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 Quentin, Folsom and the legendary Alcatraz, Northern California’s criminal history is rich, varied, tragic and often brutal. Its thousands of mugshots present a portrait of a state and city’s progression and evolution. Its more notorious names and deeds are already well known but others, no less important, are often overlooked. This is an attempt to put them back in their proper place within California’s history and the chronicles of crime.
Some of America’s most infamous criminals and outlaws lived and died in the area including local crook John Paul Chase (crime partner of Public Enemy Number One “Baby Face Nelson.” Both were gunmen for California bootlegging czar Joe Parente. Others came from much further afield to exploit the opportunities of Californian crime. Englishman Charles Boles, AKA “Black Bart the Poet,” was only one of many. The Chinese Tongs were another, turning San Francisco’s legendary Chinatown into their private battlefield.
With crime comes punishment. In 1937 the Folsom Five tried to escape that prison murdering Warden Clarence Larkin in the process. Instead of escaping Folsom they were the first to enter California’s new gas chamber the next year. The Battle of Alcatraz in May 1946 ended in bloodshed and recriminations from guards and convicts alike, with accusations that staff needlessly endangered convicts’ lives and arranged the wrongful execution of Sam Shockley.
Northern California’s crooks may be less infamous than Southern California’s but remains fascinating all the same. In the meantime ‘Murders, Mysteries and Misdemeanors in New York‘ is still available to buy.
All the best.