both items are reprinted in the book courtesy of the Algren estate. This book also includes references to Algren's works that have yet to be studied by Algren scholars.