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.
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.
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.
One of Crane Neck’s employers gets into a spot of trouble when he shoots another large gangster in a speakeasy altercation.
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.
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.
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.
Crane Neck gets arrested in a Florida speakeasy, then is quickly in the wind again. Meanwhile, the hunt for his former partner and archenemy Bob Zwick continues. When Zwick’s reign of terror finally ends, details of their worst exploits are revealed in court.
Musical direction by Dave Sams