Rank #1: Case #33: The Black Sox-Baseball's Most Notorious Scandal
Case #33: The Black Sox
I'm forever blowing ballgames,
pretty ballgames in the air.
I come from Chi, I hardly try,
just go to bat and fade and die.
Fortune's coming my way,
that's why I don't care.
I'm forever blowing ballgames,
and the gamblers treat us fair.
You could say that it started with Charlie Comiskey, because a lot of things started with Charlie Comiskey in Chicago in 1919. Comiskey owned the Chicago White Sox, a serious contender in any year, and he enjoyed the reputation as a tightwad and a fierce negotiator.
I want to go on record by saying that although Comiskey fostered the reputation as a hard-guy and a tightwad, the payroll of the Chicago White Sox was one of the best in the league. The team was filled with solid players and had two bona fide stars on its roster; outfielder Joe Jackson and third baseman Buck Weaver. They each made over $6000 a year in 1919 and a lot of the other name players on the team made around half that. And that was about what they would have made on any other roster in the Bigs, so while money was a factor in the Black Sox Scandal, it wasn't the only factor.
Jul 14 2017
Rank #2: Case #34: Joseph Weil-The Yellow Kid
Noir Factory Podcast
Joseph Weil: The Yellow Kid
“Who's going to believe a con artist? Everyone if she's good.”
Joseph Weil was born in Chicago in 1875 to Mr. and Mrs. Otto Weil. The couple owned a small neighborhood grocery store and made a decent income. Their boy, Joseph, helped out after school by sweeping up and stocking shelves.
And then he discovered racehorses.
Jul 27 2017
Rank #3: Interrogation #3: Will Viharo-Gonzo Pulp Writer
Noir Factory Podcast
Will Viharo: Gonzo Pulp Writer
Will Viharo is the author of the Vic Valentine series as well as the host of Seattle's Noir at the Bar, a seasonal showcase that combines author readings with alcohol, the way God intneded it. He is a writer that defies classification, with his work mixing humor, surrealism, gore, violence, and sex.
His newest work, Vic Valentine, International Man of Misery, is due out this fall and in this interrogation I get a chance to get the skinny from an unconventional writer, society observer, and all-around good guy.
You can connect with Will at www.thrillville.net
Cover Art provided by Matt Brown. You can find his work here.
Aug 10 2017
Rank #4: NF Case #17: Raymond Chandler-Writer
NOIR FACTORY PODCAST CASE #17: Raymond Chandler-Writer
“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero; he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.
“He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.
“The story is this man’s adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”
-Raymond Chandler, Writer
Raymond Chandler didn’t invent hard-boiled fiction. Chandler, like Dashiell Hammett, saw a new narrative forming in popular literature and they felt comfortable working in it. It was a style of detectives and dames and it rang a bell with the American public.
The school of hard-boiled literature would still exist without men like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, but we would probably have to call it something else. They put the word “literature” to the form, and without them, they would only be stories of “detectives and dames.” They would be sensational and fun, but very little more.
Raymond Chandler wrote with elegance and grace. His dialogue was quick and intellectual and his characters were multifaceted. To call him one of the greatest pulp writers of the twentieth century is accurate but demeaning. Quite simply, he was one of the best writers of the twentieth century, period.
Jul 28 2016
Rank #5: Case #008: Alcatraz Island
Sitting about a mile and a half off San Francisco in the middle of a bitter, inhospitable California bay, Alcatraz Island is a lot like many other pieces of bay area real estate. Many have claimed ownership and many court battles were waged over ownership.
But unlike other prime pieces of San Francisco real estate, few have wanted to call it home. The Island, Alcatraz Island, is also known as “The Rock.” And those who did call it home didn’t care for the experience.
The island, one of a group of small islands sitting in the bay, was known to the Native American population of the area but was not inhabited by them.
In truth, there was nothing to lure them, or anyone else, to the rock. Vegetation was almost non-existent. The island was composed mostly of irregular, stratified sandstone. It was described by an American officer as “entirely without resources within itself and the soil scarcely perceptible being rocky and precipitous on all sides.”
The rock itself was 1700 feet long, 580 feet at its widest side, with two peaks of about 130 feet each. It measured a total of 22 acres.
