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Tales from the Levee

"Like Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, Levee is a collection of fictional pieces that fit together to form a novel" -- Illinois Times

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>> Read a Chapter from Tales from the Levee

>> Read the Boston Edge Review

>> Read The Levee Legacy

Tales from the LeveeAbout The Book: Hate, lust, bigotry, love—it all happens in that place in town called the Levee.

When the Orpheum Theater in Springfield, Illinois, was demolished in 1965, it marked the end of one era and the beginning of another. On the street where it stood, lesbians and gays found a haven in a strong, caring community, built from the need to separate from a society unwilling to accept them. Tales from the Levee tells these peoples’ stories, spanning the years 1965 through 1976, when the Fifth Street Levee emerged as a thriving Midwestern center for the lesbian and gay culture of that time. It’s all here: entertaining and outrageous real stories of love, lust, bigotry, and death.

Tales from the Levee centers on Casey, a masculine, part Apache lesbian born and raised in a small Midwestern town. Always knowing inside herself that she was not like others she knew, she escapes, moves to Springfield, Illinois—to the center of town, where she discovers an area known as the Levee. The street, infamously sprinkled with several gay bars, a massage parlor, a hamburger stand, and apartments, becomes her new home. There she befriends and lives and loves with lesbians, drag queens, prostitutes, and gays also seeking a place they too can call home.

From Tales from the Levee


The Fifth Street Levee ended because of urban renewal, tearing down the old and building the new.  There’s a high-rise there now, red brick with black iron gates and a courtyard.  There’s a park with a fountain across the street: a grassy lawn, benches, and a play area that’s usually empty.  Nobody goes there but the homeless, or tourists come for the new presidential library and the rebuilt Union Station.

A Springfield poet wrote about a famous ghost that walked at midnight.  Some people think that Levee ghosts still haunt Fifth Street, no matter what the city tried to turn the place into.  They call from what were decaying hotel windows on summer nights.  Drunk.  Laughing.  They parade in sequined gowns on cracked cement sidewalks, past the open doors of bars, beneath the flashing beer signs.  Young.  Innocent.

The district perished, its denizens scattered to the winds.  And I am an emissary, telling tales told to me by the shadows.

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