Royko was a softie
For those that know Mike Royko’s Pulitzer Prize-winning columns, it might be difficult to guess that one of Chicago’s “toughest-talking, hardest-working and hardest-drinking” newspapermen had a soft side, but as several recent reviews of Royko in Love: Mike’s Letters to Carol note, his new book not only proves he did, but that it also provided the inspiration for some of his best writing. As Jane Christmas writes for the Canadian weekly Maclean’s:
Mike Royko never shared his private life with his legion of newspaper readers, but they came to know him as a perceptive, chain-smoking, funny-but-fearless champion of the underclass, and a thorn in the side of the Chicago politicians he took delight in spearing. He became a celebrated syndicated columnist and a Pulitzer Prize winner, but the love letters written in 1954 to woo Carol, his childhood sweetheart, were likely the most important assignment of his life. He sure wrote like it was.
Crushed to learn of her engagement while Royko prepared for military service in Korea, Royko had thought his opportunity to woo Carol lost. But after returning stateside to serve at Blaine Air Force Base in Washington, he learned of her impending divorce. Mick soon began to woo Carol in a stream of letters that are as fervent as they are funny. And they won her heart.
Including his column “A November Farewell” written after Carol’s sudden passing at the age of 44, Royko in Love takes reader’s through the couple’s dramatic courtship and marriage in an alternately joyous and tragic story of romance, where many might have least expected to find one.
For more read the review in Maclean’s, or another that recently appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times. Also read our recent guest blog posting by David Royko, Mike’s son and editor, on the occasion of his father’s birthday.