Set in the heart of Chicago circa 2012, Lou is the lovable, chain smoking, ukulele strumming owner of North Coast Video who has seen and heard it all. Worried about the future, cagey about his past, he’s ten years sober and doing everything he can to keep the video store afloat while the neighborhood gentrifies and Netflix dominates. The thread he’s hanging onto is about to break when a mystery man with tattooed hands walks through the door and offers him a one way ticket out.

The stranger leads Lou into parts of Chicago’s moonlit underworlds not found on any map, guidebook or top ten list. Up the chimney, through the wall and behind the mirror, Lou is forced to confront and investigate the disappearance of his twin brother Port and face hard realities about his own life in a rapidly changing world.  

 North Coast Video is an acid trip tour of Chicago’s past, present and future, told through the eyes of a streetwise romantic who longs for the days of VHS tapes, Italian Beef sandwiches and day games with his twin brother at Wrigley Field. Helped and hindered on his quest by a collection “mutts, runts and strays” he’ll square off with a Chechnyan wolf dressed like a gangster, a crescent-toothed bluesman with a serious bone to pick, a cabbage patch doll from Hell and an ex-girlfriend who will stop at almost nothing to win him back. 

Is Lou’s brother alive, dead or some combo of the two? Can he keep his sanity and stay sober long enough to make it to the other side? Which one of his angels or demons will bring him down? Will Lou and the city of Chicago survive what the stranger has unleashed?

This is a story of examining your past and having the courage to change…while drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, discussing great films and the right way to eat an Italian beef.




The neighborhoods, streets and back alleys of Chicago have an energy and an attitude that is entirely unique. As described so incontestably by Carl Sandburg, Chicago is a "stormy, husky, brawling city" that can hustle you or wrap you in a loving embrace, depending on how you look at it. The accents, the people, the food, the Chicago vibe is the beating heart of North Coast Video and a central character in the story.

The majority of the locations and histories in the book are real. Some can be traced easily and others require more digging. Chicago has layer upon layer of truths, lies, fables, tragedies and triumphs. That rich, messy history is woven into North Coast Video and frames and anchors the story. "Welcome to Chicago--Let's Go Get A Beef!" 








North Coast Video author Justin Robert Jahnke was tumbling into dark world of addiction, alcoholism and going nuts before having an epiphany about writing and the creative process. He stopped holding on so tight and let go of the reins, realizing creation is a beautiful, magical, romantic part of life, but it’s not everything. Art is not suffering. Writing is not sitting at a desk with a whiskey in one hand, cigarette in the other, splattering blood and sweat on the fifth draft of a novella. He realized writing can and should be…fun. Fireworks, explosions, sun pouring through the windows, birds wearing little hats, that realization changed everything. Writing is also a craft and a practice that should be respected. Freedom, joy, lightness, productivity, a renewed sense of purpose and creative energy was born out of this struggle and North Coast Video followed a few years later.


Justin Jahnke does not have an MFA. In fact, he quit graduate school to be a songwriter and learned how to write by sitting in the woodshed, day after hot, tired, cold day. As a musician and band leader, he played every shit hole bar from coast to coast, slept on the couches of many questionable characters and learned about America by traveling through it in a van. He writes because he has to and  because he loves to.


The craft, the art, the discoveries, the community, the stories and the entertainment, that is what I get out of writing and reading. Communicating, connecting, being and belonging, empathy, time travel, the cosmic journey away from self, that is why I read and write. 

North Coast Video is my first novel and I believe in it.

- Justin Robert Jahnke, Circa Covid Surge Round 2