Jack Clark, the original cabdriver-writer | Bleader

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Jack Clark, the original cabdriver-writer

Posted By on 12.09.12 at 10:00 AM

Before there was cabdriver-writer Dmitry Samarov, there was cabdriver-writer Jack Clark.

Clark started writing for the Reader in 1975 and "served a brief stint on the staff, during which he developed an aversion to deadlines," Deanna Isaacs wrote in "A Cabbie's Tale" in the Reader in July 2010.

The story goes on:

Over the years he's continued to contribute finely crafted pieces of nonfiction, including many of his mother's tales, published here as "West Side Stories." Born and raised in the Austin neighborhood as one of seven siblings, Clark is a high school dropout who's wanted to be a writer since he was 16 and his dad handed him a copy of Algren's The Man With the Golden Arm. His formal training is limited to the only college course he ever took—a "story-and-journalism" class at Columbia, chosen, he says, because all the fiction courses were full.

He turned out to be a natural, but he's never been able to make a living at writing. To put food on the table Clark has labored as a janitor, furniture mover, long-haul truck driver, and—for more than 30 years—a cabbie. Now 60, he's still driving two or three shifts a week, hitting the streets in an American United car owned by someone else.

Clark's noir novel Nobody's Angel (tagline: "Take a cab ride into the heart of murder") is published by Hard Case Crime.

Here's the Washington Post's take on Nobody's Angel: "No matter what you might expect from a novel by a cabdriver—'Nobody's Angel' is a gem. . . . it's just about perfect. I won't urge would-be novelists to forsake their writing classes and become hackers, but they would do well to read Clark's story, which doesn't contain a wasted word or a false note."

Deanna Isaacs wrote: "Nobody's Angel has the wry humor and engaging characters typical of the best of the hard-boiled genre, but Clark's portrait of Chicago in the 1990s, with its vanishing factories and jobs, its lethal public housing projects, its teenage hookers climbing into vans on North Avenue, is what gives it legs. Sure there are a couple murderers on the loose, but the larger violence is coming from systemic forces wreaking havoc in a place that, maybe, used to be better."

Clark has kept driving and kept writing. He's self-published three novels featuring Chicago private detective Nick Acropolis—Westerfield's Chain, Highway Side, and Dancing on Graves—along with Hack Writing and Other Stories (a collection of stories first published in the Reader), Private Path: The Desk Calendars of Mary Jo Ryan, 1937-1943, and On the Home Front: Everyday American Life From Prohibition Through World War II, by Mary Jo Clark as told to Jack Clark. Many of the vignettes in On the Home Front ran in the Reader as "West Side Stories." (Mary Jo was Jack's mother.) Studs Terkel commented: "Jack Clark's wondrous celebration of his working-class mother and her natural gifts as a storyteller has touched me deeply. Hooray for Mary Jo Clark and her boy Jack."

Jack Clark
  • Jack Clark

You can buy Clark's books via his website, Hack Writing.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Agenda Teaser

July 13
Performing Arts
March 21

The Bleader Archive

Popular Stories