The Write Stuff: Dennis Foley with 'The Blue Circus'

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Program Type: Author Event
Age Group: Adults
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Local author and film maker Dennis Foley joins us with his latest book, and first novel 'The Blue Circus'

From the September 18, 2018 Beverly Review-

Dennis Foley is an author who’s published a variety of books, and he previously worked for the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation for seven years.

The Beverly resident has now combined those experiences to produce his latest work.

“The Blue Circus: A Chicago Story” is a fictional piece based on a screenplay Foley wrote six years ago. Foley described it as a family saga mixed with a South Side murder mystery that examines the politics of Chicago through the eyes of Streets and Sanitation workers.

When he worked for the department, Foley said, he was assigned throughout the city. That inspired him to write the book, which has a local setting.

“I like to write about stuff that has to do with family and Chicago,” Foley said. “I’m a big fan of Chicago. I just think there’s so much material here. You can just kind of make use of the neighborhoods. There are places to write about.”

Foley has lived in Beverly for almost three decades after living in the parish of St. Sabina Roman Catholic Church in Gresham. His previous books have included a part-memoir called “The Drunkard’s Son,” a series of poems called “We Speak Chicagoese,” and “The Streets and Sans Man’s Guide to Chicago Eats.”

In 2015, he delved into filmmaking, producing “Not a Stranger,” a drama set locally that featured the story of some boys who befriend a man coping with a family tragedy.

“The Blue Circus,” which has six parts, is Foley’s first novel. During his tenure with Streets and Sanitation from the late 1990s and early 2000s, he said, workers began the day by asking each other, “What’s going on in the circus today?” They also drove sky-blue-colored vehicles.

Foley said he enjoyed working in the department, and he knew he’d eventually write about it.

“There’s so many crazy, fun characters and interesting places in the city that I was able to see during those seven years,” Foley said. “And I always wanted to go back and write about that, but I think I needed that time away to let it kind of grow and develop. And then I went to do it, and I just started having a blast with it.”

“The Blue Circus” is loosely based on real people, Foley said, and the main character earns a job in Streets and Sanitations through his older brother, who is a union boss.

Foley started writing the piece as a screenplay in 2012, then submitted it as a TV pilot for a contest in Los Angeles, where it won a gold medal in the drama pilot category. He wrote a few other episodes, he said, then decided to make it a novel.

The last name of the main character is Lonigan, he said, as a tribute to “Studs Lonigan,” a trilogy by James Farrell that follows a boy through adolescence in Chicago during the early 1900s.

Foley uses several local sites, including St. Barnabas Church, Beverly Park and The Dubliner, a Western Avenue bar that became Kelly’s Tap last year.

He also has a character who runs a boxing club out of his double-decker garage in Mt. Greenwood, a nod to the late Martin McGarry, a Beverly resident who ran a similar club for over two decades.

Foley didn’t know McGarry well but has coached his grandchildren. He admires how he promoted boxing around the community. McGarry is one of many local residents who are referenced in the book.


“That was my way of paying respect to him,” Foley said. “Doing stuff like that is kind of fun.”

“The Blue Circus” was published by Side Street Press, of Chicago, and Foley takes pride that one of his works was the first book the company published, with “The Blue Circus” the seventh and latest publication.

Foley also said a company in London, Ugly Duckling Films, is reviewing the screenplay version in consideration of a TV series.

He’ll be thrilled if that happens, but he is pleased the book became a reality.

He hosted a release party at O’Rourke’s Office in Morgan Park on Sept. 8, and he’s proud the book is completed after six years of work.

“It’s been a long time in the making,” Foley said.