Vannie Higgins (1897-1932) was a notorious Brooklyn gangster and rum-runner. He was born Charles Van Wyck Higgins in 1897 in Bay Ridge, son of Daniel and Helen (Nellie) Higgins. As a young boy he was involved in street corner brawls, then moved up the ladder to assaults, robbery and grand larceny. Although he had an extensive police record, he was usually able to squeeze out of any jail time. [Read more…] about Vannie Higgins: ‘Brooklyn’s Last Irish Boss’
Saratoga has always been a gambling town. Even before the famous racetrack was built, Saratoga was full of gambling dens.
Many of the early gambling places were run by men who were considered “gentlemen gamblers.” They ran relatively clean games and generally avoided violence or other forms of vice. They were professional gamblers.
Later, with gambling well entrenched and Saratoga’s location along the notorious bootleg trail from Canada during prohibition, Saratoga attracted nationally known gangsters. [Read more…] about Gamblers and Gangsters of Saratoga
Eleanor Charwat’s short book Prohibition in the Hudson Valley, Along the Bootleg Trail (self published, 2017) looks back at the prominent role the Hudson Valley played in bootlegging during the Prohibition Era.
Local producers, distributors and sellers of illegal liquor were overshadowed and sometimes terrorized by New York City gangsters like Dutch Schultz, Legs Diamond and Salvatore Maranzano who came to the Hudson Valley to make money and escape federal surveillance. [Read more…] about A Short Book On Prohibition in the Hudson Valley
What really happened at Donnelly’s Corners in the spring of 1929?
The question haunts the exciting and thought-provoking novel, The Power Line (Outskirts Press, 2020) by Christopher Shaw.
According to Shaw, the project began in the seventies when the guide and regional historian Abel St. Martin began recording the memories of older people around Saranac Lake and Lake Aurora in the Adirondacks. [Read more…] about New Novel: The Power Line by Christopher Shaw
Until now, Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Kennedy’s literary legacy has never been celebrated in one book. From novels such as Ironweed, Legs, and Billy Phelan’s Greatest Game (the Albany Cycle) to Bootlegger of the Soul screenplays like The Cotton Club, as well as his many years of investigative journalistic work, Suzanne Lance and Paul Grondahl, have compiled reviews, essays, and interviews about Kennedy’s contributions to the literary landscape in the new book from SUNY Press, Bootlegger of the Soul. Also included is original writing by the author himself – a play and a short story. [Read more…] about New Book Celebrates the Literary Legacy of William Kennedy
The passage of the Volstead Act and prohibition against intoxicating liquor caused a profound change in American culture by breaking the traditional mold of heroes and anti-heroes. Popular media has romanticized the anti-hero “gangster” role, and some of the greatest actors of the movie-making era have portrayed names like Al Capone, “Bugs” Moran, “Bugsy” Siegal and “Machine Gun” Kelly on the silver screen. In many instances, thugs, authorities and officials become the puppets of the crime boss, or the authorities become as violent as the criminals do.
[Read more…] about William Kennedy’s Prohibition Story:
An Interview with Exec Producer Dan Swinton