There was nowhere on the island to land a boat, no beach or shore, and the rock was overwhelmed by birds. So much so that Juan Manuel DeAyala called it “La Isla De Los Alatraces,” or Island of the Pelicans.
So while the island had nothing really going for it, the real estate did have three things in its favor: location, location, location.
Jan 20 2016
Rank #6: Case #013: Bugsy Siegel-American Gangster
Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel was born in
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to a family of poor Jewish immigrants, who
came from Eastern Europe. His parents, Max and Jennie, worked
whatever jobs they could find to provide for their five children,
and their neighborhood constantly invented new definitions for the
a child, the second of five, Benjamin saw that struggle as well as
what his parents struggled against, and he vowed that he would rise
above a life of poverty.
dropped out of school somewhere around the age of eleven and
started his life of crime. Even as a child he was familiar with
violence and intimidation, learning most of what he knew from the
Irish and Italian street gangs around him.
Apr 28 2016
Rank #7: Case #009: Dame Agatha Christie
Agatha Christie was the bestselling author of all time, and living in the days of Stephen King and J.K. Rowling, that means something. In literature, it goes the bible, Shakespeare, and Christie.
In short, she is what legends in mystery writing aspire to be.
But it wasn’t always like that for her.
When you look at Agatha Christie’s story, is helps to know something about her mother, Clara Boehmer. Clara was the only daughter of a military man and an Englishwoman. She older brothers, one of which died very young, but they had left home to join the armed forces or to make their own way in the world.
But Clara was the youngest and she stayed behind at the family’s home in Belfast, Ireland. At least as long as she could.
Clara was still very young when her father, a captain, died in a riding accident. Her mother scraped by on a meager income and could barely support herself, let alone her daughter. So in her daughter’s best interests, she sent her to live with her aunt in West Sussex. Clara’s aunt had married a wealthy American, so the move not only kept young Clara from poverty, but it opened up a whole new world for her.
The couple introduced Clara to society, as well as to a young American stockbroker who had originally come to Europe to finish his education.
Frederick Aluah Miller was raised in the upper class of American culture, and he seemed born to be a man people trusted with their money. He was friendly, personable, attractive, and right from the start, young Clara seemed quite smitten.
They were married in April of 1878 and lived in Torquay, an English seaside village.
The couple’s first child, Margaret Frary Miller, was born a year after they were married, followed by their son, Louis Montant Miller, or “Monty,” a year later. They settled into the seaside village and brought a villa they called “Ashfield.” The couple settled in and Clara spent the next decade raising her children there.
Then came the “mystery” of Agatha Christie.
Feb 10 2016
Rank #8: Case #18: The Cotton Club
NOIR FACTORY PODCAST
CASE #18: The Cotton Club-Nightclub
“It was infamously racially exclusive. W.C. Handy wished to go one evening to the Cotton Club and he was turned away. And he could hear his music being performed!"
-Levering Lewis, historian
It was the greatest nightclub of its day and there's a convincing argument to be made that it was the greatest nightclub that ever was. Opening its doors during the Harlem Renaissance, The Cotton Club was part Speakeasy, part dance-hall, part supper club, and all entertainment. Owned by Chicago gangster Owney Madden, the Cotton Club featured expensive food, cold beer, even during prohibition, and the greatest lineup of black entertainers in America of its time, and perhaps of any time.
And all of it was available for a small cover charge.
But only if you were white.
We can talk about the spectacle and grandeur that was the Cotton Club literally for hours. It was the greatest showplace of its day. If a song or a band was a hit there, it was a hit in America. If a dancer killed on stage, then they made a career for themselves. It was THE venue of its day, and one of the few available to black entertainers, but it was also a huge symbol of segregation.
Aug 11 2016
Rank #9: Case #014-Eliot Ness-Untouchable
Even as a boy Eliot Paul Ness seemed destined for excellence and if you asked his fellow students, probably seemed most likely to be a crime fighter. He was the youngest of six siblings born to Peter and Emma Ness, a Norwegian immigrant couple that operated a small bakery in Chicago.
Eliot Ness was a bookish young man and a good student, with a reputation for a neat appearance as well as being a loner. As a kid he grew up with a healthy appetite for Sherlock Holmes mysteries and as a son, he kept his nose to the grindstone. He occasionally helped his family out with their bakery, but his parents had bigger plans for their children.
