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For Grant Pick, People Were the News

Grant Pick spent 25 years writing for the Chicago Reader, that city's version of the Village Voice or Boston Phoenix. Pick developed a reputation for finding great stories in place most other people would look away from, and for telling those stories with humanity and humor. He was often compared to legendary New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell.

Three years ago, while walking home from lunch, Grant Pick died of a heart attack. He was 57.

Now there's an anthology of his most memorable pieces, The People Are The News: Grant Pick's Chicago Stories. It's edited by his son John, with a foreword by his former colleague, writer and author Alex Kotlowitz.

"Grant had this incredible generosity of spirit and this unending curiosity, and he sort of found his way into the nooks and crannies of this city," Kotlowitz says. "He introduced us to people who, if we were passing them by, we'd see them as eccentric, maybe even a bit nuts. And Grant saw something in these people...He saw this poetry in the quotidian."

Pick covered everyone from a Chicago Nazi to a man who wandered the city with a chain of keys around his neck. Kotlowitz says reading the anthology is like exploring the corners of Chicago with Grant Pick as your guide.

For Pick's son John, who's an actor in Los Angeles now, compiling the book provided inspiration. "As I embark on my career, I can read his stories from the late '70's and early '80's, when he was about my age, and see echoes of myself in his work. Just trying to find the world, and trying to find himself through his work."

And John says that after his father's sudden death, editing the anthology was part of the healing process. "When you lose somebody, you look for places where they still live, and you try to keep them alive," he explains. "It was actually quite therapeutic to go into my father's drawers and find him, find his wit and sense of fun and humor. That was my dad."

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