Crane Neck Nugent, Prohibition Trigger

The Gangster Chronicles Book Two


A reading from historic newspapers in the golden age of yellow journalism

The second volume of The Gangster Chronicles explores one of the many side effects of the Great Experiment, America’s Prohibition on alcohol.

I’ve often contended that Prohibition made criminals out of a lot of ordinary people who just wanted to drink and serve drinks. But it also gave some truly bad men an opportunity to misbehave.

Although he had one of the worst nicknames names ever, Raymond “Crane Neck” Nugent, was one of the most ruthless of the era’s gangsters.

Before his own demise, Nugent would be suspected in at least 15 high-profile murders, including the most famous gangland massacre of the Prohibition era. Yeah, he was probably one of the guns at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

Chapter 1: What the Cab Driver Forgot

Charged with the murder of Bob Schief outside Farley’s Cafe in the “Jungle” district of Hamilton, Ohio, Crane Neck Nugent, 25, and co-defendant John “Todd” Messner stand trial, but the judge directs  a not-guilty verdict when the state’s chief witness changes his testimony.

Chapter 2: Cincinnati Bootlegger War: Crane Neck’s Early Hits

The gangsters are falling like dominoes in Cincinnati and Hamilton. Gus Fitch, Bob Sollick, Glenn Hiatt and Martin Dailey are among the victims of Crane Neck Nugent and his partner Bob “The Fox” Zwick. In the meantime, the gangster Jack Parker shoots and kills the aspiring boxer Buddy Ryan in an argument over a woman.

Sidebar: The Gangster Called “Fat”

One of Crane Neck’s employers gets into a spot of trouble when he shoots another large gangster in a speakeasy altercation.

Chapter 3: The Assassination of Robert Andres

With the heat turned up high in Ohio, Crane Neck retreats to Kansas City to join the gang of his Army mentor Fred “Killer” Burke, the leader of his own gang there. A Toledo job goes south on the Burke gang, and a patrolman ends up dead from machine gun fire. Meanwhile Jack Parker, Todd Messner, Breck Lutes, Rodney Ford, and Bob Zwick hold up a craps game at the Pelican Club in North College Hill, killing the town marshal who stopped in to chew the fat. Later, Jack Parker is found dead outside Lebanon, Ohio. When the state’s chief witness in the first trial for the marshal’s murder turns up charred in an abandoned barbecue shack, police enhance their search for Crane Neck and Bob the Fox, while the surviving Dumele killers face the music.

Chapter 4: The St. Valentine Day Massacre

Nugent’s career included work with the gang of Fred “Killer” Burke of St. Louis, whom he got to know when they served together as machine gunners in World War I. While no one was ever charged with the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, it is generally agreed that Al Capone hired the Burke gang, whom he called his “American Boys,” to take down his rival Bugs Moran. In this episode, we’ll also hear about Burke’s murder of a policeman in Michigan a few months after the massacre and his capture two years later when some of this information came to light.

Chapter 5: The Hit at Symmes Corner

Crane Neck returns to Cincinnati to do a favor for his old boss, Fat Wrassman: Even the score for the hit on George Murphy. But it means going after his partner, Bob “The Fox” Zwick. You don’t want to miss the showdown in the streets of Cincinnati between Fat Wrassman and Detective Dutch Schafer.

Musical direction by Dave Sams

The Purcell Nicotine Poison Puzzle

Or, Death of a Composer


A special edition of Yesterday’s News examining some of history’s most perplexing murder mysteries

This episode involves the body of a songwriter and real estate speculator found tied to a chair with an expression of surprise frozen on his dead face and suspicions of suicide.

Wait. What?

Suicide tied to a chair?

The evidence is so jumbled, police are at a loss to explain, but the backstory to the incident and a foray into the worlds of traveling musicians and actors, hints at motives deeply hidden, and possibly scandalous.

This is one that will keep you guessing.

Theme Music by Dave Sams

Incidental music: “The Old Bachelor” by Henry Purcell.

Sound effects:

The Belle in the Belfry


An exploration of the criminal justice system at its most extreme: Inflicting the death penalty.

The Terrible Murders of Blanche Lamont and Minnie Williams

Although this episode begins with the disappearance of young Blanche Lamont, it is the body of her friend and confidante Minnie Williams that is first found in a storage room in a San Francisco Baptist Church.

But in searching for clues, police find Blanche’s brutalized corpse far up in the church’s bell tower.

The Sunday School Superintendent, a dapper but depraved medical student is charged with both murders, tried for the death of Blanche Lamont.

I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but you’ll want to stick around for the bizarre execution feast at the end.

Music by Dave Sams