Charlie and the Shawneetown Dame: Love and Madness in the Roaring Twenties : an Incredible True Story
Charlie and the Shawneetown Dame, based on a true story, recounts one of the most famous turf wars waged during that national madness called Prohibition. Charlie Birger's outsized ambitions brought him from New York to Southern Illinois in search of fortune as a big-time bootlegger. He soon found that his dream to be ""even bigger than Al Capone"" faced a few hurdles - including the Ku Klux Klan; the vicious Shelton Brothers of East St. Louis; and Helen Holbrook, a beautiful, alcoholic socialite from Shawneetown, whose simultaneous affairs with Birger and Carl Shelton led to the escalation of an already bloody and bizarre gang war. Donald Bain vividly captures turbulent Southern Illinois during the Roaring Twenties, and deftly chronicles Birger's journey from charismatic leader with delusions of grandeur to beleaguered general in the harsh reality of hand-to-hand combat, to his demise as a dupe of a far cleverer enemy. Ultimately done in by the ""Shawneetown Dame;"" by his own inflated ego; and by a sly sheriff named Pritchard, who conned Charlie into jail, allowing the area's most famous gangster to bring his sub-machine gun into the cell with him - Charlie and his story are a fascinating piece of Americana - crude, violent, yet often humorous. Charlie and the Shawneetown Dame grandly testifies that truth indeed can be stranger than fiction.
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