A Knight of Another Sort: Prohibition Days and Charlie Birger, Second Edition
In 1913 Charlie Birger began his career as a bootlegger, supplying southern Illinois with whiskey and beer. He was charismatic, with an easygoing manner and a cavalier generosity that made him popular. The stuff of legend, he was part monster, part Robin Hood. In the early days, he would emerge from his restaurant/saloon in tiny Ledford in Saline County with a cigar box full of coins and throw handfuls in the air for the children. Echoing the consensus on Birger, an anonymous gang member called him "enigmatic," noting that "he had a wonderful quality, a heart of gold. There in Harrisburg sometimes he'd support twelve or fifteen families, buy coal, groceries. . . . [But] he had cold eyes, a killer's eyes. He would kill you for something somebody else would punch you in the nose for."
Drawing from the colorful cast of the living, the dead, and the soon-to-be-dead—a state shared by many associated with Birger and his enemies, the Shelton gang—DeNeal re-creates Prohibition-era southern Illinois. He depicts the fatal shootout between S. Glenn Young and Ora Thomas, the battle on the Herrin Masonic Temple lawn in which six were slain and the Ku Klux Klan crushed, and the wounding of Williamson County state's attorney Arlie O. Boswell. As the gang wars escalated and the roster of corpses lengthened, the gangsters embraced technology. The Sheltons bombed Birger's roadhouse, Shady Rest, from a single-engine airplane. Both Birger and the Sheltons used armored vehicles to intimidate their enemies, and the chatter of machine gun fire grew common.
The gang wars ended with massive arrests, trials, and convictions of gangsters who once had seemed invincible. Charlie Birger was convicted of the murder of West City mayor Joe Adams and sentenced to death. On April 19, 1928, he stood on the gallows looking down on the large crowd that had come to see him die. "It's a beautiful world," Birger said softly as he prepared to leave it.
What people are saying - Write a review
We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.
Booze and Harrisburg
Oral and Eural Gowan
We Have Beans Beans Beans
The Mystery Couple in the Ford Coupe
The Sympathetic Hangman
Other editions - View all
Arlie arrived Art Newman asked barbecue stand Beatrice Benton Birger gang body bootlegger Boswell Boswell's brother bullets cabin Carl Shelton charge Charles Karch Charlie Birger Charlie's Clarence Rone Connie Ritter court Cremer Danville death DeNeal deputies door drove East St Elmo Ethel Price Eural Gowan fired former Franklin County gambler gangster Glenn Young Gus Adams hand hanging Harrisburg Harry Thomasson Harvey Dungey heard Herrin Herrin Massacre Jim Pritchard Joe Adams John Judge jury killed Klan knew later Ledford Lory Price Louis machine gun Marion jail Minnie morning murder newspaper night Oren Coleman pistol prisoner Rado Millich raid Ray Hyland roadhouse robbery Roy Martin Saline County sentence Shady Rest Shawneetown Shelton gang Sheriff shooting shot Simmons southern Illinois state's attorney Steve George story talk testified told trial wanted West City West Frankfort Williamson County witness Wooten Worsham