By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 21, 2011 at 5:04 AM

Award-winning filmmaker and a published novelist and short story writer Paul McComas -- who lives in Evanston, Ill. -- is a native Milwaukeean.

When he comes home tonight to read from his latest book at 7 p.m. at Boswell Book Company, 2559 N. Downer Ave., expect to hear a lot about his hometown.

A few years ago, McComas returned to Milwaukee in the semi-autobiographical novel, "Planet of the Dates,"which included references to Port Washington, Mars Cheese Castle, Whitefish Bay, Shorewood and other southeastern Wisconsin locales.

His latest work, "Unforgettable: Harrowing Futures, Horrors and (Dark Humor" -- published in paperback by Walkabout Publishing -- also finds him back at the old house.

McComas recently popped into the OnMilwaukee.com offices with his newly rescued greyhound and a Packers sweater, as a reminder of his roots.

He mentioned that "Planet of the Dates" is in development for a motion picture that would be set -- and presumably at least partially filmed -- in Milwaukee.

Knowing a Milwaukee music fan when he sees one, McComas also pointed me to the story "Class Reunion," in the new book. It was co-authored with ex-pat musician Richard Lavalliere, who some of you might recall from the Haskels, The Oil Tasters, the Barnburners and, more recently, Polka Finger.

Lavalliere now lives in Brooklyn.

"Basically, I was a big Tasters fan back in the day; that's why I included them in Planet of the Dates," says McComas. "After it was published, a friend of his told him, 'Dude, you're in this novel.'

"Richard then e-mailed me and we met at a Polkafinger gig in Chicago.  (We) became fast friends and e-pen pals."

From that point on, says the author, a long-distance friendship was born and artistic collaboration was not far behind.

"He wrote a liner-notes blurb for my 2009 charity-DVD, 'Amateur'," says McComas. "While on the set of my latest 'No-Budget Theatre' film series installment, in which Richard plays Leader of the Cave People -- and for which he'll be providing the original score -- I asked him if he'd like to collaborate on a story for the new book.  He assented and the result is 'Class Reunion'."

In other Wisconsin book news:

This may seem ironically timed but Milwaukee-based Rethinking Schools has published a new edition of "The New Teacher Book: Finding Purpose, Balance and Hope During Your First Years in the Classroom" in paperback.

The book offers practical and philosophical advice for new teachers, but there's plenty in there for teachers at all levels.

The book will also be of interest to those with an eye on Milwaukee public schooling. Many of the Rethinking Schools editors and numerous contributors to the book teach in MPS, among them Kelley Dawson Salas, Stephanie Walters, Bob Peterson, principal Rita Tenorio and school board member Larry Miller. Consequently, there are lots of anecdotes and stories about teachers' experiences within the district.

In case you missed it when I recommended it recently, "A Nation Within a Nation: Voices of the Oneida in Wisconsin," edited by L. Gordon McLester III and Laurence M. Hauptman (Wisconsin Historical Society Press) is the fourth and final volume of a series by the editors on Oneida history.

In it, Wisconsin's Oneidas tell their own story via first-person accounts, biographies, scholarly investigations, oral histories, maps, time lines and more.

The Oneidas arrived near Green Bay after being removed from their native New York and by the late 19th century their reservation was being broken up by the government.

But during all their struggles, the Oneida community remained tied together and this book is more than simply the history of a native peoples and its struggles. It's also a testament to the endurance and drive of the Oneida people, who refused to allow poverty, oppression, assimilation and government interference shatter their community.

Maralyn Wellauer-Lenius' "Swiss in Greater Milwaukee" is a photo history of Swiss contributions to the city, from Dorothy Enderis to the Swiss Turners and beyond.

The book, packed with photos and historical context, is part of Arcadia's Images of America series. The author, who lives on Milwaukee's West Side, also compiled a similar book on the Milwaukee Police Department for the same series a couple years back.

 

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.