Straight Outta Ford City
By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on May 25, 2005 7:24PM
If you missed last year’s The Book of Ralph by John McNally, you missed a great little “meta-memoir” about growing up in the southwest suburbs--but you weren't the only one. The novel--described on its cover as "a fiction"--has just come out in paperback and McNally has started up a tour again and stops in Chicago every day this week, culminating in two big events on Saturday. At 11 am, he’ll be at Duke’s for “the first ever signing at a beef sandwich joint,” and they’ll have free hot dogs, drinks, and balloons! You know a literary reading can’t go wrong when there’s free food and balloons. Later that night at 8 pm, he’ll be at the Hideout, reading with Joe Meno, Elizabeth Crane, and a few other local authors, with music by The Watchers and Red-Eyed Legends.
The Book of Ralph is a set of short stories about Hank, an eighth grader with a thing for CB radios, and his friend Ralph, a troublemaker who is able to get Hank involved in his schemes and plans. The two boys get in adventures aplenty, some more dangerous and crazy than others.
It’s often funny, though, and it’s peppered with familiar South Side landmarks: The Ford City Shopping Center, Duke’s Italian Beef and South Side Records. Norm, Ralph’s shady older brother, works at the Tootsie Roll Factory in Ford City and gets involved in a black market candy scheme. Things get a little wistful near the end, when an older Hank returns home years later to meet up with Ralph again, but overall The Book of Ralph is a rollicking little ride.