Rank #1: Case# 001-Kate Warne: America's First Female Detective
FOR A BETTER VERSION OF THIS EPISODE, SEE CASE #01.5: Kate Warne- America's First Female Detective REVISITED
When the door opened at the Pinkerton Detective Agency on August 23rd, 1856, Allan Pinkerton, the legendary chief of the most famous detective shop in history, had no idea what lay ahead of him.
She was, as Allan later described her, “A commanding person, with clear cut, expressive features.” He said he wouldn’t call her handsome, but a “slender, brown-haired woman, graceful in her movements and self-possessed.” He also said that she was of an “intellectual cast.”
Despite holding her in high regard upon meeting her, however, it never occurred to Pinkerton that she was there for a detective job.
Rank #2: Noir Factory Case #37: Huey Long- The King Fish
The Noir Factory Podcast
Huey Long-The King Fish
“One of these days the people of Louisiana are going to get good government. And they aren’t going to like it.”
Huey Pierce Long Jr. was born to Huey Pierce Long Senior and Caledonia Tison Long on August 30th, 1893 in Winnfield, Louisiana. Winnfield was a dirt-poor parish and the wealthy Long family stood out. They were the wealth and class of Winn Parish and lead the community for generations.
Huey’s grandfather had purchased 640 acres of woods and carved out a farm for his family. Huey’s father continued that tradition by buying up 320 acres near Winnfield.
Huey himself was the seventh of nine surviving children and from the day of his birth expectations were high. His father insisted that the kids should strive “to be someone,” and the lesson took. Of Huey Long’s siblings, two became Louisiana governors, one later a senator, a U.S. congressman, a district attorney, and five became school teachers, one at the university level.
In such a household it was hard to stand out, so Huey Long Jr. adopted a strategy that would serve him well for the rest of his life. He was very loud, and he was very proud.
Known to be fearless and exuberant, Huey learned to walk at eight months and would wander out of the house to play with livestock. He was hard to keep track of and according to his father, he was forced to build a cover for the family well just in case Huey had decided to jump in.
Rank #3: Case #24- The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew
“...My husband pointed out that kids frequently have an instinctive desire to follow the good example rather than the bad, once they find out which is which. We agreed that a good moral background and thorough grounding in the Hardy Boys would always tell in the long run.”
-Shirley Jackson, author
They are still in print today and they are still popular, even though they aren’t really like the stories you remember. Today there are smart phones and text clues, hackers and virtual reality, but don’t let that bother you.
They really weren’t for you in the first place.
They were for the person that you used to be. They were for the ten year old that you were. The one who stayed up late and smuggled a flashlight under the covers because you had to know what The Secret of the Old Clock really was or because you had to learn the true meaning behind the Mystery of the Whale Tattoo.
And if you are unhappy with the changes in the text or because Frank and Joe don’t look the way you remember them as kids, then that’s not on them. After all these years, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew are still just kids. If you can’t stand that modern sensibilities are creeping into your precious stories, then that’s on you.
But before you pass final judgment on some of your best childhood memories, then again let me remind you that they probably weren’t cutting edge entertainment when you read them. Adults probably looked down on them and thought of the stories as simple or cartoonish, or even, God forbid, juvenile.
But then what the hell did the adults know anyway?
Rank #4: 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.
Rank #5: Case #002- Mickey Spillane: Writer
He was born on March 9, 1918 in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Elizabeth, NJ, in a neighborhood he called “grimy, industrial, and working class.” It was exactly the kind of neighborhood you would expect a tough-guy to grow up in.
Mickey Spillane was christened Frank Morrison Spillane by his Protestant mom, Catherine Ann. Apparently his Catholic father, John Joseph wasn’t having any of that. Whether he didn’t care for the name “Morison” or simply forgot his son’s middle name we’ll never know, but he was baptized as “Frank Michael Spillane.
Not that that either name mattered.
His father nicknamed his son “Mick” after his Irish heritage and the name stuck. Besides, as the man said later “women loved the name ‘Mickey.’
Rank #6: CASE #22-The Inspiration Behind Sherlock Holmes
NOIR FACTORY PODCAST
CASE #22-The Inspiration Behind Sherlock Holmes“Science gave us forensics. Law gave us crime.” -Mokokoma Mokhonoana, author Arthur Conan Doyle published his first Sherlock Holmes story in 1887 to mild reception. The story, A Study in Scarlet, introduced the Holmes character to the world. An eccentric investigator with an encyclopedic mind, razor-sharp instincts, and a lightning-fast wit, Holmes is the prototype detective, the model against which all others are measured. Arthur Conan Doyle, himself a medical doctor, was considered a highly-intelligent man by those who knew him, and it was thought he brought much of himself to the creation of the perfect detective. Doyle was fascinated with puzzles and riddles, the great mysteries. He studies procedure and methods of investigation and criminology, and even lent his voice to the odd court case. Later on the Noir Factory will open a case on Arthur Conan Doyle, but for today, we’ll focus on the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes
Rank #7: Case #20: Ida Lupino- Hollywood Legend
"My agent told me that he was going to make me the Janet Gaynor of England-I was going to play all the sweet roles. Whereupon, at the tender age of thirteen, I set upon the path of playing nothing but hookers.”
