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Born in a refugee camp after World War II, John Guzlowski came with his family to the United States as a Displaced Person in 1951. His parents had been Polish slave laborers in Nazi Germany. Growing up in the immigrant and refugee neighborhoods around Humboldt Park in Chicago, he met hardware store clerks with Auschwitz tattoos on their wrists, Polish cavalry officers who still mourned for their dead comrades, and women who had walked from Siberia to Iran to escape the Russians. His poetry, fiction, and essays try to remember them and their voices.

He is the author of four books of poems about his parents’ experiences in Nazi Germany. His most recent book about them is Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded (Aquila Polonica). This memoir in poems and prose won the Benjamin Franklin Poetry Award and the Eric Hoffer Montaigne Award for most thought-provoking work of 2017.

Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz, reviewing Language of Mules, one of Guzlowski’s earlier books about his parents, said, “This volume astonished me.”

A Professor Emeritus at Eastern Illinois University, John Guzlowski currently lives in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he recently completed a novel about the German soldiers who murdered his mother’s family during the Second World War. This novel, Road of Bones, is forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press.

Garrison Keillor read Guzlowski’s poem “What My Father Believed” on his program, The Writers Almanac. Guzlowski’s other poems and stories have appeared in such national journals as Rattle, North American Review, Ontario Review, Atticus Review, Crab Orchard Review, and in the anthology Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust.

Dr. Guzlowski’s critical essays on contemporary American, Polish, and Jewish authors can be the found in such journals as Modern Fiction Studies, Polish Review, Shofar, Polish American Studies, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, and Studies in Jewish American Literature.

Guzlowski has done presentations about his parents and their experiences at the European Union in Washington, DC, the Polish Embassy in DC, Yale University, Georgetown Univ., The Polish Museum of America, The Polish Mission at Orchard Lake, Michigan, the American Univ., and various other universities and colleges here and abroad. A video of his presentation at The Piast Institute in Hamtramck, Michigan is available at:

Along with his recent Eric Hoffer award and Ben Franklin Poetry award, John Guzlowski has received the Polish American Historical Association Creative Arts Award, American Council for Polish Culture’s Cultural Achievement Award, and the Illinois Arts Council’s $7500 Award for Poetry. He has also been short-listed for the Bakeless Award and nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize and five Pushcart Prizes.




Suitcase Charlie

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May 30, 1956. Chicago

On a quiet street corner in a working-class neighborhood of Holocaust survivors and refugees, the body of a little schoolboy is found in a suitcase.

He’s naked and chopped up into small pieces.

The grisly crime is handed over to two detectives who carry their own personal burdens, Hank Purcell, a married WWII veteran, and his partner, a wise-cracking Jewish cop who loves trouble as much as he loves the bottle.

Their investigation leads them through the dark corners and mean streets of Chicago—as more and more suitcases begin appearing.

Based on the Schuessler-Peterson murders that terrorized Chicago in the 1950s.




What people are saying...

"An intelligent, beautifully written thriller that confronts the dark and disturbing side of humanity, and evokes both the horror and the banality of evil. It is vivid, gripping and moving - a fine, compelling novel."

- British Mystery Writer, Carla Banks, Author of “Forest of Souls” (Harper Collins)

"Suitcase Charlie by John Guzlowski is a gritty noir story of murder. On May 30, 1956, a suitcase is discovered in Chicago. Inside that suitcase is the chopped up body of a little boy, a body that has been drained of blood. Detective Purcell and Detective Bondarowicz are given the case but, before they can make much headway, more suitcases appear. The detectives have their own demons to face, but it doesn’t stop them from searching every corner of the city to find their murderer. Their investigation takes them to dangerous places, to confront dangerous people from both sides of the track. Will they find their killer before another child is found, or will they be too late?

Suitcase Charlie by John Guzlowski is based on a true story, a story of murder from Chicago in the 1950s. I found myself gripped by Suitcase Charlie from page one and read the book right through, almost without stopping. Mr Guzlowski has captured the era perfectly, the racism that existed, the grittiness and the dark side to life. The book ended in exactly the way it should have done and in a way, I suspect, that reflects reality, not just then but maybe now to a certain extent as well. Mr Guzlowski covers anti-Semitism, the real horrors of surviving WWII, and the effect it had on the refugees from the war. The detectives in the story face being hampered in their investigation by bureaucracy and, to a certain extent, the racism of their commanding officers. This is an excellent story, very well written and highly gripping. I recommend it to anyone who likes noir or crime genres."

- Reviewed by Anne-Marie Reynolds for Readers' Favorite


  • Title: Suitcase Charlie
  • Author: John Guzlowski
  • Genre: Historical Fiction Thriller
  • Length: 384 pages
  • Release Date: June 1, 2015
  • ISBN-13: 978-1508975526
  • Imprint: White Stag

Available Here