‘Poem on Bar Room Wall’?is ode to love in Cleveland

Dancing to polka music, eating pierogi dinners made by the ladies at the church down the street and working at his family’s meat and sausage stand at the West Side Market are some things that have shaped the life of Jeff Smolinski, protagonist of Greg Cielec’s episodic novel A Poem on a Bar Room Wall.

Jeff’s story begins in college, where he develops an infatuation with a girl named Amy. She has a boyfriend, so Jeff settles for the next best thing, Amy’s roommate Katie. During summer vacation, he works as a camp counselor and gets close to a co-worker named Amanda, who also has a boyfriend.

Jeff doesn’t really settle down, and after he becomes a teacher and coach, his students pass through his life. The constants are his neighborhood bar, the Willow Tavern, and his Uncle Mike, a World War II hero. Cielec’s description of Cleveland neighborhood life is lovingly rendered.

The highlights of the story are the students in whose lives Jeff makes a real difference: a misfit boy having the worst day of his terrible life; a naïve girl taken advantage of by her older boyfriend; a basketball phenom from a rough area. He also learns much more about the actions of his uncle during the war.

A Poem on a Bar Room Wall (182 pages, softcover) costs $18 from the author’s website, gregcielic.com. Greg Cielec is an alumnus of Ohio Wesleyan and Cleveland State universities, and works as an adjunct professor at Bowling Green State University and Lakeland Community College.

‘Staking a Claim’

The woods of Alaska are the unusual setting for Staking a Claim, a romance by Newton Falls author Devon McKay.

The heroine is Samantha Held, an executive at a Miami advertising agency. She’s looking for a big project that may lead to a promotion, and one day it comes: Produce a travel brochure for Alaskan tourism, and a partnership will be hers. She’ll have to spend the summer in Alaska herself to check it out, of course.

Sam gets off the plane to learn that her boss hasn’t booked her into a luxury resort with spa facilities, but a rustic cabin with shared shower facilities and outhouse. She soon meets Blake Langford, a Fish and Game warden who hopes to devote more time to running his riding stables. He’s immediately attracted to Sam, but still sees her as the enemy: If she is successful, it will mean more tourists, who litter and hunt for trophies instead of for food.

Blake isn’t mean enough to sabotage Sam’s work, so he decides to show her “the real Alaska,” hoping she’ll add some environmental education to her brochure. Off they go to see wildflowers and have porcupine and bear encounters. All the while, it’s will-they-or-won’t-they, as Blake just can’t make up his mind.

Staking a Claim (284 pages, softcover) costs $15.99 from Wild Rose Press, which rates it “hot,” one up from “spicy” on their literary Scoville chart. Devon McKay is a pseudonym; the author lived in Alaska for 27 years.

Events

Fireside Book Shop (29 N. Franklin St., Chagrin Falls) — Dan Coughlin signs Let’s Have Another: Even More Stories About the Most Unusual, Eccentric & Outlandish People I’ve Known in Four Decades as a Sports Journalist, 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday.

Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson) — Akron author James Renner signs his conspiracy-theory-laden novel The Great Forgetting, 7 p.m. Monday; Vicki Leigh signs Find Me If You Dare, second installment in her Dreamcatcher fantasy series, 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Barnes & Noble (198 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake) — Bill Livingston signs George Steinbrenner’s Pipe Dream: The ABL Champion Cleveland Pipers, about the one-season basketball team and Steinbrenner’s start in professional sports, 7 p.m. Tuesday; Susan Reagan brings her storybook Slipper and Flipper in the Quest for the Golden Sun, 1:30 p.m. Thursday; Mike Olszewski signs his book (with Janice Olszewski) Cleveland TV Tales Volume 2: More Stories from the Golden Age of Local Television, 1 p.m. Saturday.

Market Garden Brewery (1947 W. 25th St., Cleveland) — Writers Maggie Smith, Karly Milvet and Andrew Wehmann appear as part of the Brews + Prose series, 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (North Royalton branch, 5071 Wallings Road) — Alan Dutka, author of Misfortune on Cleveland’s Millionaires’ Row, speaks from 7 to 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Rhodes Arena, University of Akron — Joseph Congeni signs Cleveland’s Bitter Pill: A Diagnosis of Injured Title Dreams and Die-Hard Fans, written with Thomas Bacher, 6-8 p.m. Wednesday in the lobby during the UA basketball game.

Hudson Library & Historical Society (96 Library St.) — Children’s author and illustrator Jan Brett signs her work, including The Turnip, 10 a.m. Thursday. Registration required; call 330-653-6658. The first 100 families in line will receive a signed poster.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Garfield Heights branch, 5400 Transportation Blvd.) — Vince McKee signs Redemption of the King: LeBron James Returns to Cleveland!, 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Rocky River Public Library (1600 Hampton Road ) — James Renner signs The Great Forgetting, 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch, 4645 Mayfield Road) — Deanna Adams launches The Writers GPS: A Guide to Writing and Selling Your Book, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday. Registration requested; call 216-382-4880.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (1100 Rock and Roll Blvd., Cleveland) — Doug Bradley and Craig Werner talk about and sign We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam War, 7 p.m. Thursday. Free, but reservations required; visit https://tickets.rockhall.com.

Mustill Store Museum (57 W. North St.) — Authors Mark J. Price (Lost Akron), Debbie McKinney (Whatever Works for You), Kally Mavromatis (Akron Churches: Early Architecture) and Joseph Congeni (Cleveland’s Bitter Pill, with Thomas Bacher) appear at the Cascade Locks Park Association’s Holiday Extravaganza, featuring artisan crafts for sale, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.

Musica (51 E. Market St.) — Wooster author Bob Adamov, who writes the Emerson Moore adventure novels based in Put-in-Bay (Missing is the latest), signs his work at the “Christmas Show Put-in-Bay Style,” with live music, 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday. $15; visit http://liveatmusica.com.

Hudson Library (96 Library St.) — Reserve now for a 2 p.m. Dec. 6 demonstration by Jonathan Sawyer, chef and owner of Cleveland restaurants including Greenhouse Tavern and Noodlecat, with recipes from Noodle Kids: Around the World in 50 Fun, Healthy, Creative Dinners the Whole Family Can Cook Together. Call 330-653-6658.

— Barbara McIntyre

Special to the Beacon Journal

Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or lsherwin@thebeaconjournal.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.