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Al Capone and His American Boys: Memoirs of a Mobster's Wife Hardcover – July 7, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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



"This is not another Capone book; he is but a tangential figure in this fascinating account.... For true crime and gangster story fans." ―Library Journal



"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



"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



"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

About 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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press; 1 edition (July 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0253356067
  • ISBN-13: 978-0253356062
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,743,647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Jeffrey Gusfield on July 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Like gangster Gus Winkeler, this book is a real killer. William Helmer, who has been one of the true experts on Prohibition-era crime for four decades, hits the mark again with a well-crafted, beautifully written and researched work. Helmer rescued Georgette Winkeler's intimate memoir from FBI files and subsequently brought to light a wealth of first-hand knowledge that names the four shooters of the Saint Valentine's Day Massacre, who were not the usual suspects in Chicago, but imported, fresh faces, mostly from Saint Louis - now known as "The American Boys." Moreover, he has illuminated August "Gus" Winkeler, who stayed in the city after the killings in the Clark Street garage on Feb. 14th, 1929 to become a force in the Outfit until his own death in 1933.
Winkeler's widow, a shattered but nevertheless cogent and credible witness, wrote her rather dynamic manuscript after her husband's murder at the hands of the Nitti-run mob. Helmer, who in 2004 with Art Bilek wrote "The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre - The Untold Story of the Gangland Bloodbath That Brought Down Al Capone," (another must read) has completed the historical deconstruction of the denouement of the Chicago Outfit of the 1920's with this latest treatise. Along with Georgette's recollections, Helmer has basically tied up the post-massacre gangland years with a culminating addendum of all the relevant players who have become household names, including Capone, Frank Nitti, and the rest of the infamous crowd who made Chicago rumble. Of all of the journalists who have taken on this epic, Helmer has added to his forty-years of contributions with his best and most revealing efforts in this book, defining the profile of the true historian.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First let me say that anything written by William Helmer is going to be a great read. His book on Baby Face Nelson is one of the very best crime books in my library. His latest book Al Capone and His American Boys which includes the memoirs of the wife of mobster Gus Winkeler provides us with a detailed analysis of those who were associated with the Capone gang and the individuals who took part in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. I feel this book got it correct as to those who were actually involved in that infamous February 14, 1929, bloodbath at 2122 North Clark Street. Some sources include the Murder Twins, Albert Anselmi and John Scalise, as being involved, but based on what I have read I would have to say neither of those thugs were involved.

Gus Winkeler's wife, Georgette, repeatedly emphasizes her frustrations with her husband and his gangland activities. Gus vows to terminate his illegalities telling her, "I will make it up to you, honey," but it never turns out that way.

I did find the book very attentive to detail to the extent that I felt it belabored the point. An example would be the various names and spelling of names used by an individual. However, in doing this I appreciate the fact that this was done to emphasize accuracy as much as possible. Even though many of the photos are small I appreciate having a face to connect with a description of a mobster's role in the story. Each of the chapters are short, and the book includes newspaper headlines from the times. If you are looking for a book on mobsters during the Capone era and how they met their demise this book will not disappoint you. I base my rating of four stars on how it held my interest, whereas for accuracy I feel it deserves five stars. To me, the book reads more like a textbook of gangland activities.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a most unique prohibition-era gangster book because it is told through the eyes of a woman. Of course this includes extreme amounts of drama, emotions and plenty of details!!!! Honestly, the truly fascinating aspects are her descriptions and character portrayals of Gus's inner circle. I have never read anything more honest than the words of Georgette Winkeler brought back from the grave by William J. Helmer. Although questions have arisen as to Georgette's motives for writing this memoir in the first place, I do believe in my heart that she intended to clear her conscious to some degree and warn other "molls" about the fearful, dangerous life she lived as the wife of a mobster. She was an intelligent woman who captured an amazing piece of history that I personally am forever grateful for!
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Format: Hardcover
In 1934 Georgette Winkeler determined to write her memoirs. They were so hot the publisher decided that they could not be issued. Georgette, you see, was the wife of Gus Winkeler, a mobster who had been gunned down the year before, and the publisher thought that her revelations about actions by and to members of Al Capone's Chicago Syndicate could have brought, perhaps, bricks through bookstore windows. The thwarted memoirist turned over her manuscript to the famous G-Man Melvin Purvis, a federal agent she thought she could trust, but she didn't realize that Purvis was on the outs with J. Edgar Hoover because Purvis had gotten broad publicity after the deaths of such figures as John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson. Mrs. Winkeler thought the FBI would use her manuscript to crack down on the mobsters that had lead to her husband's rise and eventual death, but she was much too optimistic about this. The manuscript sat forgotten on FBI shelves and was only found decades later. Now it is published as _Al Capone and His American Boys: Memoirs of a Mobster's Wife_ (Indiana University Press). Confusingly, although it is Mrs. Winkeler's memoir, the byline on the book's cover is William J. Helmer. Helmer is actually the editor of the memoir, and the photo of one page of Mrs. Winkeler's typescript seems to show that he has edited lightly, or had little editing to do on the text. He does provide notes which are useful, and he is fully qualified to do so, being a historian of the gangland era who has written about Dillinger, the tommy-gun, and other subjects. The memoir lasts 250 pages, and then Helmer has supplied an additional hundred pages of epilogue, useful descriptions of what happened to the players after 1934.Read more ›
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