Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  John Theodore  

Pen Name: None

Genre: History Non-Fiction

Audience: Adult;

Born: 1946 in Chicago, Illinois

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-- John Theodore on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Theodore was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He attended the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. He raised his family in suburban Hinsdale, Illinois and now resides in Chicago.

Biographical and Professional Information

Currently a freelance writer, native Chicagoan John Theodore has served as a reporter, writer, editor, and television and radio producer for United Press International, WGN and WGN-TV. He has also written two e-books, ''Shaping the Story: An Urban Novel. One City, One Year'' and ''Baseball...and Other Romantic Life Lessons.''

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

Evil Summer: Babe Leopold, Dickie Loeb, and the Kidnap-Murder of Bobby Franks (Elmer H Johnson & Carol Holmes Johnson Series in Criminology)
ISBN: 0809327775

Southern Illinois University Press. 2007

In 1924, fourteen-year-old Bobby Franks was abducted while walking home from school, killed by a chisel blow to his head, and later found stuffed in a culvert in a marshy wasteland at the Illinois-Indiana state line. Acid had been poured over his naked body. Evil Summer examines the shocking kidnapping and murder of Franks by two University of Chicago students, Nathan “Babe” Leopold and Richard “Dickie” Loeb, both from families of privilege.

In this new examination of the crime, author John Theodore takes readers into the minds of the two criminals as he focuses on three months in 1924. Theodore covers the killing, the confessions, the defense, and the sentencing surrounding the horrific murder, placing the killers’ actions and Clarence Darrow’s historic defense into the context of 1920s Chicago.

Theodore deftly investigates the psychological dimensions of the crime, revealing the murderers’ fantasies, relationships, sexuality, and motives. The author examines the killers’ past, outlining Loeb’s obsession with detective fiction and crime and his editorial on random killing—written at age nine—and Leopold’s nightly master-slave fantasies and fascination with Nietzsche.

Evil Summer, which includes twenty-three illustrations, meticulously traces the murder from inception to confession, including such details as the special-delivery ransom letter sent to Jacob Franks and the discovery of Leopold’s horn-rimmed eyeglasses lying on a railroad embankment near Bobby’s dead body. Theodore re-creates such scenes as the convergence of hundreds of people in front of the Franks home, Bobby’s body lying in a small white casket in the library, and Loeb being voyeuristically drawn to the home while Bobby’s classmates carry the casket to the hearse.

Worldwide press coverage reflected the public fascination with the case in what was then called “the trial of the century.” The story became a media circus: Chicago’s six daily newspapers battled vigorously for readers, two Daily News cub reporters became part of the story, and the Chicago Tribune carried a voting ballot asking readers whether radio station WGN should broadcast the courtroom spectacle. The changing drama was delivered to Chicagoans every morning and evening, and the public feasted on every press run.

More than a crime story, Evil Summer illuminates the dark side of American life in the 1920s, including the excesses of privileged youth, the troubled childhoods, the random victimization, the anti-Semitism, and the sexuality.

Baseball's Natural: The Story of Eddie Waitkus
ISBN: 0803259581

Bison Books. 2006

Baseball's Natural is John Theodore's true account of the slick-fielding first baseman who played for the Cubs and the Phillies in the 1940s and became immortalized in baseball lore as the inspiration for Bernard Malamud's The Natural. Eddie Waitkus grew up in Boston and fought in the Pacific theater in World War II. Following the war, Waitkus became one of the most popular players of his era. In 1949, with his career on the rise, his life changed dramatically in a Chicago hotel when a nineteen-year-old shot him in the chest. Waitkus’s dramatic recovery the next year inspired his teammates as the Phillies won the National League pennant. Although Waitkus survived the shooting, he could never outlive it.

Through interviews with Waitkus’s family, fellow servicemen, former ballplayers, and childhood friends, and aided by fifteen photographs, Theodore chronicles Waitkus’s remarkable comeback as well as the difficult years following his Major League career.


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