He attended Christian Fenger High School in Chicago where he graduated in the top third of his class. There he was an average athlete who didn’t seem to care for team sports.
After high school he attended the University of Chicago, where he was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. He also excelled at tennis, a sport where he had only himself to rely on. He grew to appreciate mental discipline, and took up Jujitsu as a hobby.
Again he graduated in the top third of his class and received a dual bachelor’s degree in political science and business. Despite the success he saw in college, he was characterized as a loner.
May 29 2016
Rank #10: Case #010:Bonnie and Clyde-American Outlaws
Letter to Henry Ford on April 10, 1934….
While I still have breath in my lungs I will tell you what a dandy car make. I have driven Fords exclusively when I could get away with one. For sustained speed and freedom from trouble the Ford has got ever other car skinned and even if my business hasn’t been strictly legal it don’t hurt anything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V8-
Clyde Champion Barrow
Feb 25 2016
Rank #11: Case#012:Mata Hari-Spy
The name evokes visions of a dancer, slithering through a smoke-filled parlor, wisps of cloth snaking over her as she moves. Her eyes are like polished opals in the moonlight, dark, mysterious, and you can’t bring yourself to look away.
You dare not look away.
Okay it probably didn’t play out exactly that way, but I imagine that is how she would have enjoyed being remembered, so let’s go with that.
There are many questions that still linger about her. The easiest is “was she guilty?”
The answer is obvious. She was Mata Hari, and she was as guilty as sin.
What was she guilty of?
Well, that takes a lot more thought, and we may never have the answer to that.
Apr 10 2016
Rank #12: A short interruption for the Noir Factory
We will be back the week of October 16th.
Sep 21 2017
Rank #13: Case #011:Dick Tracy-Crimestopper
He was born in Pawnee, Oklahoma in 1900, seven years before the territory became a state. His grandparents, all four of them, were pioneers of the territory. His father, Gilbert was a minister and a printer. In fact Gilbert Gould was everything a small town in a harsh territory needed him to be, but mostly he was a man who believed in good storytelling.
He was also the editor of the local newspaper, and he loved his politics.
Little Chester Gould was born in the last year of the nineteenth century and Gilbert raised him on a steady diet of newsprint. The young man fell head over heels for comics, and like most boys his age, followed the daily adventures of Budd Fisher’s comic strip misfits “Mutt and Jeff” with fierce loyalty.
In 1908 the Democratic County Convention came to the Pawnee Courthouse and Gilbert Gould covered the story for his paper. He also encouraged his son, who was already beginning to show his chops as an artist, to sketch some of the local politicians.
Chester’s talent was evident even then, and his father taped his son’s sketches of the lawyers to the courthouse windows. One of the lawyers, who went on to the Supreme Court, was impressed enough to buy one of the drawings.
There doesn’t seem to be any indecision in Chester Gould’s early life regarding his fate to be an artist. While he was still in grade school he studied cartooning through a correspondence course.
Mar 18 2016
Rank #14: Case #16: The Strand and the Black Mask-Pulp Legends
“A pulp story without a detective and, obviously, somebody for him to do battle with is unthinkable, and I can't remember reading a pulp story that didn't have a dame - either a good girl or a bad girl.”
The 1890’s in Europe was, for all intents and purposes, a golden age for serialized stories in print. In England Charles Dickens became the first rock star the world had ever seen, and in France, serialized versions of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo were spread out over hundreds of installments, making their publishers wealthy.
In one case, a German novel published in serialized form for Die Gartenlaube catapulted their circulation to over 350,000 readers in 1875.
The public was hungry for serialized literature, and the novel, thanks to writers such as Dickens and Wilkie Collins, was still in its infancy. Put those two facts together, and you were truly on to something.
In 1890 George Newnes and Editor H. Greenhough Smith founded The Strand Magazine, named for a fashionable London area. The goal of the magazine was to elevate story-telling and discourse and it attempted to appeal to mass market family readership.
