Al Capone and His American Boys: Memoirs of a Mobster's Wife

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Overview

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 ...

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Al Capone and His American Boys: Memoirs of a Mobster's Wife

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Overview

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.

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Al Capone and his American Boys is highly recommended for those interested in an insider's view of the major criminal events of the Gangster Era." —Informer
www.informer-journal.blogspot.com
Al Capone and his American Boys is highly recommended for those interested in an insider's view of the major criminal events of the Gangster Era.—informer-journal.blogspot.com
Library Journal
This is not another Capone book; he is but a tangential figure in this fascinating account. The heart of this work is a recently discovered manuscript written by Winkeler in 1934 that had been tucked away in FBI files. She was married to mobster Gus Winkeler and wrote her life story after he was gunned down. She claims her purpose was to save other women from the anxiety-producing life she lived, but perhaps she was hoping for some measure of revenge or retribution from the Chicago syndicate. Gus became one of Capone's "American Boys" during Prohibition days and, according to Winkeler, was involved in the St. Valentine's Day massacre and the assassination of Frankie Yale in New York, all the while working to become a legitimate businessperson running Chicago nightclubs. VERDICT Readers will find Winkeler's story compelling if a bit self-aggrandizing. Her writing style is easy to read, and her slight snootiness and melodrama over the stress of being a mobster's wife amuses. Editor Helmer also includes FBI reports about Winkeler and her attempts to contact federal agent Melvin Purvis. Helmer offers a useful reference section of brief biographies and historical notes. For true crime and gangster story fans.—Karen Sandlin Silverman, Ctr. for Applied Research, Philadelphia
www.mafialifeblog.com
"Al Capone and His American Boys is more than just fascinating history—it's built on the human interest element of living a gangster's life." —mafialifeblog.com
Informer

"Al Capone and his American Boys is highly recommended for those interested in an insider's view of the major criminal events of the Gangster Era." —Informer

mafialifeblog.com

"Al Capone and His American Boys is more than just fascinating history—it's built on the human interest element of living a gangster's life." —mafialifeblog.com

Mario Gomes

"Helmer delights history buffs once more with his research and inimitable style, bringing us the memoirs of a primo gangster's moll. Hers is a first-hand account of being married to one of Al Capone's travelling psycho-circus of killers called the 'American boys' who moved from St. Louis to Chicago to live the gritty gangland life of the Roaring Twenties." —Mario Gomes, www.myalcaponemuseum.com

Richard C. Lindberg

"Deemed too hot by its publisher in 1934, this incredible and revealing story sheds new light on major crimes, including the St. Valentine's Day Massacre—the defining moment that cemented Chicago's reputation as a city of criminal mayhem.... A candid look at the era of Capone, Frank Nitti, Georgette’s husband Gus, and a group of Public Enemies who continue to fascinate a new generation of readers." —Richard C. Lindberg, author of The Gambler King of Clark Street: Michael C. McDonald and the Rise of Chicago's Democratic Machine

The Barnes & Noble Review
If the gang-moll heroines played by Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday and Virginia Mayo in White Heat sat down to collaborate on a memoir, the result would read a lot like Al Capone's American Boys: Memoirs of a Mobster's Wife. Though you wouldn't necessarily know it from the confusing title and cover, this volume presents the autobiography of Georgette Winkeler, the wife of Gus Winkeler, a leading henchman in Capone's Chicago "Syndicate." In 1934, months after Gus was murdered by his erstwhile colleagues, Georgette decided to write about their life together, hoping to cash in on the public appetite for gangster lore. Her publisher, however, had second thoughts about bringing out a book so full of revelations about the Syndicate—sensibly enough, given the number of times Georgette herself writes about indiscreet mobsters getting rubbed out. Thwarted, she decided to turn her manuscript, "A Voice from the Grave," over to the FBI, before going on to make a new life for herself as the wife of a preacher. And there it lay for decades, forgotten in the archives, until Mob historian William J. Helmer brought out this edition. (Credited as the author, Helmer really serves as Winkeler's editor.)