There are certain family names in Hollywood make you sit up and take notice. Today those names are the Fonda and the Bridges, Coppola and Sheen. It wasn't any different in the early days of Tinseltown. The names were different, but royalty was still royalty. Back then if you were a Barrymore than it caught people's attention, and if you were a Huston, then folks wanted to see what you had.
For Ida Lupino, the family tree she grew out of was just as solid and sturdy as any in Hollywood, but the roots went deeper than most. She wasn't a Coppola or a Barrymore. She was a Lupino.
And that name had a weight all of its own.
Rank #8: Noir Factory Episode C#36: Leopold and Loeb CORRECTED
Noir Factory Podcast
Leopold and Loeb
CORRECTED BACKGROUND AUDIO
My deepest apologies! The previous version of this episode was released “in progress” and by mistake . Please enjoy this updated version and again, my sincerest apologies!
“To be an effective criminal defense counsel, an attorney must be prepared to be demanding, outrageous, irreverent, blasphemous, a rogue, a renegade, and a hated, isolated, and lonely person - few love a spokesman for the despised and the damned.”
― Clarence Darrow
Nathan F. Leopold Jr. was born on November 19th, 1904 in Chicago, Illinois to Nathan and Florence Leopold. The elder Nathan was the son of Samuel and Babette, Jewish immigrants from Germany who had brought their family to Michigan. He worked in shipping and had made a fortune. Their son Nathan had moved to Chicago and married Florence Foreman in 1892.
Nathan Leopold Sr. was already wealthy but had a gift for making more. He started up many successful enterprises in Illinois, such as Leopold & Austrian, a lending firm, the Manitou Shipping Company, a copper mining company, as well as the Fiber Can Corporation, a paper mill in Morris, Illinois.
Leopold Sr. was an active member of the community. He was president of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association in Chicago, one of the Chicago’s first bankers, and when he married Florence, he married into one of the most prestigious families in Illinois.
Rank #9: Case# 000-A Tour of the Offices of the Noir Factory
The Noir Factory Podcast is created for the mystery reader, noir movie goes, or true crime buff who wants a closer look into the genre. Mystery writer Steven Gomez looks at crime history, pulp stories, noir films, and the men and woman who made them. Each week we will examine an event or figure in crime history, a pulp or noir writer, or a piece of detective work, both fictional and in real life.
If you have an interest in crime of any kind, THIS is the podcast for you!
Rank #10: Case #19: The Kray Twins
NOIR FACTORY PODCAST
CASE #19: The Kray Twins
“They were the best years of our lives. They called them the swinging sixties. The Beatles were rulers of pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world...and me and my brother ruled London. We were fucking untouchable.”
-Ronnie Kray, from his autobiography
The East End of London during the sixties was a mixture of poor and artistic, of modern and bohemian, of classic and diversity that England had never seen before or since. It was like Bauhaus before Hitler. It was like Harlem in the 20's. It was like.... well, it wasn't like anything ever, and that's what made it special.
Clubs and art galleries sprang up amid the squalor that was the East End, and with them came the rich and the beautiful. It was said, rather famously, that “London's West End has all the money and leisure and that the East End monopolizes most of the labor and nearly all of the dirt.”
In the 60's it was time for the dirt in the East End to shine.
The wealthy and the influential came to the East End to rub shoulders with the infamous, the dangerous, and the notorious. There was no neighborhood in all of England that encapsulated the 60's like the East End, and all through it lurked a dark and dangerous thread that lead to a pair of twin brothers looking to make London their own.
Rank #11: 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.
Rank #12: 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
Rank #13: Case #005: John Dillinger-Public Enemy Number One
In the 30's, the FBI used the term “Public Enemy Number One” as a designation of infamy. Although that period in time became known as the “Public Enemy Era,” there were only three people actually held that designation.
The first one wore the title like a crown.
John Herbert Dillinger was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on June 22nd, 1903. His father, John Wilson Dillinger, owned a small grocery store. His mother, Mary Ellen, died from a stroke when he was three.
His sister, Audrey, was fourteen years older than John and the responsibility of caring for the child fell to her. She carried on with that responsibility until she married and moved out to begin her own family.
That left John Wilson Dillinger to raise his son on his own, and raising kids wasn't his strong suit.
Accounts of John Dillinger's childhood vary. His father was at times abusive and at other times gracious, lavishing money on his son for toys and treats. Those same accounts vary on John Dillinger's behavior.
Some say that the young Dillinger was a well-behaved child with a precocious streak. Others point to his childhood gang, the Dirty Dozen and their purchase for mischief. He also gained a reputation as a baseball player. For most of his life, John Dillinger would walk the line between fame and infamy.
By the time he reached his teenage years, he was on his way to becoming his own man.
Rank #14: 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.
Rank #15: 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.