Northern Illinois University Press


When Bad Things Happen to Rich People

Ian Morris

Finalist, Midwest Book Award, Midwest Independent Publishers Association, 2014

“This is a seriously funny and smart contemporary American novel. In When Bad Things Happen to Rich People, Ian Morris gives us a snapshot of mid-1990s Chicago and its northern suburb, Lake Forest, in much the same way Jonathan Franzen presented us with a swath of the Midwest in The Corrections, and JohnCheever gave us the leafy, boozy suburbs of the East coast. A great read!” —Margaret McMullan, author of In My Mother’s House

When Bad Things Happen to Rich People is an interesting rumination on aspirations and motives. Satirical and funny, it is neither neat nor simple. For those who like to take a little bitter with the sweet, Morris’s debut novel is a good thing.” —Chicago Book Review

When Bad Things Happen to Rich People is a novel of social satire, a black comedy set in Chicago in the summer of 1995. The novel’s protagonist, Nix Walters, is an adjunct instructor of English at a communications college in the loop with few prospects for advancement. He had become a literary punch line when his novel, touted as the next big literary phenomenon, was universally panned by critics. He and his pregnant wife, Flora, are struggling financially; however, their fortunes change when Nix is asked to ghostwrite the memoirs of publishing magnate Zira Fontaine. While grateful for a lavish author fee, Nix quickly finds his marriage, his career, and his sense of identity threatened as he struggles with a difficult subject, navigates office intrigue of Fontaine’s corporation, and faces impending fatherhood. These tensions come to a turbulent climax when a brutal heat wave hits the city.

Written in the spirit of great naturalist novelists of the previous century, such as Dreiser, Norris, and Crane, with a black comic twist, Morris’s first novel is a study in aspiration and self-deception in the face of unforeseen adversity. Set among the broad lawns of Lake Forest where the domestic staff skim leaves from the pool and the sweltering streets of Chicago’s pre-gentrified Wicker Park neighborhood, where children plunge into the raging stream of open fire hydrants, When Bad Things Happen to Rich People is a broad panorama of our current social reality.

Oct 2014, 5.5x8.5, 224 pages
ISBN 978-0-87580-709-6
$16.95t Paper

Ian Morris is lecturer in creative writing and publishing at Columbia College in Chicago and is the founding editor of Fifth Star Press.

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ISBN: 978-0-87580-709-6
paper $16.95