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Al Capone and His American Boys

Memoirs of a Mobster's Wife

William J. Helmer. With Georgette Winkeler's one-of-a-kind record of her life with the Chicago mob

Publication Year: 2011

When her husband was murdered on the orders of Chicago mobster Frank Nitti, Georgette Winkeler -- wife of one of Al Capone's "American Boys" -- set out to expose the Chicago Syndicate. After an attempt to publish her story was squelched by the mob, she offered it to the FBI in the mistaken belief that they had the authority to strike at the racketeers who had killed her husband Gus. Discovered 60 years later in FBI files, the manuscript describes the couple's life on the run, the St. Valentine's Day Massacre (Gus was one of the shooters), and other headline crimes of that period. Prepared for publication by mob expert William J. Helmer, Al Capone and His American Boys is a compelling contemporary account of the heyday of Chicago crime by a woman who found herself married to the mob.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv

Contents

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pp. vii-ix

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Foreword

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pp. xi-xii

I contacted Bill Helmer several years ago after reading his book on the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. I was more than a little surprised to learn that he was working on the memoirs of Georgette Winkeler, the woman who married my cousin Gus...

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Foreword

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pp. xiii-xvi

That a gangster’s wife would ever think of writing her personal memoirs, or that they would be found buried in files of the FBI some fifty years later—this must be the first, and I suspect the only, occasion such a manuscript could be found...

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About This Book

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pp. xvii-xx

This memoir was written by the wife of a St. Louis gangster, recruited by Al Capone, who took part in the killing of New York mobster Frankie Yale and participated in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. When her husband was shot to death in 1933...

Acknowledgments

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pp. xxi-

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A Note on Georgette and Gus Winkeler

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pp. 1-5

August Henry Winkeler was born in St. Louis on March 28, 1901, to Mary and Bernard Winkeler, following six older brothers and sisters. Gus apparently moved his birth date back to March 28, 1900, so he could join the army and serve overseas...

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“A Voice from the Grave”: The Memoir of Georgette Winkeler

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pp. 6-7

Traced through the career of one man, it is written in an effort to show the reader how the modern criminal is born—and why. It undertakes to show methods, and above all, motives. In the person of Gus Winkeler, this book will attempt to give...

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1 The Seventh Child

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pp. 8-12

From the adjoining room came the smart slap of a hand on bare flesh, followed by a smothered, quavering wail which steadied and grew in volume. The waiting man smiled in satisfaction. Judging from the experience of six previous similar occasions...

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2 “For Better or for Worse”

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pp. 13-24

The circumstances under which I met Gus Winkeler should have warned me that any association with him would never be sound and normal. With the aid of my sister I operated a rooming house near the downtown district in St. Louis. We had many friends...

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3 Heist Guy—Egan’s Rats and the Cuckoo Gang

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pp. 25-27

With the auto ring dissolved and the beer business operating at a loss, we decided to move. Our next home was outside of the city. But bad companions, like bad pennies, always show up. Gus made the acquaintance of Charles Crow...

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4 The Bad Pennies

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pp. 28-30

Gus Winkeler always envied those whose station in life was superior to his own. In his own words he liked to “put on the Ritz,” but lack of money prevented him from improving his acquaintances. Although he associated largely...

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5 Affairs with the Police

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pp. 31-33

Gus Winkeler’s decision to quit the gang did not end his affairs with the police. He had been found guilty in St. Louis courts of the felonious wounding charge growing out of our motor accident. He had appealed the case, but the decision...

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6 Fugitives on the Lam

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pp. 34-38

A few blocks from our new home lived Mrs. Lawrence Daugherty. Her husband, in gang vernacular, was “on the lam” as the result of the holdup of the Portland Bank at Louisville, Kentucky. Gus soon learned that the holdup...

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7 Workhouse Widow

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pp. 39-41

When Gus went to the workhouse he was faced with a $500 fine, payable before his release. He left me with just $600, out of which I was determined to save enough for the fine. However, shortly after Gus was imprisoned his attorney...

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8 Gratitude—and Murder

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pp. 42-44

“I hope that someday I will be able to repay you for your kindness.” These were the words contained in the letter from Lawrence Daugherty while he still was being sought for the Portland Bank robbery in Louisville. Daugherty was captured...

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9 Flight from St. Louis

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pp. 45-49

A few days later Gus ventured out to the barber shop and during his absence Lou McConroy, Red Honacker and several others came to the house. Learning that Gus was gone they asked if I had a sharp butcher knife. “Sure,” I said...

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10 Meet Al Capone

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pp. 50-61

A few days after Gus’ escape from St. Louis I received a letter from him saying he was at the Alcazar Hotel, under an assumed name and to come at once. As soon as I arrived I told Gus I expected him to keep his promise and try...

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11 The Toledo Killing

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pp. 62-70

There is no honor among thieves. I can prove it, although much has been said and written about crooks refusing to take advantage of each other. If there is a code I have never seen it work. Thieves distrust each other. I do not mean “thieves” in the specific...

