Northern Illinois University Press


Wanted: Elevator Man

Joseph G. Peterson

“It’s the eye for detail that makes Peterson’s story, set during a Chicago heat wave, burn more brightly than other attempts at modern noir. . . . Reminiscent of both Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. . . . A great read.”—Chicago Sun-Times

“An interesting combination of heat wave and the whole genre of noir—it’s literally hell.”—Alison Cuddy, WBEZ 848

“A fascinating, compelling read. Its taut, lean prose, its noir-like plot, and most of all, its rich, darkly detailed characters absorbed me fully.”—Jacqueline Goldsby

Balladeer of the city’s broken and forgotten men, Joseph G. Peterson looks for inspiration in urban side streets and alleys, where crooked schemes are hatched, where lives end violently, and where pretty much everyone is up to no good. Depicting the lives of people who have woefully lost their way in the world—criminals and victims, the unemployed and unemployable, the neglected and the indigent, the lonely and the alone—Peterson nonetheless brings a poet’s touch to his work, which is redolent with allegory, allusion, and Nabokovian wordplay. His last novel, Beautiful Piece, garnered praise from across the literary spectrum. Enter Wanted: Elevator Man, his powerful and ambitious new novel and the story of Eliot Barnes Jr., a man at the end of his proverbial rope.

Haunted by the larger-than-life shadow of his father, a scientist who may have helped develop the atomic bomb, twenty-nine-year-old Eliot Barnes Jr., is an apple that’s fallen far from the tree. Saddled with a useless degree in literature, caged in a rundown apartment he can’t afford, and embittered by his failure to live up to the future’s promise, Barnes, who dreams of a corner office—an aerie roost high above the city, working with the higher-ups—begrudgingly accepts a job as an elevator man in a downtown Chicago skyscraper. Thus begins a profound but comedic meditation on failure in this life, how one comes to terms with not achieving one’s dreams, the nature and origin of such dreams, and, fittingly, the meaning of the American dream itself.

As unflinching as the work of Nelson Algren, as romantic as the work of Saul Bellow, Peterson’s novel boasts wildly surreal plot twists and a lethal wit that frequently erupts into full-on hilarity. Wanted: Elevator Man is the perfect tale for learning to cope with diminished expectations in these dark and desperate times.

ISBN: 978-0-87580-677-8
$14.00t, Paper
5x8, 184 pages

Joseph G. Peterson is the author of Inside the Whale: A Novel in Verse, and Beautiful Piece, also published by Northern Illinois University Press. He lives in Chicago with his wife and two daughters.

Shopping Cart Operations


ISBN: 978-0-87580-677-8
Paper $14.00