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The Pied Piper of South Shore, Toys and Tragedy in Chicago

By Caryn Lazar Amster
When Manny Lazar was murdered by a gang member in 1970, he died in the place he loved best: the Wee Folks toy store that he and his wife, Belle, had run for 25 years in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago. "The Pied Piper of South Shore, Toys and Tragedy in Chicago" is the true crime story of the tragic death of this beloved retailer, told in gritty detail by his elder daughter.

It is the story of Manny and Belle, two children of immigrants, their American dream, and their richly diverse neighborhood-each falling prey to the brutality of gangs. Enhanced by her own recollections of working in her parents' store and the fond reminiscences of hundreds of customers, Caryn Lazar Amster's true tale is a heady ride from persecution in Russia to freedom in America, from Hula Hoops to gang members, from murder to trial. It is the story of loss but also of survival, even forgiveness. The story interweaves outside forces like racism, guns, drugs, gangs and the Nation of Islam that impacted this little store, the couple, and the neighborhood. It includes over 100 quotes from former customers who remember those years fondly.
This true family, true crime story of Chicago toy storeowner, Manny Lazar, known as the Pied Piper of South Shore, is set primarily in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood in the 50’s and 60’s. It is the story of the life and death of this beloved retailer told in gritty detail by his elder daughter. The author takes readers from Russian persecution to American freedom, from Hula Hoops to hit men, from murder to trial. It's the story of two children of immigrants, their American dream, and their richly diverse neighborhood in which each fell prey to the brutality of gangs.

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