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.

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.

Chapter 6: Chasing the Fox of Gangsterdom

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

Dillinger at the Biograph


A special edition of Yesterday’s News focusing on the notorious scoundrels of the Prohibition and Depression eras.

The Final Chapter of the Dillinger Saga

The first volume of this this series has been devoted to the exploration of newspaper accounts of the trail of terror blazed by one of America’s most famous, dare I say most beloved, gangsters, John Dillinger.

From the time he was paroled from the Michigan City prison in May, 1933, to the time he was gunned down by police on a Chicago sidewalk 14 months later, John Herbert Dillinger was one of America’s most notorious scoundrels.

In previous chapters, we read the newspaper accounts of the escape of ten convicts from the Indiana penitentiary at Michigan City and the bloody delivery of Dillinger from the Lima, Ohio, jail; how Dillinger and his new gang blazed a trail of terror across the Midwest until he was captured in Tuscon, his second daring escape using a gun he made from broomstick, and his continuing reign of terror. Last month, we heard about one more narrow escape from the clutches of the law and one final bank robbery.

The narration for this episode was recorded on the main stage of the Biograph Theatre in Chicago, where Dillinger saw his last film just minutes before meeting his fate on the sidewalks of the Windy City. It was a movie theater then, and Dillinger, his hair dyed black, came here with two women to see Clark Gable in “Manhattan Melodrama,” and on the way out… Well, listen to this episode to see how it all shakes out.

Music by Chuck Wiggins


Continue reading “Dillinger at the Biograph”