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Joseph G. Peterson

Born: 1965 in Wheeling, Illinois
Pen Name: None

Connection to Illinois: Peterson grew up in Wheeling, received his B.A. from the University of Chicago, and his MA. from Roosevelt University. The Des Plaines River and the forest preserves surrounding it winds through the town of Wheeling, and through the imaginary territory of many of his books. He currently lives with his family in the Chicago neighborhood, Hyde Park, on the southern shore of Lake Michigan.

Biography: Peterson is a novelist and poet working out of Chicago. His work deals with estranged working-class outsiders who try to find their place in the world, but who often miss it. His work draws from his experience growing up in a working-class suburb of Wheeling Illinois and working in factories, restaurants and construction. He currently works in publishing.


Primary Literary Genre(s): Fiction; Poetry

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers


Selected Titles

Beautiful piece /
ISBN: 0875806295 OCLC: 320352388

Switchgrass Books/Northern Illinois University Press, DeKalb : ©2009.

During a deadly Chicago heat wave that's claiming hundreds of lives, Robert, who's stuck in his apartment alone, fears he's going to be the next victim. In the apartment above him lives a shell-shocked Vietnam veteran who talks obsessively about the corpses of his war experience while alternately listening to Die Meistersinger and Madama Butterfly. One day, Robert ventures forth into the searing heat to gas up his car. Immediately he encounters enigmatic Lucy who is trying to escape her brutal fiancé, Matthew Gliss. On a whim, Lucy invites Robert to her apartment where she shows him her mysterious tattoo and tells him of her dangerous life with Matthew Gliss. She warns Robert that if Matthew ever catches them together, he should run, not walk, because Matthew won't think twice of killing him. So begins the risky, short-lived relationship that leads to a chilling climax. Each of Robert's increasingly hallucinatory recollections of what happened during the heat wave leads him to profoundly question his own culpability.

Gideon's confession
ISBN: 9781609091613 OCLC: 880354746

Switchgrass Books, NIU Press, DeKalb, IL : 2014.

In his fourth novel Joseph G. Peterson tells the story of Gideon Anderson, a young man alienated from his father and two brothers who have gone into the family business. Unlike them, he receives checks from his rich uncle every month. In exchange for the checks, the uncle asks Gideon to come up with a plan for his life, essentially a blueprint about how he intends to enter the job market. Gideon, who went to a prestigious university, puts his uncle off and spends the money on alcohol, the horses, and a miscellany of useless purchases partly because he doesn't know what to do, partly because he doesn't want to do anything. Gideon then meets a lovely, ambitious woman, Claire, who encourages him to do better with his life and talent. She asks him to come to New York with her where her father can set him up in his firm or bankroll a business venture. Despite his good fortune in love and access to the steady cash-flow provided by his uncle, Gideon, like Melville's character Bartleby the Scrivener "prefers not to" commit either to a career or to Claire. For ten years he just drifts. And then suddenly his uncle dies and Gideon has to make a decision. The novels of Joseph G. Peterson have run a literary gauntlet from searing prose to lyrical poetry; from noir style to full character-driven plots, and his work has drawn comparisons to Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway. An incredible eye for detail and taut, lean prose are what readers have come to expect from a Peterson effort, and in this new book they will not be disappointed. Peterson delivers an emotionally engaging parable that will appeal not only to twenty-somethings unwilling or unable to commit and fit in, but also to adult readers who appreciate modern literary fiction and carefully crafted characters.

Gunmetal Blue (New Chicago Classics, 3)
ISBN: 0998632562 OCLC:

Tortoise Books 2017

Detective Art Topp has a wife…or rather, had a wife. It’s hard to tell. On one hand, he talks to her every day, and she talks back. On the other, he’s still in shock from the day he walked into his Triple A Detective AAAgency office and found her lifeless body riddled with bullets, the catastrophic blowback from what should have been a simple investigation. Now he’s promised his daughter he’s going to figure out what happened. The only problem is, he’s not much of a detective—just a washed-up middle-aged former telecom worker who went to the gun range too often, watched too many episodes of The Rockford Files, and suddenly decided it’d be fun to be a private eye. Or maybe there’s another problem—he also knows it might have been his fault. And the cops are starting to wonder, too… Gunmetal Blue showcases Joseph G. Peterson at his inimitable best. It’s delightfully absurd and horrifyingly plausible, a sad and funny look at what happens when our airy fantasies become gritty reality, and when that reality in turn falls apart into madness and nightmares.

