The Old Neighborhood
by Bill Hillmann
A Library Journal Top Indie Fiction: 30 Key Titles Beyond the Best-Sellers List for Spring/Summer 2014 Selection
Best Debut Novel by Chicago Sun Times
Best New Book by Chicago Reader
Bill Hillmann's debut novel, The Old Neighborhood, is the story of teenager Joe Walsh, the youngest in a large, mixed-race family living in Chicago. After Joe witnesses his older brother commit a gangland murder, his friends and family drag him down into a pit of violence that reaches a bloody impasse when his elder sister begins dating a rival gang member. The Old Neighborhood is both a brutal tale of growing up tough in a mean city, and a beautiful harkening to the heartbreak of youth.
PRAISE FOR THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD:
“A raucous but soulful account of growing up on the mean streets of Chicago, and the choices kids are forced to make on a daily basis. This cool, incendiary rites of passage novel is the real deal.”
— Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting
"Hillmann knows the streets, and he also knows how to tell stories—you might know his work from the Chicago Tribune, Salon.com, and NPR. So it’s not surprising to see him deliver a big, sprawling, lacerating, steely-eyed account of one young man’s coming of age in a mixed-race family in Chicago. Joe’s life spirals downward after his older brother commits a gangland murder; will it head back up? Verdict: Unvarnished and absorbing; for readers who want to know."
—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
"[A] gritty, urban coming of age novel."
—Patrick Wensink, Esquire
"Hillmann’s first novel is a sprawling, gangland coming-of-age tale. Set on Chicago’s north side, this urban crime story is full of surprises, thanks to its portrayal of gang affiliations complicating and even transcending racial divisions. The violence is graphic, the occasional sex almost pornographic, and the dialogue profane. Chicago writer Hillmann, founder of the Windy City Story Slam and a Golden Gloves champion, has written a vivid, visceral, and curiously sentimental novel of gang life."
—Michael Autrey, Booklist
"There's almost no escape [in The Old Neighborhood], even for a kid with a conscience. Joe eventually gets drawn deeper and deeper into the gangland world, with the expected dreadful consequences. Shit eventually catches up to him. Hillmann knows the old neighborhood and the life from which he's drawn his novel. It's intense fiction, and at times you may feel punched in the gut. Which is fitting, because Hillmann was a Golden Gloves boxer as well."
—Jerome Ludwig, Chicago Reader
"One of the strengths of The Old Neighborhood is the vivid and precise way Hillmann describes the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago. [...] Like Stuart Dybek's Douglas Park, Gwendolyn Brooks' Bronzeville or Nelson Algren's Division Street, Bill Hillmann's Edgewater is a unique literary evocation of the city. By writing about the streets and the people he knows by heart, Hillman shows the contrary and complex forces at work in this city.
—Dmitry Samarov, Chicago Tribune
"[A] gritty and compelling account of growing up on Chicago's north side."
—David Gutkowski, largehearted boy
“Hillmann’s prose is sharp, his dialogue is righteous and the F-word hits the reader square in the face like belt-fed .50 caliber ammunition. The Old Neighborhood is a wonderful first novel.”
—Thom Jones, author of The Pugilist At Rest
“Tough and real and filled with a remarkably interesting cast of characters, this is a novel in the great Chicago tradition. Nelson Algren would have loved it, as I do.”
—Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune senior writer and columnist, WGN radio host, author, and Chicago legend
“Bill Hillmann’s The Old Neighborhood is like a right hook to the chin with brass knuckles, crackling with both bravery and urgency. Brilliantly evoking Nelson Algren’s Neon Wilderness and Richard Price’s The Wanderers, the novel is unflinchingly honest in its depictions of class and race, a deft portrait of our sometimes-less-than-fair city.”
—Joe Meno, author of Hairstyles Of The Damned
“Bill Hillmann writes with a furious humanity and wide open heart.”
—Tony Fitzpatrick, renowned artist and author
“Hillmann describes in detail the horrifying, hilarious and moving events of a childhood dominated by a heroin-addled career criminal of a brother. The story is like something from a Scorsese film.”
—The Spectator UK
“A dark, urban tale.”
—Resonance FM London
“Bill Hillmann’s The Old Neighborhood is as good as it gets. The generosity, style and passion of his story gripped me from the beginning and convinced me as few other books have that here was a writer to be reckoned with. Chicago has a new literary star in its firmament.”
—John Hemingway, author of Strange Tribe and grandson of Ernest Hemingway
“Bill Hillmann, a veteran of the streets, the boxing ring and the staging of knock down drag out literary happenings finally gets his say in novel form. We love its raw authenticity. Bill Hill is the Rill Dill...”
—Kent And Keith Zimmerman, authors of Hell’s Angels, Rotten, and Operation Family Secrets
“Bill Hillmann has written a top notch novel.”
—Marc Kelly Smith, originator of Poetry Slam and the host of The Uptown Poetry Slam
“Hillman paints such vivid scenes of the north side, I feel as if I am right there. I’ve always believed that this part of Chicago and these neighborhoods deserve more literary attention than they have ever gotten. Hillmann’s novel delivers, showing the side of Chicago that those who grew up and worked here would recognize. His language is powerful and his characters lively. The central murder scene is so well conceived it was like I was working it as a cop. Hillmann is a writer worth keeping an eye on, writing about a city that is just aching for the right storytellers.”
—Martin Preib, author of The Wagon and veteran Chicago cop in Rogers Park
“Bill Hillmann takes you deep inside what it’s really like growing up on the streets in a tough Chi-town neighborhood. Excellent read.”
—Frank Calabrese Jr., former Chicago mobster and author of Operation Family Secrets
“The Old Neighborhood is a rib-wrenching look at man’s desperate desire to survive and rise above even the most harrowing of circumstances. His dialogue is crisp and true. He captures the street and its ethic in a way anyone who has come out of such an environment can relate to. But the story itself is one that any reader, anywhere, will come to care about because it is as basic as life itself—live every moment to its fullest because that moment could easily be your last.”
—Joe Distler, legendary bull-runner in Pamplona
“It’s an exciting read, hard to put down. It brings back memories of the neighborhoods on the North Side, the speech patterns, it takes me back there. It’s a great book.”
—David Diaz, former Chicago Golden Glove Champion, ’96 US Olympian And WBC Lightweight World Champion
ABOUT BILL HILLMANN:
Bill Hillmann is an award-winning writer and storyteller from Chicago. His writing has appeared in the The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Newcity, Salon.com, and has been broadcast on NPR. He’s told stories around the world with his internationally acclaimed storytelling series the Windy City Story Slam. Hillmann is a Union Construction Laborer and a bull-runner in Spain. In the not so distant past, Hillmann was a feared street brawler, gang affiliate, drug dealer, convict, and Chicago Golden Glove Champion.
Publication Date: April 2014