A novel of the Jazz Age, The Big Town is the story of a failed businessman
whose dreams of prosperity hinge on the secret proposition of a millionaire
industrialist and a dangerous relationship he finds with a poor orphan girl
chasing love in the great American metropolis.
Harry Hennesey’s hopes of success, both in his household and the world,
have driven him to sell his home in an Illinois small town and take his chances
in the big city. He rents a room in a run-down hotel. He deals in wholesale
items scavenged from yard sales and close-outs. One night at a movie theater
downtown, he meets a teenage flapper named Pearl who latches onto him and
won’t let go. For several years now, Harry has threatened his marriage and self-esteem with innumerable infidelities. Now he finds himself falling in love with
a girl less than half his age. But that’s not all.
Charles A. Follette, chairman of the board of the American Prometheus
Corporation, comes to him with a slick proposition: find Follette’s missing niece, and the road to riches shall be his.
Soon, though, Harry discovers a darker secret to the identity of the missing niece and what lies behind the urgency for
her detection. It’s this revelation that leads him to a closer examination of what it means to the life he’s known since the
birth of his children and that life he believes awaits him if he can only reach the top of the ladder.
Harry’s story in The Big Town is set against a fantastic backdrop of an archetypal 1920s American big city. We see
speakeasies, sanitariums, skyscrapers, and a glittering Gatsby-like party high atop the metropolis. Lost in his own moral
confusions, we watch Harry try to reform his young lover and uncover the secret of her own past in a small canal town
miles beyond a city where gangsters murder ordinary citizens and everyone seems to have a get-rich scheme as the Roaring ’20s come to a thunderous close. The Big Town evokes a lost era through language and flamboyant characters reminiscent of Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, Ring Lardner, etc. Yet it’s also eerily relevant to our own time with its study of the role
of business, crime, morality, and love in our lives.
Download and read a 24-page PDF excerpt (186 KB) including the first two chapters.
"Monte Schulz's The Big Town exposes decadence, wealth and consumption in Jazz Age America as spiritual myopia — where desperate, haunting characters hinge their lives on impossible dreams. This lyrical, gripping novel is as close to 1920s America as it gets, and penned with such frightening realism that the chaos of a bygone era erupts from its pages." – Simon Van Booy, award-winning author of Everything Beautiful Began After
"Bold and stirring, The Big Town is a big walk through the dark side of Jazz Age America, a place where temptation and violence were only a breath away. A finely-textured tale of moral ambiguity told with gripping realism that richly evokes the sights and sounds of an era defined by gangsters and Gatsby."
— Persia Walker, author of Black Orchid Blues
Winner in the Fiction & Literature: General category of the "Best Books 2010" Awards sponsored by USA Book News
"Monte Schulz's novel This Side of Jordan shows that Like Father Like Son — both superb!" – Ray Bradbury
"Schulz, son of the beloved Peanuts cartoonist, proves himself to be a handy wordsmith in this literarily
ambitious novel of pre-Depression America... [T]hose who
savor authentic details of a bygone era will be rapt by Schulz’s delightful displays of staccato, wise-guy
diction ('Say, hatchet face, what’s the dope?') and his cascading sheets of period description that set the
scenes. Hand this straight-faced and multifaceted almost-satire to fans of the Southern Gothic tradition, all
the way from Flannery O’Connor to John Kennedy Toole." – Ian Chipman, Booklist
"Beautifully written and thoroughly researched, a veritable time-machine that whirled me through time to the dirty back roads of the American Midwest in the year before the Great Depression. ... Did I mention how good the writing is? The writing is excellent... A masterpiece of setting and storytelling..." – Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing
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