Blues guitarist writes noir crime ‘zine

The three issues of Saturday Night Crime Spree to date include what he calls hard-boiled crime fiction.
Paul Filipowicz on the left side next to three crime spree magazines
Paul Filipowicz on the left with three of his Saturday Night Crime Spree Magazines

Born in Chicago and raised in the southwest suburb of Lockport, Paul Filipowicz learned carpentry from his father and spent 43 years as a roofer throughout Wisconsin. Five years ago, his knees had had enough. While he can no longer climb onto roofs, he can still climb onstage and play a mean blues guitar.

Inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame in late 2015, Filipowicz has played a club circuit that included Knuckledown Saloon in Madison and Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago.

At gigs since June 2019, he’s sold copies of a small-format magazine titled Saturday Night Crime Spree, which he self-publishes. The three issues to date include what he calls “hard-boiled crime fiction” — action-packed, 1950s-era stories in the style of pulp fiction writers Carroll John Daly, Richard Sale and Mickey Spillane. The cover art, depicting ominous men in trenchcoats and fedoras (resembling Filipowicz’s favored attire), is by acclaimed local artist and filmmaker Dal Lazlo.

In one story, Filipowicz reimagines Madison as “Bruiser Town” with “a three-block strip of beer bars and joints on Wilson, just below the Square, where all the booze hounds and tough guys from Machinery Row drank when they weren’t working.” If you were looking for a fight, “there was always at least one broke-down, ex-prize fighter, pug-ugly bouncer who would be happy to take anyone out back and make their dental records obsolete.”

Filipowicz says he adheres to the story formula created by Sale: “Get your subject into insurmountable trouble, then get him in deeper. All main characters introduced by the first third of the story, then get him or her out. That’s actually the story of my life,” Filipowicz says.

Filipowicz’s main influence is his father, who grew up in a Polish neighborhood in 1920s Chicago. His father’s slang and penchant for telling good yarns is evident in the stories of Saturday Night Crime Spree.

“My stories are fast-paced,” Filipowicz says. “I’m about cheap thrills. I strive to entertain by taking the reader somewhere they normally wouldn’t or couldn’t go.”

Look for the Saturday Night Crime Spree page on Facebook.

Joel Patenaude is associate editor of Madison Magazine.