Jul 07 2016
Rank #15: Noir Factory Case #15: Willie Sutton-Bank Robber
“It is a rather pleasant experience to be alone in a bank at night.” –Willie Sutton-Bank Robber
William Francis “Willie” Sutton Jr. was born on June 30th, 1901 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a poor tenement neighborhood known at the time as Irishtown. He was the son of a blacksmith and the fourth of five children. His mother was a devout Irish Catholic who suffered from depression, which was said to be caused by the early death of a daughter. His father, William Sr., traveled for work and was absent more times from home than not.
It was a tough time for the US, but for Irishtown in particular. Willie, a small child who was always fast, wiry, and quick-witted, left school before the eighth grade, but didn’t give up on education entirely. Brooklyn in the early twentieth century was a master-class in crime for a guy who knew how to apply himself, and if Willie Sutton was anything, it was industrious.
He tried his hand early on at gainful employment, but honest work didn’t seem to suit Willie. He toiled as a store clerk, a gardener, as well as a driller, but said in an interview later that his longest period of “legal” employment was 18 months.
Jun 29 2016
Rank #16: Case #007: The Christmas Bank Heist
As a crispness fills the air and the scent of gingerbread begins to waft from the kitchen, one only has to pull on an ugly sweater and curl up with a tablet to find some old-fashioned, weird Christmas crime.
And as always, Texas is as good a place to start as any.
In 1929 banks in Texas fell victim to robbers almost daily, and it was with an eye to protect what was theirs that the Texas Bankers Association offered a reward of $5,000 to anyone who killed a bank robber in the course of a crime.
Dec 23 2015
Rank #17: Noir Factory Christmas Special Part 2
It took me a while to catch up with Mike McCarthy. He was the Special Investigator for the District Attorney, which meant that he played catcher to all the screwballs that came across the court system. If a crime was reported or investigated, he knew about it. The only variable was that not all of the crimes in the city were reported or investigated. If you knew the system under the system, you could get something buried so deep that it turned to crude oil.
Dec 21 2015
Rank #18: NF Case #35: Sexton Blake-Pulp Detective
Noir Factory Podcast
Sexton Blake-Pulp Detective
“If there is a wrong to be righted, an evil to be redressed, or a rescue of the weak and suffering from the powerful, our hearty assistance can be readily obtained. We do nothing for hire here; we would cheerfully undertake to perform without a fee or a reward. But when your clients are wealthy, we are not so unjust to ourselves as to make a gratuitous offer of our services.”
As the 19th century came to a close, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes was the undisputed heavyweight champ of popular fiction. From London to California, the exploits of the World’s Greatest Detective were the stuff of legend, and the public, more literate now than at any other time in history, were hungry for more.
And while Arthur Conan Doyle was hoping to distance himself from his great creation, one man, Henry Blyth, saw a hole in popular fiction that needed to be filled. And while he was just the man to do that, he saw no reason to re-invent the wheel.
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Dec 02 2017
Rank #19: Case #32 : Alan Ladd and Box 13
Alan Ladd and Box 13
“I'm the most insecure guy in Hollywood. If you had it good all your life, you figure it can't ever be bad, but when you've had it bad, you wonder how long a thing like this will last.”
Alan Walbridge Ladd was born on September 3rd, 1913 in Hot Springs, Arkansas and was the only child of Ina Raleigh and Alan Ladd. Like most of the characters Ladd went onto play, his upbringing was rough and growing up was a constant struggle.
The family lost Alan's father, a freelance accountant, to a heart attack when Alan was only four. Shortly afterwards the family apartment was lost when Alan accidentally burned it down playing with matches.
After they lost their home Alan and his mother moved to Oklahoma City where she remarried. Afterwards they went to Pasadena, in a Grapes of Wrath-like journey,where his step-father found short-time work painting movie sets. Later in life, Ladd said they existed for long periods of time on nothing but potato soup.
Jun 30 2017
Rank #20: Hero Obscura Podcast Preview #2
Everyone has a hero. For cop's it's probably the Dark Knight and for soldiers I can imagine Captain America, depending on the army your in. But what about the ordinary guys? What about the accountants and pastry chefs or the mail carriers and DMV workers?
Fishermen, okay...we'll give you Aquaman.
But for the Lyft and Uber drivers out there, today's episode is for you!
I give you Space Cabbie!
Jun 28 2017