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12 Frankie Yale

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pp. 71-76

The Capone crime syndicate was not built on robbery. Strictly speaking Capone was not a gangster, rather he was a racketeer. This definition may seem like splitting hairs, but as a matter of fact the entire Capone enterprise...

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13 Murphy’s Tough Skull

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pp. 77-79

When I was well enough to travel we went back to Chicago, and Gus promised he would grant my oft-repeated request that I be allowed to keep house. We had been jumping from one furnished flat to another, with a sprinkling of hotel rooms thrown in between...

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14 The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

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pp. 80-92

Due to the frequency of violent deaths in the ranks of those who live “below the deadline,” the average newspaper reader had learned to drop one eyelid when “just another gang killing” comes to his attention. The general public doesn’t seem to mind...

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15 Hiding Out

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pp. 93-97

I heaved a sigh of relief when Gus telephoned me the following Monday and instructed me to check out and meet him at an address in Melrose Park. The address proved to be an inn operated by Louis “Doc” Stacci who made a business...

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16 On the Run

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pp. 98-100

We had been in Gary only one day when Gus came in and said he had seen Fred Burke in a Calumet City saloon. The newspapers and police branded Burke “The Killer,” as the result of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre...

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17 “Killer” Burke and the Policeman’s Murder

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pp. 101-109

During the winter I heard Gus mention some friends he and Bob Carey had met in a Calumet City saloon. He called them Harvey Bailey, Bob “Slim” Morris, a man I heard him call nothing but “Jack,” and several others...

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18 New Face and New Fingerprints

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pp. 110-113

Shortly after we moved to Berwyn, Ray Nugent undertook to open a Miami, Florida, saloon. He had been on Capone’s payroll and naturally was expected to buy his “merchandise” from Capone. Trouble developed when he failed to do so...

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19 “Killer” Burke on the Lam

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pp. 114-123

A rap on the door late one night broke the peace and quiet that had reigned in our home for weeks. When I opened the door I was startled. The man before me was a stranger. He had a turned up nose...

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20 The Car Crash

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pp. 124-131

Gus Winkeler was earning a high place in Al Capone’s esteem. He spent much time at the syndicate office, and had won the gang leader’s confidence. His name was beginning to assume a prominent place in that roster of names identified...

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21 Capone to the Rescue

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pp. 132-135

Up to this time I had not been able to see Gus, neither could I get in touch with Capone. Each time I called, Lefty Louie Campagna, Frankie Reo or some other syndicate hireling would tell me Al was not in. I knew they were giving me the runaround...

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22 The Greatest Bank Robbery

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pp. 136-139

Later Gus was moved from the St. Joseph jail to Lincoln, Nebraska, to face trial on the bank robbery charges. Before he was moved he instructed me not to come to Lincoln, but a few days after he arrived there I received a telegram from a Lincoln...

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23 Chicago’s “Secret Six”

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pp. 140-148

Since Gus knew from what I had told them that he would have to “pay through the nose” to get back the bonds, he naturally expected some security in return. So he went directly to the Secret Six, that citizens’ commission organized...

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24 Enter Father Dwyer

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pp. 149-152

Gus emerged from these court tangles a stronger man than ever. Already he was recognized as one of the truly “big” men in the Chicago underworld, and his influence in city politics was being felt. Although the Italian element of the Capone...

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25 The Shooting of Frank Nitti

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pp. 153-158

Recognizing the fact that the Capone syndicate was disintegrating as a result of economic conditions and Capone’s imprisonment, other officials of the organization began desperately to cast about for ways and means to salvage the remnants...

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26 Nitti’s Revenge

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pp. 159-163

The average maximum age of a man who follows a criminal career is about thirty-five years, excepting of course, those who find safety and security behind prison bars. Naturally there are many men now living who have spent years...

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27 “The Informer”

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pp. 164-167

“Are you certain?” I gasped. “Positively,” he answered, and his voice was emphatic. Without another word I staggered out of his office, and ran to my car. I was ill before I left the office. I had received a terrible shock while there, and how I drove...

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28 The Boom Days

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pp. 168-171

While both the Department of Justice and Chicago authorities were investigating Ted Newberry’s murder, which had been committed at Chesterton, Indiana, Gus had taken over the reigns of the great North Side and was investigating Newberry’s business...

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29 A Promise Kept

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pp. 172-174

Gus Winkler’s thirty-third birthday was approaching and for the second time I planned a party for him. It occurred to me as I made preparations that Fate must have had a hand in making such an elaborate affair possible...

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30 Gus and the Planted Gun

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pp. 175-178

It never fails. No sooner does a gangland character begin to assume prominence than he becomes a target for police. This is not entirely due to the ambition of the Police Department. Quite often it is the result of public demand created when newspapers begin to ask, “Why is it?”...

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31 Legal Beer at Last

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pp. 179-183

Gus was indefatigable in his efforts to make the North Side a paying proposition. He worked day and night managing the affairs of the syndicate to the best advantage, and developing plans of his own for private enterprises...

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32 Gus Winkeler and the New North Side

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pp. 184-186

Returning to the apartment one evening I heard the low hum of men’s voices in our sitting room and turned aside into my own room rather than disturb Gus and his guest. In a few minutes the maid knocked at my door and said my husband...

