Twilight of the Ice, from acclaimed storyteller Harry Mark Petrakis, is a dramatic tale of revelation and redemption set against the backdrop of the 1950s Chicago rail yards. In a classic yarn expertly balancing the realistic with the mythic, Petrakis chronicles the life of Mike Zervakis, a Greek immigrant and the last in the line of the strong, skilled railroad car icemen, in a profession becoming obsolete with the advent of modern refrigeration.
After fleeing from the despotic Turkish occupation of his homeland of Crete, and then escaping from boyhood servitude in his uncle's shabby Chicago lunchroom, Mike at last finds his calling in the craft of the ice at the Team Track, the desolate ice depot in the heart of industrial Chicago. Here, under the oppressive rule of brutal foreman Earl, and bolstered by the camaraderie of alcoholic former schoolteacher Rafer Martin, Mike carves out his fate.
Mike's icing world is populated by a rough crew of old-timers and rookies, including the stoic Polish icemen Thadeus and Sigmund, the buoyant and reckless Noodles, the brooding war veteran Stamps, and Mike's young helper and surrogate son, Mendoza. This harsh world is also home to Mike's beloved, the prostitute Reba; Rafer's temptation incarnate, the fragile Leota; and the old iceman-turned-preacher, Israel, a man plagued with apocalyptic visions of a second ice age in which mankind's salvation would depend upon the chosen icemen.
Beset by age and a failing body, Mike yearns to find his heir, someone to whom he can pass his skill and his devotion to the craft. After finding only cold indifference among the young summer workers, he finally is introduced to the powerful young giant, S.K., a born iceman. But when S.K. carelessly causes the death of an icing veteran, old hatreds surface and Mike's dream of a successor seems doomed. All that remains for the master iceman is a final savage struggle against his exacting taskmaster, Earl, and an even more relentless foe, the twilight of his own life.