Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-4

Contents

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pp. 5-6

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Introduction

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pp. 7-14

Our fascination with gangsters and the sinister lives they pursue never seems to end. For the better part of one hundred years now, gangsters have been glamorized in film and fiction despite the terrible crimes they commit and the violence they perpetuate. In the American psyche, they seem to function like shadow selves by...

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1. Duke of the West Side

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pp. 15-31

I first heard of Owney Madden on a cold winter night in England. Jimmy Murphy had come to stay. We basked on each side of a roaring fire with the wind moaning down the chimney like a muted siren. When Murphy talked of the 1920s and 1930s, he gazed deep into the fire, his eyes lighting up with memories of Hollywood and Manhattan. He had worked as a butler for...

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2. Huddled Masses

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pp. 32-43

Owen Vincent Madden was born on December 18, 1891, in a tiny, terraced house on Somerset Street, Leeds. It has long since been pulled down and replaced by the Home Office building, which Yorkshire Life magazine once wryly suggested should be named Madden House. His parents, Francis and Mary, were Irish. They were driven by the dark aftermath of the potato famine to search for work in the English...

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3. Fire in the Streets

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pp. 44-64

New York City, 1912 It was the Gophers’ night out. They drifted out of pool halls and dingy apartments in the gas-lit streets off 10th Avenue to meet up outside the nickelodeon. Some wore caps and roll-neck jerseys, others battered derbies and collarless shirts. Nearly all of them sported heavy side-laced boots, which had become a fashion with the gang. The toughest boys on...

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4. Enemies

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pp. 65-86

In the same year, another election—a hard-fought campaign for president of the United States—was to keep Owney Madden busy. William Howard (Big Bill) Taft was running for reelection, but a rival Republican faction known as the Progressives or Bull Moosers had funded a popular hero, ex-president Theodore Roosevelt. Democrat Woodrow Wilson, Governor of New Jersey, finally...

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5. The Big Thirst

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pp. 87-107

Owney had barely completed a year of his sentence before the Winona was deserted and the remaining Gophers scattered to the winds. Sing Sing was designed to be a shock to the system—a bleak, remote institution made of grey stone from which chances of any escape were very slim. Each day, a bus full of new prisoners swung through the iron gates for...

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6. The Great White Way

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pp. 108-134

One evening in the early 1920s, a limousine pulled up outside Harlem’s Club Deluxe and a group of well-dressed men strolled through the front door and asked to see the owner. Jack Johnson, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, was a hero to African Americans and was well known to Owney, a connoisseur of the fight game. Jack, a huge, amiable fellow...

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7. Phoenix Rising

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pp. 135-155

Owney had ambitions to boost his bootleg activities by making huge financial investments. His first aim was to get a slice of the sea-going smuggling business and, secondly, to cover all his options by moving into liquor manufacture and brewing. By the mid-1920s, Owney was one of three figures who dominated the import of booze through what smugglers called Rum Row—a stretch...

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8. Fighting Chance

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pp. 156-166

As a gangland diversion, showgirls and actresses were eclipsed only by the raw excitement of the fight game. Owney had maintained an interest in boxing since boyhood, and many of his close friends were professional fighters. To some, he freely gave large sums of money to assist with training and promotion. He also held lucrative investments in others. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, he maintained...

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9. Birth of the Businessman-Gangster

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pp. 167-181

Toward the late 1920s, Owney’s star had risen high over New York’s grimy skyline. The Cotton Club, the Stork, and the Silver Slipper were among the best and most stylish nightclubs in the city. His ships steered a fairly uninterrupted course to Rum Row, laden with King’s Ransom and House of Lords whisky. The Phenix Brewery was working, as usual, at full capacity. In addition, he had...

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10. The Mad Dog

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pp. 182-197

Organized crime was a claustrophobic occupation. As more contenders and recalcitrants rose in Manhattan’s crowded 22.7 square miles, the less pleasurable gang life became. Owney, in particular, a man as hard as the best of them but with sensibilities and refinements lacking in most of his contemporaries, began to live on his nerves. He smoked heavily during this...

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11. The Postmaster’s Daughter

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pp. 198-219

It was time to take a vacation, and the safest place to which a man in Owney’s position could turn was Hot Springs, Arkansas. The “Baden Baden of America,” as it styled itself, was a spa in the grand tradition. It attracted millionaires, movie stars, and members of high society from all over the world. Andrew Carnegie, F. W. Woolworth, John Barrymore,...

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12. Trouble in Mind

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pp. 220-245

Owney was now facing attack on three sides. Deportation back to England, however, had been discarded by the government as an immediate goal. The law on deportation required jail sentences of at least a year each, on two separate convictions. Still, the authorities continued their efforts to remove Owney from the New York scene. The Treasury Department...

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13. Enter the G-Men

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pp. 246-264

Among the handful of personal effects in Owney’s suit pockets when he changed into the drab prison uniform were a “considerable” amount of money and a doctor’s prescription for a stomach disorder. Dr. Charles Sweet, the prison surgeon who had twice operated on him during his years of freedom, gave him a thorough medical examination and pronounced his...

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14. Symphony in Blue

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pp. 265-280

Owney was one of a handful of immigrants who lived through the distinct phases of the dark side of America’s history. He rose from the ranks of an unsophisticated street gang to become one of the administrative geniuses of bootlegging and now stood on the threshold of a new era. With each step he had grown in stature, maturity, political experience, and cunning. His equals regarded...

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15. Bubbles

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pp. 281-305

In Arkansas’s olden days, the Natchez, Quapaw, and Osage Indians traveled on foot across the mountains to the sacred Valley of Vapors and its hot springs. The warriors returned with a story. In a cave hidden deep under a mountain lay the home of an evil spirit. When it was restless, it turned and shook in its lair, sending smoke issuing out from the cracks in the rock face. The Indians prayed...

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16. The Quiet American

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pp. 306-331

It was a troublesome time for the Duke. In a small place like Hot Springs, it was easy for him to know that the FBI was showing a close interest in his affairs. He began to adopt a daily routine of such an intensely boring nature that even the most determined agent would find it difficult to maintain any interest. In Florida, the authorities were making inquiries into racetrack...

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17. When the Bubble Burst

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pp. 332-358

There was a sigh of satisfaction for Owney in 1958 when Judge Babe Huff was defeated in the local elections. Arkansas’s governor, Orval Faubus, diplomatically left the question of gambling in the hands of Hot Springs officials, and business returned to normal. Little Rock’s FBI office, unable to spend further man hours following...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 359-360

The full story of Owney Madden will never be known. He was shy, private, clever, and cunning when asked about his full and secretive life. Owney never gave interviews and declined to discuss his affairs, even with friends he had known for years. Everyone has their own story to tell about the pale, thin Englishman who became a cornerstone of...

Bibliography

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pp. 361-364

Index

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pp. 365-376

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About the Author

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pp. 377-379

Graham Edmund Nown was born on November 3, 1944, in Rainhill, a small village in the northwest of England, where Robert Stephenson’s Rocket, an early steam engine, set off on its famous trial run in 1829. An awardwinning journalist, Nown was widely published as a non-fiction author in the...

Back Cover

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pp. 380-380