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33 The Kansas City Massacre

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pp. 187-196

The newspapers of June 17, 1933, were filled with the news of the killing of four officers in front of the Union Depot in Kansas City, Missouri, in a gangland effort to free Frankie Nash, their prisoner. Nash also was killed in the gunplay...

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34 Gus and the “Miller Massacre”

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pp. 197-200

When I told Gus what Mrs. Miller had told me, we discussed the matter from all angles and tried to advance a logical reason why Miller killed Nash. “Nash didn’t ask for help and that’s why he didn’t run,” was Gus’ belief...

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35 Beginning of the End

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pp. 201-205

Gus Winkeler’s difficulties were pyramiding, and looking back at those last few hectic days, they seem like some vague awful dream—not horrible enough to waken the sleeper, but grimly unpleasant. My comfortable surroundings, plenty of money...

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36 The Syndicate Closes In

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pp. 206-210

I was startled at the change in Eddie Lebensberger when I saw him at the 225 Club. The usually calm, suave cabaret manager was pale, and deep lines in his face indicated constant worry. Previously I had never seen Lebensberger drinking while on duty...

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37 The Police Called It Suicide

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pp. 211-215

The breath drained out of my throat and I stood in speechless horror at his announcement. Then I screamed. “Steady, Honey, take it easy,” Gus said, coming over to me. After a few minutes of tears I said...

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38 “They’ve Taken Him to the Morgue”

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pp. 216-219

Gus asked me to go to our Lake Shore Drive apartment and get some fresh clothing. “Get some rest while you’re there,” he said. “I wouldn’t come back until about eight o’clock if I were you.”...

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39 Gus Goes Home

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pp. 220-223

The brutal announcement paralyzed my mind and body. Before an impenetrable fog settled around me, I remember lifting my hand to my mouth. I did not speak, but I felt the world crumple silently into dust around me...

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40 Who Killed My Husband?

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pp. 224-227

On the long train ride back to Chicago the fog began to lift and I was capable of thought. But my brain seemed closed to all but one thought— who killed my husband? I brooded on this for the entire trip, and by the time the train pulled...

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41 The Widow and Her World

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pp. 228-232

While I was still grasping for an answer to my problems Benny Goldblatt came to call on me. In spite of my suspicions, I greeted him as a friend, but the news he brought nearly stopped my heart...

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42 “The Gas Lisped Its Song of Death”

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pp. 233-236

I faced this crisis absolutely alone. There was no strong arm to lean on. For fifteen years, I had depended utterly on the fearless resourcefulness of my husband. On the occasions when circumstances forced me to act on my own initiative...

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43 Rebirth and Revenge

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pp. 237-239

In my insane desperation and self-pity I scorned the attempts of friends and acquaintances to ease my state of mind. My only excuse is that I was weak and ill from both the mental and physical shock of my experience. A bleak world was before me...

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44 End of the Empire

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pp. 240-244

The entire complexion of the Gus Winkeler inquiry had been changed. Starting out as a thorough sifting of Chicago’s wide-flung gambling empire, it had simmered down to an investigation of the ramifications of the enterprises in which my husband was involved...

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45 “Do You See This Gun?”

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pp. 245-248

Working on the theory that Benny Goldblatt was the weakest link in the chain of untold evidence, I laid a trap for him. I summoned him to the apartment. When he entered the door he was surprised and alarmed to find me...

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46 Confronting the Mob

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pp. 249-251

Secluded in a house at Berwyn, with only Murphy and my maid, I had plenty of time to think over the most recent events. They preyed on my mind. The future appeared blank, for I had no income, and now I valued my life too much to go to the syndicate...

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47 On the Spot

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pp. 252-254

Temporarily I was safe, but I knew it was a matter of only a few days before I would be located. Lefty Louie Campagna saw Murphy and asked my address, but the faithful colored man refused to tell...

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48 Resolution

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pp. 255-258

My efforts to lead a retired and normal life seemed to be in vain, for I had no difficulty seeing that I was still being watched and therefore figured the syndicate must attach some importance to my presence in Chicago. In a final attempt to reach some...

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Georgette Talks to the FBI

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pp. 259-294

By 1933 Gus Winkeler had acquired a degree of respectability by way of elegant nightclubs and casinos in what had formerly had been Bugs Moran’s Near North Side. He was also a good friend of Buck Kempster, a former bodyguard to two governors...

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Biographies and Historical Notes

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pp. 295-362

Al Capone’s original “American boys,” as Georgette Winkeler calls them, were Gus Winkeler with his two St. Louis friends, Ray Nugent and Bob Carey. They were soon joined by Fred Burke, also from St. Louis, and Fred Goetz and Byron Bolton...

Index

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pp. 363-376


E-ISBN-13: 9780253001689
E-ISBN-10: 0253001684
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253356062

Page Count: 400
Illustrations: 70 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2011

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Subject Headings

  • Crime -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History -- 20th century.
  • Murder -- Illinois -- Chicago -- History -- 20th century.
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