Inside the whale :
ISBN: 1936679019 OCLC: 811414679

Wicker Park Press, River Forest, Ill. : ©2012.

Inside the Whale: A Novel In Verse is an epic novel in verse that, in the spirit of Beowulf, imagines a bardic drone chanting the mnemonics of rhythm and rhyme to entertain, lyre in hand, a group of ruffians gathered around a keg of beer and the red-hot coals of a dying fire. It tells the timely and timeless story of a self-destructive artist and the tragic consequences he incurs when he sins against his talent.

Ninety-Nine Bottles (New Chicago Classics)
ISBN: 1948954052 OCLC:

Tortoise Books 2019

The local bar—the true, no-frills, nameless dive bar—offers its patrons a refuge, a place to express their doubts, dreams, regrets, and failures. Here they can escape or celebrate life; tell tall tales and jokes, or rage against the inherent unfairness of the human condition. Chances are you've spent time in a place like this yourself—but whether minutes or hours or years, you'll want to spend more in here. Lyrical and hypnotic, Ninety-Nine Bottles is a distillation of Joseph G. Peterson's considerable talents, and a powerful and emotional meditation on the repetitions and variations of life—regular people searching for meaning in these sad and beautiful places. Why not stop in for a few?

Peterson is the author of several works of fiction and poetry. He grew up in Wheeling, Illinois, received his B.A. from the University of Chicago, and his MA. from Roosevelt University. The Des Plain
ISBN: 1609388771 OCLC:

University of Iowa Press 2022

When his girlfriend, Rosemary, asks about his life, Jim Moore, a successful salesman whose territory covers the entire continental United States and parts of Canada, doesn’t think there is anything to say and so he tells her “nothing happened,” or maybe he doesn’t know how to put it all into words or maybe he doesn’t want to. Stuck in an airport because of blizzard conditions, and packed into a crowded terminal with other travelers, Moore has come to believe that his life is not worth reporting about because it has largely been a life lived without incident. However, chance encounters with a yoga instructor, a man traveling to bury his mother, and an enigmatic woodsman reawaken long dormant emotions about his father’s suicide and cause Jim to newly reflect on his own life and on a memorandum that he later discovered in his deceased father’s papers, which lists all the names of the clouds, and which Jim now, from time to time, recants as if it were his own private kaddish to memorialize his lost father. Like the pilgrims in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales who pass the time telling stories while stranded in the Tabard Inn, Memorandum from the Iowa Cloud Appreciation Society tells the tale of a traveling salesman and what really happened over the course of his forty- six years.

The Rumphulus
ISBN: 1609387309 OCLC:

University Of Iowa Press 2020

Romulus was the founder of Rome; and those tossed outside the city-gate are not Romulus’s children but the cast-offs living in hovels, the Rumphulus. However, this isn’t ancient Rome, but rather the nature preserve of a contemporary American suburb. The outcasts don’t understand why they’ve been relegated to the woods. Nor do they know if they will ever summon the courage to cross the roads that act as a physical and psychological barrier to their reentry into conventional society. Daily they negotiate the harsh conditions of the wild and the dangerous presence of one another while they contemplate their exiles. That is until society comes for one of them. The Rumphulus have grown their beards long, and when they can no longer stand life, they howl like wolves; only they are not wolves but the stranded city outcasts who howl in pain.

Twilight of the idiots :
ISBN: 9781939987273 OCLC: 916502389

Know thyself and nothing in excess. Just as the doomed sailors of Homer's Odyssey fail to heed one or the other of these maxims, and end up getting turned to swine or lured to their peril by the singing sirens, so too do the doomed characters in Joseph G. Peterson's new collection of stories fail idiotically in one way or another and end up, like those ancient sailors, facing the prospect of their own mortal twilight. Set mostly in Chicago and by turns gruesome, violent, comic, lurid and perverse, these stories are suffused with a metaphorical light that lends beauty and joy to the experience of reading them.

Wanted: elevator man
ISBN: 9781609090562 OCLC: 868220493

Switchgrass Books, Northern Illinois University Press, DeKalb, Illinois : 2012.

A profound but comedic meditation on failure in this life, how one comes to terms with not achieving one's dreams, the nature and origin of such dreams, and the meaning of the American dream itself--