“December 1903: The Iroquois” by Owen Keehnen— Chicago, 1903

december 1903

Keehnen, Owen. “December 1903: The Iroquois”, Wilde City Press, 2014.

 Chicago, 1903

Amos Lassen

There is nothing like a good romance story on a cold and wintry day. It is the day before Christmas Eve, 2014 and outside it is overcast and grey but inside I have been reading a wonderful new romance by an author who never fails to please, Owen Keehnen. Although I have never met Keehnen, I have reviewed (favorably) so many of his books that I feel like I know him.

In his new book he takes us to Chicago in 1903 during the holiday season. It was in that year that a fire at the Iroquois Theater killed hundreds of people. But it was also in 1903 that two men, Frankie and Otto met on the street and purely as a coincidence. Frankie, an actor, is appearing in “Mr. Bluebeard, which is on stage at the Iroquois. After a meeting with members of the cast, Frankie began walking back to his room at a boarding house and as he walked he noticed a good-looking man and the two exchanged glances and eventually began to talk. The other man was Otto and they were soon on their way to Frankie’s room. Frankie knew nothing of Otto’s life and they continued meeting for several nights.

I have never experienced a winter in Chicago but I have hears that they can be quite brutal. The two men decide to run away from Chicago and start a new life somewhere else and they were to meet in the alley in the back of the theatre after the curtain fell on the matinee. Frankie got a ticket for Otto so he could watch the show and see Frankie work but before anyone knew what was happening a fire broke out and ravaged the theater and the people inside. If you want to know what happened to the two men, you will have to read the book.

This is quite a short read coming in at only 50 pages but Keehnen manages to pack a lot into them. He carefully sets up the scene with wonderful imagery and I felt that I was right there in Chicago as I read.

It is hard not to love Frankie and he is also the narrator of the story. We see things as Frankie does but surprising enough the story is not one-sided (as can happen with a first person narrator). Because he feels so strongly for Otto, he shares his feelings with us. Otto is a mysterious character to us and to Frankie as well yet we see the power of the love the two men share. What we do see in Otto is his sense of being alone but he also knows how to get what he wants and he wanted Frankie.

I am having a hard time not giving something away so it is best that I stop writing so that you can start reading this very clever and wonderfully written story.