If Georgette had published her book in 1934, it really would have made headlines, if only because Gus Winkeler was one of the shooters in the St. Valentine's Massacre—which she calls "a wholesale killing so vicious it shocked the entire nation." Gus was one of the four Capone gunmen who dressed up as cops and tommy-gunned six members of the rival Bugs Moran gang, on February 14, 1929. A few days earlier, Georgette had seen Gus and his pals trying on police uniforms at home; when she went out to buy the newspaper on the afternoon of the 14th and read about the Massacre, she knew that Gus had been involved. "When I got to the house," she writes, "I threw the papers in Gus's face and went into my own room. I was too sick with horror to shed tears."

This is one of many, many moments when Georgette can be seen trying to have her cake and eat it, too: that is, to give the reader the violent inside dope about the Syndicate while making herself sound like a genteel bystander innocently caught up in the mayhem. This is cynical, but it is so naively, unselfconsciously cynical that "A Voice from the Grave" often makes you laugh out loud. If Georgette had been invented by, say, Damon Runyon, she would be a great comic creation.

Take the moment when, after chronicling a string of her husband's assassinations, kidnappings, and bank robberies, she writes: "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. This had been far from satisfactory to me. I wanted a secluded little place where we were not likely to be bothered and where I could entertain a few friends." Her very diction strains foolishly after gentility; there's nothing Georgette wants more than to have a "nice" place and "nice" friends.

Unfortunately, Gus—who was passed out drunk in a rooming house bathtub when she first laid eyes on him—tended to associate with people nicknamed Cokie and Snorting Whitey and Paul Revere (because he was always warning people that the cops were coming). It all sounds very Hollywood—someone actually says "Fade, gang, it's the bulls"—but apparently the great gangster movies of the 1930s were practically documentaries. Just about everything that happens in Little Caesar or The Roaring Twenties also happened to Gus and Georgette—right down to the unhappy ending.

Adam Kirsch is a senior editor at The New Republic and a columnist for Nextbook.org.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253356062
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 7/8/2011
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,380,607
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

William J. Helmer is author (with G. Russell Girardin) of Dillinger: The Untold Story (IUP, 1994) and The Gun That Made the Twenties Roar as well as other books on the gangland era.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Foreword by John Winkeler
Foreword by Rose Keefe
About This Book
Acknowledgments
A Note on Georgette and Gus Winkeler
"A Voice from the Grave": The Memoir of Georgette Winkeler
1. The Seventh Child
2. "For Better or for Worse"
3. Heist Guy—Egan's Rats and the Cuckoo Gang
4. The Bad Pennies
5. Affairs with the Police
6. Fugitives on the Lam
7. Workhouse Widow
8. Gratitude—and Murder
9. Flight from St. Louis
10. Meet Al Capone
11. The Toledo Killing
12. Frankie Yale
13. Murphy's Tough Skull
14. The St. Valentine Day Massacre
15. Hiding Out
16. On the Run
17. "Killer" Burke and the Policeman's Murder
18. New Face and New Fingerprints
19. "Killer" Burke on the Lam
20. The Car Crash
21. Capone to the Rescue
22. The Greatest Bank Robbery
23. Chicago's "Secret Six"
24. Enter Father Dwyer
25. The Shooting of Frank Nitti
26. Nitti's Revenge
27. "The Informer"
28. The Boom Days
29. A Promise Kept
30. Gus and the Planted Gun
31. Legal Beer at Last
32. Gus Winkeler and the New North Side
33. The Kansas City Massacre
34. Gus and the "Miller Massacre"
35. Beginning of the End
36. The Syndicate Closes In
37. The Police Called It Suicide
38. "They've Taken Him to the Morgue"
39. Gus Goes Home
40. Who Killed My Husband?
41. The Widow and Her World
42. "The Gas Lisped Its Song of Death"
43. Rebirth and Revenge
44. End of the Empire
45. "Do You See This Gun?"
46. Confronting the Mob
47. On the Spot
48. Resolution
Georgette Talks to the FBI
Biographies and Historical Notes
Index

Indiana University Press

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2012

    Educational Book

    Very inspiring! Poor Georgette. This book should very well be a New York Times best seller. The story is so enchanting and thrilling, it kept me on my toes. Although a Non-Fiction diary Georgettes experiences were surreal.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2013

    This really is a different perspective in gangster books. Here w

    This really is a different perspective in gangster books. Here we see the life of a gangster through his wife's eyes. I found myself laughing some of the time by keeping track of all the crazy names but overall, it was a fantastic read!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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