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Chicago Author Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'

By Anonymous in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 14, 2005 3:00PM

As a sometime student of the fine art of writing, Chicagoist has often been given the age-old advice: write what you know. Last Thursday, Chicago author David Cowan allegedly took that old platitude (or perhaps its less pithy and more useful corrolary: research that which you want to write about but don't know) a little too seriously. Chicago Fire Book - Photo: Cowan, author of Great Chicago Fires: Historic Blazes That Shaped a City, is charged with setting fire to a church storage building on the North Side. A former firefighter and also co-author of To Sleep With Angels: A Story of a Fire, Cowan has given a statement to police admitting to setting the fire, from which there were no injuries.

We haven't read any of his books, though To Sleep With Angels is reportedly an authoritative text on the December 1, 1958 fire at the Our Lady of Angels school, which killed 93 students and 3 nuns. We have to be honest and admit we're kind of curious as to whether there were any clues, besides the existence of the books themselves, that suggested Cowan's apparently unhealthy interest in fire. John Kuenster, Cowan's co-author on the Our Lady of Angels book, told the Tribune that "[Cowan] was always fascinated by the fires themselves." Cowan's wife, Ursula Bielski, suggests that he was distraught after being fired from the Bellwood Fire Department in 2003 and, more recently, from a job as a church janitor, and set the fire on Thursday such that no one would be injured, and hoping to get caught.

Perhaps a memoir detailing his depression, lifelong fascination with fire, and metaphorical rising from the ashes is next? Not that he should profit from his alleged crime, but we think that would be a productive use of his free time, of which we're sure he'll have plenty through the near future.