Gangster Gats: James “Mad Bomber” Belcastro, Vampire Hunter?

I recently came upon an article in the Chicago Daily Tribune entitled “Seize 12 in Bomb Factory” (01-AUG-1929). The article recounted the “breaking up” on 31-JUL-1929 of the so-called “Belcastro Gang” in Chicago, Illinois. Its capo James “Mad Bomber” Belcastro was a member of the Gas Fillers and Owners’ Association, one of the many union rackets then in operation. In reality, he was not the boss of an independent criminal gang but a member of Al “Scarface” Capone’s Outfit. He and his men produced and sold homemade bombs. Explosives were used with alarming regularity in the 1920s in Chicago for black mail, disrupting the political process including in the “Pineapple Primary” of 1927, and outright attacks on competitors. Belcastro emerged unscathed of the raids in 1929, was shot and wounded in 1931, but lived on until 1945. He had been arrested more than 150 times but had never been convicted … Read More

Gun Fu: Last Man Standing

Finn: I guess you’ll just have to kill me.

John Smith: It’ll hurt if I do.

Last Man Standing (1996)


Last Man Standing (1996) directed by Walter Hill is one of my favourite films, combining as it does many awesome ingredients: set in 1931 during the Prohibition, a former mob enforcer on the run from Chicago winds up in a Texas burg under the thumbs of two feuding bootlegger gangs and starts playing the two groups against each other – cue lots of mayhem. We get a period setting with top actors including Bruce Willis as “John Smith,” but also Bruce Dern, William Sanderson, and Christopher Walken, cool vintage props including gats, suits, and haircuts, and an ace score by slide guitarist Ry Cooder. The familiar story about a loner playing two parties of bad guys against each other to his own advantage is credited prominently to Ryūzū Kikushima and Akira Kurosawa’s Yōjinbō (1961), which is ironic considering that their screenplay was based heavily on Dashiell Hammett’s Red Harvest (1929), a novel about a Prohibition-era agency detective who plays several gangs against each other …

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Gangster Gats: Cleaver Gang

On 25-FEB-1928, Charles “Limpy” Cleaver and eight of his gangmembers robbed the Grand Trunk postal mail train at Evergreen Park, Illinois, scoring $133,000 in cash after blowing off the doors of the mail car. US Post Office inspectors very quickly tracked down the robbers, arresting most of them within days of the robbery. They found an arsenal of weapons, many of them used during the robbery, in an attic room in Cleaver’s home at 10235 South Elizabeth Street in Chicago, Illinois. The room was accessed through a secret stairway with a door leading to it hidden in the back of a closet.

This photo shows US Postal Inspector T.G. Rowan in front of the seized weapons and equipment.

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Gangster Gats: Purple Gang

During the 1920s, the Purple Gang ‒ several theories exist as to the origins of this colourful name ‒ was the most successful bootlegger outfit in Detroit, Michigan. By the late 1920s, they also contracted as hit men, a business move that would lead to the gang’s downfall in the early 1930s. By the late 1930s, many of its leaders were in prison, and its remaining members had switched trades to robbing safes. However, when their principal work car ‒ a supercharged, armoured Graham-Paige sedan with revolving license plates and a ramp to roll a safe inside ‒ was confiscated in 1936, they reverted to armed robberies and assassination.

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Gangster Gats: Fred “Killer” Burke

Fred “Killer” Burke (née Thomas Camp) was a bank robber and hit man. Originally with Egan’s Rats in St. Louis, Missouri, he contracted out to the Purple Gang of Detroit, Michigan, until he eventually became one of Al Capone’s American Boys in Chicago, Illinois. He is widely believed to have been one of the perpetrators of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, a hit on George “Bugs” Moran (née Adelard Cunin) and his North Side Gang, in Chicago on 14-FEB-1929. Burke is the only one that could be positively linked to the massacre. This was done through the submachine guns that were found in a house owned by Burke in Stevensville, Michigan, on 14-DEC-1929. Burke himself was arrested in Milan, Missouri, on 26-MAR-1931.

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Gangster Gats: “Pretty Boy” Floyd

At present Oklahoma is being ravaged by a thug called “Pretty-boy” Floyd, who seems to be a reversion to the old-time outlaw type. He has eleven men to his credit, seven or eight or which are officers of the law, which probably accounts for the failure of the authorities to apprehend him. It’s a lot easier to beat a confession of some sort out of some harmless poor devil than it is to nab a young desperado who wears a steel bullet-proof vest, and draws and shoots like lightning with either hand.

‒ Robert Howard, letter to H.P. Lovecraft (24-MAY-1932)


Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd was a bank robber and hit man who operated in the Midwestern USA between 1925 and 1934. After John Dillinger’s death, he was named Public Enemy No.1 on 23-JUL-1934 by the Bureau of Investigation, which renewed its efforts to catch him.

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Book Review: Cthulhu Gangster

Sebastian Weitkamp (editor) et al, Pegasus Press, 2016

SD_OTB Gangster

Gangster ‒ Unheimliche Unterwelt (“eerie underworld”) is an official release for the German Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition. It is a hardcover book with 212 pages, sold for a very reasonable €19.95. There is also a PDF version. It has a colour cover and black-and-white interior.

This book is in German. I have chosen to write the review in English because only a minority of my readers read German, which of course also means that few of you will get to read the book. However, I know that there is much interest among English-speaking Call of Cthulhu players in the foreign-language supplements by the various licensees. Read More

Gangster Gats: Bonnie & Clyde

They don’t think they’re too tough or desperate,

They know that the law always wins;

They’ve been shot at before,

But they do not ignore

That death is the wages of sin.

‒ Bonnie Parker, “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” (1934)


On 23-MAY-1934, a posse of lawmen led by Texas Highway Patrol Special Investigator Captain Frank Hamer caught up with the murderous outlaw Clyde Barrow and his girlfriend Bonnie Parker near Mount Lebanon, Louisiana. They were shot dead from ambush as they drove on Highway 154 in an automobile. Their stolen 1934 Ford Model 40 Type 730 Fordor Deluxe Sedan became the Death Car. The marauding Bonnie & Clyde had practically lived in the vehicle. When searched by the law enforcement officers, the Ford turned out to be a rolling armoury.

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