Books, books, beautiful books.

The following are available from bookstores and online: Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in New York. Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in Northern California. Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in Southern California. Criminal Curiosities: Twelve Remarkable Reprobates you've Probably Never Heard Of. And my latest: Dark River: The Bloody Reign of the Ohio River Pirates.

Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in Northern California, out on August 28.

Hello there. It’s been a while since I last posted, but I’ve been busy on the second of three books for Fonthill's 'America Through Time' series. This Rogues Gallery features sixteen of Northern California's most wanted (and most interesting). Some are famous, some are not, but all have their own particular importance. Home to San …

Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in New York, out on November 25.

  Hello there. It's been some time since I last posted, but I've been hard at work on the new book. Sixteen of New York's most interesting crimes and criminals are featured. Some are famous, some are not, but each one has its own particular importance. New York's criminal history is rich, varied, tragic and …

On This Day in 1941, Abe ‘Kid Twist’ Reles does the Half-Moon Hop.


On the night of November 12,
1941. Abe “Kid Twist” Reles, once a senior member of Murder Inc. and
now one of the most important canaries in American history, prepared a
makeshift ladder from the sixth floor of the Half Moon Hotel on Coney Island,
New York. He was in protective custody preparing to turn state’s evidence
against perhaps New York’s most vicious mobster, Albert ‘Lord High Executioner’

rope supposedly snapped, plunging him six floors to his death. The most important
witness in the country at that time is dead and nobody can be blamed.
Or can they?
It’s unlikely, with the passing of time and those who really knew,
that the full story will ever be known. What is known is that the official
versions of events conflict. Some call it murder, others an accident, some call
it suicide. We’ll probably never know which.

According to godfather…

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Books, books, beautiful books.

Dark River : The Bloody Reign Of The Ohio River Pirates

Dark River tells a fascinating, and not well known, story of an age of the Western frontier (1770-1850). Social pressures spurred on by rapid western expansion and years of warfare became the breeding ground for violence. This atmosphere brought about the creation of a unique type of person. Those who would use the Ohio River …

Merle Haggard, James ‘Rabbit’ Kendrick, Caryl Chessman, Eddie Bunker and Johhny Cash.

Robbing a supermarket near Madera turned “Rabbit” into the “Safeway Bandit.” Already wanted for the escape, Kendrick racked up another ten felony charges in the two weeks he was at large. They ended with an eleventh charge—the first-degree murder of a police officer. The Safeway Bandit had become a cop-killer; soon, he would return to San Quentin a condemned cop-killer. 

On This Day in 1957: Albert Anastasia, New York’s ‘Lord High Executioner,’ Murdered.


Anastasia, murdered while getting a shave at New York’s Park Sheraton Hotel, was and remains one of the most callous and murderous criminals in American history. An illegal immigrant who jumped ship in 1919, he also jumped into New York’s underworld. Born into poverty in Parghelia, Italy in 1920 he would die in 1957, rich beyond his wildest dreams and probably the most feared Mafioso of his time. That he died as he’d lived (violently and criminally) was no surprise. That he survived for so long having made so many enemies certainly is.

It didn’t take
Anastasia long to have a close brush with death, both somebody else’s and very
nearly his own. Illiterate, but tough and strong, Anastasia’s first job was as
a dock-worker. Low in pay and status (though not in the risk of injury on the
job) it was also short on perks other than the rampant…

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George Harsh – Great Escaper and the ‘Milwaukee Thrill Slayer.

Before George Rutherford Harsh, Jr. became a crucial member of the Great Escape he became the ‘Milwaukee Thrill Slayer,’ at least according to the Georgia newspapers. Shot down on a bombing raid over Cologne in 1943 while serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force and a confirmed troublemaker in the eyes of his guards, Harsh …

On This Day in 1924 – Howard Hinton, Georgia’s first electrocution.


maxresdefault The former Central State Prison Farm at Milledgeville, since demolished.

It’s common to find ‘Peachtree Bandit’ Frank Dupre, armed robber and murderer executed on September 1, 1921 with Luke McDonald, listed as the last man to hang in Georgia. He wasn’t. That was Arthur Meyers, a murderer hanged at Augusta on June 17, 1931 for a murder committed in March, 1924. McDonald, despite dying with the notorious DuPree, seldom gets a mention in accounts of DuPree’s case.

It’s equally common for the same reports to list a ‘Howard Henson,’ electrocuted on September 13, 1924, as the first Georgian to ride the lightning. He wasn’t, his name was actually Howard Hinton. Hinton was executed for rape and robbery or, to put it more delicately, ‘assaulting a white woman.’ Hinton (1920’s Georgia being 1920’s Georgia) was an African-American.

So, with that in mind, why the confusion? The Georgia Assembly, thanks in part…

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On This Day in 1953 – France’s last inmates return from Devil’s Island.



“The Bagne is a charnel house, a mass grave, running from syphilis to tuberculosis, with all the tropical diseases one can imagine (carrying malaria, ankylosis, amoebic dysentery, leprosy, etc.), all destined to work hand in hand with an Administration whose task it is to diminish the number of prisoners consigned to its care. The fiercest proponents of ‘elimination’ can rest satisfied. In Guyane, prisoners survive on the average five years – no more.” –

Doctor Louis Rousseau, former chief prison doctor.

They called it ‘Le Bagne,’ simply ‘the jail.’ They called themselves ‘bagnards,’ simply ‘convicts.’ Inmates of probably the worst convict prison in history, some 70,000 made  their way to Guiana from France. Only around 5000 survived long enough to finish their sentences. Only around 2000 ever made the return trip. Only one in four lasted five years before dying there. In a good year around 40% of new arrivals…

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On This Day in 1965: Joel Singer and Jack Franck, the real-life ‘Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.’



If you’re a fan of Clint Eastwood then ‘Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’ is probably in your DVD collection. Not one of his better-known movies and perhaps not one of his best, but well worth watching all the same. Nor were Joel Singer and Jack Franck the original Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, that dubious distinction rightly belongs to a pair of English highwaymen who both gave themselves the rank of Captain.

The movie, made largely because Eastwood felt like doing a road movie, also starred George Kennedy, Geoffrey Lewis and a young Jeff Bridges. It was written and directed by Michael Cimino, later to direct ‘The Deer Hunter’ and ‘Heaven’s Gate.’ The film revolves round ‘Thunderbolt’ (Eastwood), a criminal who attacks bank vaults using a 20-millimetre cannon.

This isn’t as outlandish as it sounds. On the weekend of October 22-23, 1965 Montreal crook Joel Singer did exactly that. 33 20-millimetre cannon shells blasted…

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On This Day in 1963: New York State’s Last Execution, Eddie Lee Mays.


 Eddie Lee Mays, his Death House file at Sing Sing Prison.
Eddie Lee Mays, his Death House file at Sing Sing Prison.

August 15, 1963 was an historic day in New York’s penal history, although nobody involved knew it at the time. New York’s lawmakers didn’t know it. the Warden of New York’s infamous Sing Sing Prison (now the Ossining Correctional Facility) didn’t know either. Dow Hover (New York’s last ‘State Electrician’) was also unaware, it was just another date in his increasingly-bare diary. Eddie Lee Mays (armed robber and murderer of no particular note) didn’t know. He was well beyond caring by then anyway.

At 10pm Eddie Lee Mays would walk his last mile, sit down and die. He would leave his pre-execution cell in Sing Sing’s ‘death house,’ walk twenty feet with two prison officers and a prison Chaplain, take a seat in ‘Old Sparky’ and ride the lightning. Moved from his regular Death House cell twelve hours before…

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