I echo the most recent post of friend and colleague Luisa Buehler, who wrote about how she enjoys researching her books--to the point of obsession. I see much of myself in her comments.
In each of my "Snap" Malek Chicago historical mysteries, I immerse myself in the microfilm of Chicago newspapers from the 1920s and '30s at local libraries. When I tell friends how much time I spend poring over these pages, they roll their eyes, and I can almost see the word "geek" in the imaginary thought balloons above their heads.
Fact is, I relish spending hours on these old files, perhaps to the point of obsession. From them, I get all sorts of nuggets that help, I think, add color to my stories of a Chicago of decades past. In a 1938 paper, I learned Helen Hayes was in Chicago in the drama "Victoria Regina," where as Queen Victoria she aged 50 years each night on stage. I inserted Miss Hayes into my first Malek novel, "Three Strikes You're Dead," set in '38.
When researching my soon-to-be-published fourth Malek book, "A President in Peril," set in 1948, I discovered that was the year maverick automaker Preston Tucker built his revolutionary but doomed Tucker Torpedo cars in Chicago. In the book, Malek meets the man and test drives one of his autos.
There's a drawback to my microfilm fixation: Going through these files, I get sidetracked by all manner of interesting tidbits that will never make the printed page. For as friend and fellow author Max Allan Collins counsels, don't feel you must put every kernel you've gleaned into the finished product.